Believe it or not, Molly Murphy Adams was a science major in college. Now, she’s a Tulsa Artist Fellow. 

The Montana-born artist was accepted to the 2019 Tulsa Artist Fellowship, established by the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Murphy Adams, a descendant of the Oglala Lakota tribe, found her identity as an artist through her heritage and love of contemporary art. 

“My heritage comes through in my choices of native design, but also my dedication to handmade and hand techniques,” she says. “I grew up with wood cook stoves, oil lamps and computers … my work reflects living in a time that bridges analog and digital.”

While she was always drawing on napkins, scrap paper and envelopes as a child, she didn’t consider a career within her passion. She graduated high school at 16 and went to college concentrating on science. 

“I loved to make art, but until I was an adult, I didn’t think it was a valid career choice for a very poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks,” she says. “I thought that I should pursue something more reliable.”

She ended up leaving school to work, but after about five years, she returned to her true passion.

“I felt it was a huge risk,” she explains. “But I loved it. I did well, and by the time my senior thesis show was up, I had work traveling in exhibits. I decided I would keep pursuing this career until the wheels fell off. It’s been sixteen years of being a full-time exhibiting artist, and I’m not done yet.”  

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The girl who learned to draw botanicals and florals from cutting pictures out of seed and bulb catalogs has come a long way. However, Murphy Adams is still growing as an artist and says the fellowship has been an excellent opportunity. 

“I haven’t had many chances over my career to do residencies or artist grants,” she says. “This … has been so much fun and [a chance for] development for me as I stretch and take on bigger projects. While this year has been understandably isolated, I am still engaged and benefit from the connection to artists from so many backgrounds and disciplines.”

Life, opportunities and a chance meeting led her to Tulsa, which has been home for the last ten years. 

“My art career kept putting me in the path of artists and curators here in Oklahoma,” she says. “I traveled to several shows and had exhibits that came through Tulsa, which led to an opportunity where a curator at the Philbrook invited me here for a mini-exhibit, lecture and teaching workshops for a long weekend.”

It was on that weekend that she went to a music show at Cain’s Ballroom and met her future husband. A little over a year later, they were married, and the rest is history. 

“I was looking at relocating here before I met him,” she explains. “I saw a real critical mass of art-related growth in Oklahoma … great art, artists, curators and a willingness to collaborate instead of gate-keeping. Oklahoma has been very good to me professionally. I have found that an art career isn’t easy, but it is possible with a lot of support and hustle.”