Inclusion In Art was started as a program of the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) in 2004 by Nathan Lee. In 2012, Lee began the process of incorporating Inclusion In Art as a 501(C)3. In order to support Inclusion In Art as an independent organization, they needed to explain what they do, the value to the community and how this was different (same but elevated) as the program at OVAC.
Mission: Inclusion in Art is dedicated to promoting racial and cultural diversity in Oklahoma’s fine arts community. Through exhibitions, workshops, creative projects and lectures, Inclusion in Art continues to support artists of color find the resources available to assist them with their artistic endeavors.
Beyond the Mission: The collective experiences of Inclusion In Art board members, advocates and artist who are minorities living in Oklahoma was an internal attitude that the visual art system (organizations, galleries, events) did not truly wish for them to participate. This attitude was held by artist young and old, established and new, successful and not. For Inclusion In Art to be successful, they couldn’t just create events for artist of color, but need to motivate these artist to present works and prove their artistic merit to themselves first, the community second. This secondarily focus on the artist themselves, being presented by minority artist, is the one area Inclusion In Art can make improvements in artist lives (personal and professional) that no other organization can.
- Create awareness of the mission, programs, events and impact of Inclusion In Art
- Attract artist of color to participate with and benefit from Inclusion In Art programs and events
- Change attitude of and by artist of color in the Oklahoma visual arts community
- Establish a Board of Directors with diverse ethnicity, backgrounds, experiences and skills to support the organization
- Gain donor support to fund the organization
- Find a permanent home for gallery shows, special events and day-to-day operations
To those active in the Oklahoma visual arts community, Inclusion In Art was known for successful events managed by Nathan Lee via OVAC. The organization needed to extend that awareness to the full mission of the stand-alone organization, educate new audiences about Inclusion In Art and attract artist to participate. The organization also needed to explain their addition to, not competition with, existing arts organizations in the area. All of this had to be done only with volunteer efforts and donated resources due to a $0 budget starting point.
Our plan was to simplify the message as much as possible, differentiate the new organization without negating the former OVAC program and create the same level of professionalism as existing arts organizations. We actively pursued partnerships and collaborations to establish positive relations within the arts community. We planned mission specific public events to promote Inclusion In Art and member artist at the same time. Some events were free to the public for awareness and promotion. Others were for a nominal fee to offset cost and raise funds for the organization
We designed low cost, highly branded promotional materials to tell the story of Inclusion In Art with a focus on consistency of message, positivity and commitment to the mission. We created an online community for artist of color, supporters and arts advocates called “The Connect”. This online presence offers artist opportunity as well as drawing organizations, galleries and collectors to a central location for locating minority artist and artwork.
Overall, we stayed focused on explaining the mission, proving the need for the organization and inviting all (artist, galleries, collectors, advocates) to participate. We built on past successes of OVAC events, and expanded the idea of what minority-focused art events in Oklahoma can/should be. We didn’t change the organization’s message, we expanded it.
We started with branding. The previous branding was inconsistent and non-impacting. One of the branding challenges is Inclusion In Art is the variety of artist they represent. African-American, Latino (Mexican, South American and Spanish), Asian, Native-American, Middle-Eastern, etc… In order to not emphasize or omit any particular cultures and establish a very professional appearance, we specifically designed all branding in modern, black and white design style. The brand mark, printed materials, website and social media feeds were all very minimally designed in order to focus on the visual impact of the art and artist themselves. This was a distinct and visible change from previous branding without disrespecting where the organization started.
Next, we put years of event promotions, board development and minority focus group information together to create the general messaging and educational text. We simplified this text as much as possible and kept all focus on the organization’s mission, who they serve and inclusiveness of events.
- Inclusion In Art is dedicated to advancing racial and cultural diversity in Oklahoma’s visual arts community.
- We support artists of color with connectivity, betterment and information.
- Promoting racial and cultural diversity through exhibitions, workshops, creative projects and lectures.
- Supporting artists of color by finding resources available to assist them with their artistic endeavors.
- Connecting communities through socially conscious presentations that challenge the mind and embrace progressive thought.
- This text was then utilized on a new website InclusionInArt.com, Facebook and on Twitter: @inclusioninart
The website and social media feed into ”the Connect” a database of Oklahoma artist of color. This is the only place for specifically finding Oklahoma artist of color and their artwork. The Connect allows artists to show work and learn about call-to-entry and other opportunities while providing a resource for galleries, organizations or collectors looking to show or purchase work from minority artist. We also use the Connect to encourage artist to show their art on other databases such as the OVAC virtual gallery and the Oklahoma Creativity website
Along with the Connect, we directly marketed Inclusion In Art via phone, e-mail and social media to existing arts and civic organizations as a multicultural partner. We established Inclusion In Art as an effective provider of multicultural influence, outreach and engagement. We positioned Inclusion In Art as the best way to add multicultural programming to an existing organization. This campaign has created many, many partnerships with established organizations and created opportunities for Inclusion In Art artist.
Events are the lifeblood of an arts organization. Inclusion In Art had a reputation for presenting high-quality art shows featuring minority artist and/or themes. We continued this in 2013 with art shows in Norman, Edmond, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Each of these events included a Call To Artist, promotions via social media/website/e-mail and public relations (local media).
In Color: Annual film event focusing on the many contributions of independent filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers of color and connect these filmmakers to a larger audience. The gala evening event is topped off by the presentation of Best in Category and Best in Show awards. This year we showed eight different films three times in two different venues. We also held small, casual film screenings in local venues like Picasso Cafe and Urban Roots as promotions for the In Color event.
In 2013, we created a second showing of each film in the afternoon as a matinee for those who could not attend the evening event. This expanded the audience by 300%. We supported this event with a micro-website, main website, online ticket purchases via EventBright, local media appearances, e-mail blast, social media and signage in the screening and sponsor locations.
Cipher: Exploring hip hop lyricism through art. This experimental exhibition is one of a series of four that examine hip hop culture. Cipher has been presented in Tulsa at Living Arts and Oklahoma City at IAO Gallery. This event featured over 30 artists and sold out on opening night.
Afro-Americana: A celebration Black American culture through visual art. An expansion of the concept of Americana as interpreted by artists of African-American descent. Curated in partnership with the Gaylord-Pickens Oklahoma Heritage museum. This event featured over 20 artists and had the highest first-day attendance of any event at the Heritage Center.
Celebracion: Rejoicing of the contributions of Latino artists living in Oklahoma. The Latino community is well-known for its culture, customs and festivals, but has not been widely recognized in the state for their visual artists. Presented at MainSite gallery in Norman with the Norman Arts Council. This event featured work from over 20 artists.
Public Relations: Inclusion In art events, artist and executive director Nathan Lee gained a good amount of earned media in 2013. Articles and features for Inclusion In Art artist and events included The Daily Oklahoman, OK Gazette, Slice magazine (cover), Oklahoma Magazine (40 Under 40), Art Focus and numerous blogs, websites and social media shares.
Television: The Emmy award winning OETA Program Gallery featured Inclusion In Art executive director Nathan Lee and artist member Paul Medina in 2013 as well.
As as result:
- Inclusion in Art as a 501(C)3 non-profit has been responsible for renewed interest in art coming from the minority creative class, the creation of the first database of contemporary artists of color living in Oklahoma, and it has been recognized as one of the most successful initiatives dedicated to racial diversity in Oklahoma arts. New and established minority artist of color are joining Inclusion In Art, exhibiting work and seeing success as an artist.
- Inclusion partnerships now include Studio 222, Oklahoma Arts Council, Oklahoma City Arts Council, OVAC, Living Arts Tulsa, Urban Roots, Oklahoma City Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Red Earth, Oklahoma Black Museum and Performing Arts Center, Norman Arts Council, Mainsite Gallery, Edmond Fine Arts Institute, IAO Gallery and Allied Arts. Inclusion In Art and Waters Edge Winery have created a partnership to provide original art for limited-edition wines from Waters Edge with portions of proceeds benefiting the artist and Inclusion In Art.
- Inclusion In Art started 2013 with $300 in the bank. By the end of the year, they had raised $10,000 from donations, sponsorships and event revenue.
- Inclusion In Art started 2013 with 10 paid member artist. By the end of the year, they had 50.
- Inclusion In Art started 2013 with 4 board members. By the end of the year, they had 12.
- Inclusion In Art started 2013 without a physical location (virtual office). Beginning in February of 2014, they have an office and gallery space at 1219 Classen Blvd. in downtown Oklahoma City.
- The success of 2013 also started 2014 strong with Inclusion In Art artist Skip Hill displaying work at the Oklahoma State Capitol in February plus Narciso Argüelles being featured in Oklahoma Magazine and on OETA Gallery program.