Photo of Jeremiah Mathew Davis
Photo courtesy Oklahoma Contemporary

Jeremiah Matthew Davis, the inaugural director at OKC-based Oklahoma Contemporary, serves in the primary leadership role for the institution and is helping to grow it into a new, central location downtown. With seven years under his belt at the art center, Davis has overseen a variety of curatorial programming while working to strengthen youth and adult education programs. 

Originally from Oklahoma, Davis completed his undergraduate studies in theater and social science at Bennington College in Vermont, and got his graduate degree of dramaturgy from Columbia University in New York. Prior to joining the Oklahoma Contemporary team, Davis focused on immersive theatrical production and worked with highly accomplished artists throughout the country. In addition, Davis’ career has been steadily grounded in education, with teaching roles at New York University, Barnard College and Columbia University. He continues to serve as a tenured faculty member at the Todoroff Conservatory in New York. We caught up with Davis and picked his brain about …

… what brought him back to Oklahoma. 

Oklahoma Contemporary. After leaving for college, I never imagined my career path would lead back to Oklahoma. Upon learning more about the vision for the arts center’s future from our founder, Christian Keesee, I was inspired to return and help to establish a new cultural organization that could propel the state forward and help retain creative talent here. 

… how his background helps his career.

Professional theater provides an excellent training ground for any number of fields. So many seemingly disparate disciplines are contained within a single production. Immersive performance adds additional complexity to audience logistics and the dynamics of storytelling. The experiences I gained through collaborating with artists, technicians and businesspeople across disciplines and industries helped inform my approach to collaboration, institution building and the importance of transdisciplinarity. 

… his goals as inaugural director.

In the near term, my goals are to continue to build awareness in our community of the incredible cultural resource available to them in their backyard. In any given month, we have multiple exhibitions on view, music, theater or dance performances, dozens of classes and workshops for adults, and family-friendly programs and events. And admission is always free. Long term, through our commitment to collaboration, community partnerships, radical hospitality and artistic excellence, we need to become the indispensable center for art and culture that Oklahomans of all backgrounds and visitors to OKC could not imagine living without.   

… the importance of education in this role.

One of the great privileges of this job is the abundance of learning opportunities I enjoy every day. I consider myself a lifetime student, and Oklahoma Contemporary has been an incredible professor. As a teacher, I begin with the question. I hope to continue posing exciting questions for our staff, trustees, stakeholders and our audiences to consider and explore. By asking the right questions, we can learn anything. 

… what guests can look forward to.

We just opened our latest project in Campbell Art Park, Eva Schlegel: Multiple Voices, an architectonic installation inspired by our building and the Oklahoma skies, which represents the European artist’s first public artwork in North America. This month, our theater company in residence, OKC Rep, kicks off its season with the wild new play The Antelope Party. And this coming February, we open Home1947: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an immersive exhibition exploring the experiences of the partition of the Indian subcontinent into the independent nation-states of India and Pakistan. Obaid-Chinoy is an Academy Award winning filmmaker and is slated to direct the next major Star Wars picture, so this exhibition is not to be missed! 

… what he wants to emphasize about Oklahoma Contemporary.

If you haven’t visited Oklahoma Contemporary yet, this is your arts center – and admission is always free. Drop by to connect with the community, experience art and enjoy some delicious pastries and scratch cuisine at our Café Contemporary. Everyone is welcome here.

… his favorite activities outside of work. 

I live near the Paseo, so much of my time is spent enjoying the walkability of Uptown, the Asian District and the Paseo. With so many galleries, shops, cafés, restaurants, venues and parks, the area is one of the most dynamic parts of the city. I’m also a fan of downtown, Automobile Alley, Deep Deuce, the Plaza District, EastPoint on NE 23rd St. and the great parks and lakes in the metro. I visit my family in Tulsa and Osage County whenever I can, and I travel the country and the world with my wife as much as time and budget allow.

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