March 13, 2013

Oklahoma Remembers Paseo Arts District Pioneer John Belt

John Belt
March 14, 1936 - March 10, 2013 

To love the arts and artists, to embrace neighborhoods and neighbors, to celebrate the beauty of humanity and life is to know John Belt. 

John Lampton Belt died Sunday, March 10, 2013, leaving a rich legacy of beauty and community in the hearts and minds of individuals, families and neighborhoods throughout the city, but most notably in his beloved Paseo. John was born in Dallas on March 14, 1936 to James and Wildair Lampton Belt. After receiving his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Oklahoma and post graduate work at Hastings College of Law in California, he practiced law in Oklahoma starting in 1963. Prior to law school, John served in the U.S. Army.

John was an accomplished singer and actor, who toured with the USO, and appeared in numerous plays at Lyric Theater where he met John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick leading to his lifetime passion for philanthropy and investment in the community. He soon became Mr. Kirkpatrick's lawyer and confidant and continued that relationship with their grandson Christian Keesee. An inspirational visionary, John is best known for his revitalization of a faded commercial corridor into The Paseo, an arts district on the National Register of Historic Places which is home to numerous galleries, studios, retail shops, theater and restaurants. The Paseo has won top accolades from the American Planning Association, Forbes Magazine and the BBC. John's vision of The Paseo and passion for the arts led him to establish the Harding Fine Arts Academy which he viewed as a way to inspire creativity and appreciation for the arts in young people. John's impact on the community was not a solo act.

For 35 years his wife Joy was his muse and inspiration. John and Joy met working together on an arts project for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. It was the beginning of a partnership ripe with creativity and combined energies toward development of a better community. Other community ventures enriched by John's creativity, enthusiasm and wisdom involved the creation and growth of over 40 local nonprofits including Lyric Theatre, Oklahoma Theater Center, Allied Arts Foundation, Arts Council of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Mental Health Foundation and the Oklahoma Humanities Council. At the time of his death, John was serving as secretary and general counsel of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation; advisory director of City Arts Center; Trustee of the Kirkpatrick Family Fund, the Kirkpatrick Foundation, the William E. Davis Affiliated Fund; and member of the Board of Directors of The Paseo Arts Association, Oklahoma City Housing Services Redevelopment Corporation, Board of Visitors of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma as well as a member of several for profit corporate boards.

Some of John's significant professional accomplishments include: organizational and legal services for the development of major shopping centers in the Midwest, principal organizer and implementer of a plan for devoting the interests on lawyers' trust accounts in Oklahoma to educational and charitable purposes, and class action securities litigation. He had served as President of the Oklahoma County Bar Association; Governor of the Oklahoma Bar Association; Trustee and President of the Oklahoma County Bar Foundation and Oklahoma Bar Foundation; and appointee of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma as Interim Judge to the Intermediate Court of Appeals.John was preceded in death by his mother, father and brother James.

He is survived by his wife Joy Reed Belt, sons Dan Belt and John L. "Jake" Belt II, daughter-in-law Brandi and grandsons Malachi and Nethaniel.A Memorial Service will be held for John at All Souls Episcopal Church at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, March 14, John's birthday.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to: The John L. Belt Memorial Fund at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1146, Oklahoma City, OK 73101.

We send our love and prayers to John's wife, Joy, a member of the Board of Directors of  Oklahomans for the Arts.