Photo courtesy Amanda Bleakley

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s the executive director of the Paseo Arts Association, Amanda Bleakley is an artist’s advocate who works hard every day for the people of Oklahoma City. She plans annual events like the Paseo Arts Festival, raises funds and writes grants to ensure the district continually improves. We caught up with Bleakley and picked her brain on …

… the district’s history.
In 1929, the Paseo was developed by G.A. Nichols as the first shopping district north of downtown OKC. The Elms, a resident art gallery and studio, was built in 1920; it was the first artist studio and gallery in Oklahoma City. In the 1950s, the Paseo was home to small businesses, student partying and jazz clubs. The ’60s brought the counter-culture with its creativity and free spirit. It wasn’t until the 1970s that the Paseo began its transformation into an arts district. The first annual Paseo Arts Festival was held on Memorial Day weekend in 1976 and the Paseo Arts Association was formed in 1982 to organize and energize Oklahoma’s first arts district.

… the association’s goals.
We accomplish our mission by offering programs and events for the community. The Paseo Arts Festival is an annual three-day festival with over 90 juried artists, two stages of live music, two free children’s arts areas and 20 food and drink vendors. We partner with Edgemere Elementary to provide art programs for their students and StarDanceSwan to provide two events, Fairy Ball and Magic Lantern for children. We offer an annual community-based dinner designed to provide micro-grant funding to artists called FEAST (Funding Emerging Art through Sustainable Tactics). We also partner with the Skirvin Hilton Hotel to provide an artist residency program called SPACE (Skirvin Paseo Artist Creativity Exposition). On the first Friday of every month, rain or shine, we hold the First Friday Gallery Walk. Every November, we hold the Paseo Arts Awards Dinner and Auction. The PAA remains a resource for artists, residents, visitors and all of those seeking to experience how the arts can transform a community.

… her accomplishments.
I have worked hard to increase the visibility of the Paseo Arts Association and all of the work we do for Oklahoma. I have strived to improve and create new, simpler and more efficient ways of working by streamlining our processes and systems. This will generate a higher quality of cultural exchange between artists and the public and allow us to continue programs, exhibits and our annual festival.

… the future.
It is my hope that we can brand the Paseo Arts District as the first and only place the public visits to buy all of their art. Supporting local artists and businesses is what we’re all about. I’m interested in creating more spaces for people to relax and enjoy. My legacy would be to just leave this place better off for me being here. I’d like to play a bigger, more active role in Oklahoma City as it continues to grow. It’s important not to lose charm as we become a big league city.

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