Having grown up deep in Green Country and then moved to the East Coast for decades, one of the many misconceptions I found that “Coasters” had about Oklahoma is that the only culture here was cowboy culture. Rodeos and Native American celebrations? Sure. But challenging theater, world-class art exhibits and local collections and celebrations of far more cultures than just country and cowboy?
As they’d say in New York, not so much.
One of the terrific aspects of returning to my home state is realizing, as an adult, that arts and culture in Oklahoma are alive and kicking, thank you, and continue to improve, despite the misconceptions of friends and colleagues back East. As a journalist who wrote often on arts and culture in Florida, they became a deep passion of mine. The visual and performing arts, wine and food all became regular topics for my columns in the Miami, Florida market, and with each one, I learned a little more.
At heart, I am a frustrated painter. I once told an artist-associate named Jacqueline Ripstein, that if I had been able to paint, I might never have written a word. Now that might not be entirely true in hindsight, but it is a good expression of the passion I have for those who use the arts to express themselves, to illustrate and provide insight into their culture and to foster emotion without the handy use of 500 or more words.
In the weeks and months to come, Arts Maven & Cravin’ is designed to share my voyage of discovery exclusively with Oklahoma Magazine readers. From exhibits at the Philbrook and Gilcrease museums to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, to theater large and small, and from the elder icons of state culture to small galleries just getting started, as I discover the best – and most interesting – aspects of regional arts and culture, Maven will share each and every moment of discovery, as well as how you might enjoy the experience yourself. I make no claim to be an expert in the visual arts and have way too limited experience in performing arts to make any claim of expertise. What I am is an enthusiast – one that can be lost for hours in an art museum; be transfixed by a rare cultural exhibition; and spend hours debating the underlying meaning of an original play produced in a 20-seat theater. It is this sense of exploration and wonder, this delighting in the culture that the Sooner State has to offer that will propel Arts Maven & Cravin’ in the weeks ahead.
I hope you will join me on this adventure by checking back regularly and maybe joining in the conversation about what will hopefully be a thought-provoking celebration of our home state.
Hopefully, some people back East will check in occasionally too – and learn a few things that we as a community have to offer.
-Michael W. Sasser is Oklahoma Magazine’s senior editor and an award-winning journalist. Reach him at [email protected].

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