On the Town: Arts institute loses leader dedicated to Cohen


Lillie-Beth Brinkman

The Oklahoma Arts Institute bade farewell to its longtime executive director last week during a reception at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City.

Julie Cohen is leaving the arts institute after 15 years and a tenure that included the pandemic, a housing crisis that sent financial markets crashing and the renovation of the Quartz Mountain Arts and Conference Center, where the Summer Institute two-week arts festival was established in 1977 and has been held most years since then.

Her friends and supporters have praised her ability to stay focused on the arts institute’s mission to provide artistic experiences that develop individual talent and a passion for the arts. The Summer Arts Institute does this with an intense two-week summer program for the state’s most talented high school students in multiple disciplines, including music, visual arts, photography, writing, dance, and more. . The cost for these students, selected by audition, is funded entirely by donations to the Oklahoma Arts Institute. The organization also offers a fall arts institute for educators and others, also at Quartz Mountain most years.

During the reception at the 21c Museum, OAI Board Chair Lisa Greenlee and her husband, Jeff Greenlee, introduced the evening by mentioning Cohen’s unwavering leadership, passion and commitment that will have a lasting effect on the arts in Oklahoma. State Representative Gerrid Kendrix and State Senator Brent Howard, both Republicans from Altus, presented him with a proclamation about his legacy of instilling in students his love for the arts. The evening also included presentations by board member Brad Zerger and others, a gift to Cohen of a painting by Mike Larsen Sunset over Wichita and a video honoring him with best wishes from a wide range of people who have worked with Cohen over the years. Oklahoma painter Mike Larsen.

The wonderful organization has done so much for the arts in Oklahoma over the years, and it was great to see Cohen’s support and a warm welcome for its new director, Robert Ward, OAI Choir alumnus and advisor and longtime music educator.

OAI has also established a scholarship fund in his name. To donate, go to https://oaiquartz.org/reception.

Art and brunch

Make your plans for the 38th Annual Omelette Party Art Raffle to benefit the Oklahoma City Museum of Art March 16-19. The art raffle will be on display in the third floor galleries of the museum during opening hours that week. You can bid on works by local artists virtually that week and in person during the patronal feast from 7-10 p.m. on March 19. The patronal feast includes brunch-themed fare, a cash bar, live jazz music, and meet and greets with the artists. Buy raffle and event tickets online at okcmoa.com. Patron’s Day tickets are $45 for members and $55 for non-members. The event committee members are Clay Cockrill, Farooq Karim, Rachel Mann, Susan Planer Phillips, Matt Tipton, Elizabeth Hale, Shawn Carey-Witcher, Jeri Wensel and Mucki Wright.

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