In March 2020, Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center re-launched in a stunning new building, Folding Light, designed by Rand Elliott Architects to reflect the unique quality of light and sky in the region. This home for exhibitions, education and performance will be free and open to the public and will anchor the organization’s new, central location in downtown Oklahoma City, just north of the historic Automobile Alley. The new center will dramatically increase Oklahoma Contemporary’s capacity for free, internationally relevant exhibitions and programming and increase art access and education for citizens of Oklahoma, students and visitors alike.
The new 53,916-square-foot, four-story building is the centerpiece of the purpose-built 4.6-acre Oklahoma Contemporary campus, which will become a cultural gateway to downtown Oklahoma City. The grounds also include a renovated 9,839 square-foot historic warehouse (to house studios for ceramics and fiber as well as metal and wood sculpture) and a three-block arts park, providing space for outdoor exhibitions, education programs and public performances.
On approach, visitors will be greeted by a striking, sculptural building with a facade comprised of custom-fabricated extruded, aluminum fins, which extend from the ground to the top of the building’s parapet. The unique exterior shell is constructed from bright-dipped aluminum, resulting in an ethereal facade designed to capture the state’s ever-changing weather conditions and reflects and embraces the dramatic changes in light and sky that characterize the local landscape.
The Oklahoma Contemporary experience will continue outdoors, where a sculpture garden will feature rotating works and the adjacent Campbell Art Park will host large-scale sculptural installations year-round. The flexible-use second-floor terrace, on the north side of the main building, can host receptions of up to 150 seated or 250 standing guests, while landscaping elements will provide shade and cover for Oklahoma’s unpredictable weather.
On the exterior, The Lantern, a dramatic tower of light, runs from ground level to past the roofline on the southwest corner of the centerpiece building. The Lantern will be a steadfast source of light in the night and an iconic new Oklahoma City landmark.
The sculptural porte-cochère adds an elegance to the entrance of the building and offers guests protection from the elements on arrival.
Oklahoma Contemporary visitors will enter into a light-filled lobby, welcoming them in an open space that leads to flexible areas for public use, including a locally run cafe and retail shop. The first floor includes a “Creative Lounge,” intended as a public space for local residents and visitors to gather, honoring Oklahoma Contemporary’s history and legacy as a community organization.
In addition to the 8,000 square feet of galleries for visual art, the new building includes a flexible theater space that seats 200, a dance studio and nine classroom studios.
News courtesy of Rand Elliott