August 3, 2012

OFTA Launches New Website, Update Blog

Oklahomans for the Arts in partnership with the Kirkpatrick Family Fund and Oklahoma City-based design firm Liquid Fish, has launched a new website, and updated blog. The site promotes arts advocacy in Oklahoma through a design that embraces Oklahoma's historical roots.

"We wanted a site with an authentic Oklahoma look and feel," said OFTA Director Jennifer James. "We are proud of our state's roots in energy and agriculture. These primary economies laid the groundwork of support to more than 500 arts and cultural organizations in the state."

The new site's home page includes an illustration of the Oklahoma Capitol, a festival tent, skyline, bison, wheat shafts, art, performers and rolling prairies. "We think it's counter-intuitive to hide the grassland, grain or buffalo in an effort to promote the quality arts and culture we have in Oklahoma," James said. "That quality exists in tandem with the natural resources and environment of this amazing state."

Screenshot of OFTA's new website.

Economic Sectors
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, arts and culture represent a distinct economic sector in the U.S. economy. Every quarter the department gathers data that illustrates how arts and culture occur in support of economic development, not at its expense. They are tools that help recruit corporations to towns and cities; help communities and states retain skilled and professional workers; revive urban centers and tourism, and are a consideration of people when they choose where to live and work.

According to the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report published by Americans for the Arts summarizes 2010 data from 182 diverse U.S. regions. Nonprofit arts and culture organizations nationally drive a $135.2 billion industry – supporting 4.1 million full-time equivalent jobs and annually generating $22.3 billion in government revenue.

A 2008 economic impact study revealed that the nonprofit arts and cultural industry in the state contributes $314.8 million in local economic activity.
  • 176.5 million by nonprofits arts and cultural organizations
  • 138.3 million in event-related spending by their audiences
  • Generates $29.4 million in local and state government revenue

"Every $1 of public funding for the arts generates $8 in economic activity in Oklahoma," said Jim Tolbert, Chairman, Oklahomans for the Arts. "The arts are an economic engine that drives more than 4,600 businesses and more than 22,000 Oklahoma jobs." 

Public Funding for the Arts
That revenue, nearly $30 million annually, helps build a case for continued reinvestment in the arts by the State of Oklahoma. For more than 40 years, the Oklahoma legislature has returned and reinvested a small portion of that revenue annually through an appropriation to the Oklahoma Arts Council. Over the last three years, the legislature has cut its reinvestment by nearly 22 percent.

OAC's current budget includes about $4 million from the State and about $700,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts. "These funds actually represent a reinvestment of a small portion of the tax revenue generated by the artists and arts and cultural organizations in the state," Tolbert said. "Over the years, it has provided early seed dollars for major arts initiatives before they gained critical mass.
According to Tolbert, who has previously served as Chair of the Oklahoma Arts Council, they're also used to fund statewide leadership programs for the arts. "OAC provides guidance on start-ups and how to maximize the use of limited grants dollars by increasing investment from the private sector," he said.

Educating Lawmakers
"Partisan decisions about the arts don't make economic sense," James said. "Communities all across America are in a race to distinguish themselves from 'Anywhere, USA' so they can compete in an economy now strained by global competitors. Arts and culture help them win."

OFTA's mission is to increase support for public funding for the arts. The organization, which was created in May 2011, wants to educate lawmakers about the connection between the economy and the arts. "Many things compete for our legislators' attention," James said. "The burden and privilege of changing the arts conversation and framing it around the economy belongs to all arts stakeholders. That includes everyone from artists, the organizations producing art, arts educators, patrons and supporters."

The new site highlights a variety of resources including how arts advocates can contact elected officials and what they can do today as arts advocates. 
Other content sections include:
  • Arts Education
  • Creative Economy
  • Public Funding
  • How To Join OFTA

In addition to the new website, OFTA has also launched a newly updated blog ( It differs from the website in a number of ways.

  • Interactive with commenting on posts enabled
  • News and features oriented with regular, weekly content
  • Search-engine focused and optimized in an effort to rank Oklahoma current arts subjects higher in search results

"The blog is an important companion to the website," James said.  "The website highlights our mission, areas of focus, contact information and provides a clearing house for arts advocacy resources and tools. "The blog helps us increase grassroots advocacy, local awareness and participation in our programs and activities by serving as a channel for breaking news and information."

The website and blog were funded through a grant from the Kirkpatrick Family Fund. The site was designed in partnership with Liquid Fish, a design firm based in Oklahoma City.

"It's because of the generosity of the Kirkpatrick Family Fund and Liquid Fish that we are able to launch such a quality site," James said. "We couldn't have done it without either of them."