These Walls: Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education, Tulsa

Article excerpt

Although the experiment has barely begun, the Henry Zarrow Center for Art and Education has already proven a successful University of Tulsa extension into downtown's expanding Brady District arts community.

That's an important point to university President Steadman Upham, who also has moved to establish a downtown medical school in cooperation with the University of Oklahoma's Tulsa campus. But that huge project still has two years of development before its first students enter those halls. The Zarrow Center hit the ground running last month.

"I was down there this morning just looking at the facility," Upham said in an interview last week. "It's beginning to come together as a real functioning facility."

The center has its roots in revitalization, not just of the 90- year-old Tulsa Paper Co. warehouse that's long stood vacant, but of a downtown blue-collar district that, in its 1920s heyday, played a bedrock role in Tulsa commerce.

The George Kaiser Family Foundation spearheaded the effort to revitalize that empty block, once home to four empty brick warehouses, as the centerpiece for a resurgent arts district. With the support of the foundation, TU, the Gilcrease Museum that is managed by TU, and the Philbrook Museum of Art, Manhattan Construction has spent the last year revitalizing three of the four warehouses.

This spring Manhattan finished the three-story, 18,000-square- foot Tulsa Paper Co. portion, which TU and Gilcrease operate. The Philbrook portion should open later this year.

The Zarrow Center's first floor will provide rotating art exhibit space for both instructional use and public entertainment.

"We've done this at Gilcrease in the past," Upham said of coordinating art and historical exhibits with public school educational programs. "We wanted to expand that."

The space also offers TU a platform for displaying artworks by its students, faculty and visiting artists, with a bar and other features for hosting gatherings.

"They'll be rotating exhibitions of art that really come out of the university environment," Upham said. …

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