Cutline for above photo: Moriah Gonzales serves as an artist-in-residence with the Paseo Arts Association. Art entitled ‘I Live In My Own Mind’ by Gonzales, photo courtesy Amanda Bleakley

“Every single piece is a self portrait, a reflection of me,” says Moriah Gonzales, who has always been an artist, but didn’t consider becoming one professionally until the pandemic. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma in May 2020, she planned to travel to Australia and pursue a graduate degree in environmental studies. As the world went into lockdown, however, Gonzales pursued the arts. 

“I don’t want to say the pandemic was a good thing, but I’m happy how life panned out,” she says. 

She decided to stay in Oklahoma and now splits her time between her studio in Norman, working as a bartender at the Cohiba Lounge, and her artist-in-residence program with the Paseo Arts Association. 

Gonzales has benefited from the program by being actively involved with OKC’s artistic community. 

“It’s nice to be surrounded by artists – getting to know other people and looking at their work and feeling inspired. I’ve kind of missed that artist community after graduating college,” she says. 

While at the Paseo, she’s been working on a portrait series about the inspiration she’s found from the women in her life. 

The Paseo Arts Association sees the artist-in-residence programs as beneficial to up and coming creators. 

“We want to lift them up and help support them,” says Amanda Bleakley, the Paseo Arts Association’s executive director. The association also works with the Skirvin Hilton in Oklahoma City by allowing artists to apply every year for a studio residence. The artists are able to work in the studio space, are given a stipend, and are encouraged to interact with the hotel guests.

“I would say the most rewarding part is seeing how the program helps them, and seeing where they go from there,” says Bleakley. 

The current artist in residence at the Skirvin is LaQuincey Reed, a sculptor who focuses on western artwork, specifically the representation of Black cowboys. Originally from Oklahoma, his previous work includes work on the Brookgreen Gardens’ exhibit on Emerging Stars in American Sculpture and assisting with the Oklahoma Land Run monument. He has also taught art at different public schools in Oklahoma. While he’s been at the Skirvin, Reed has worked on commissions and monuments for different organizations around the state and nation. 

“The experience has been great; I’ve met people from all over the country,” he says, some of whom have even wanted commissions. 

Whether you’re applying to galleries or schools around the world, a lot of organizations look for residencies on your resume, says Gonzales. 

“I would “recommend [these programs] to any artist,” she says. “The Paseo has helped me and taught me a lot,” specifically in pursuing different goals and building her portfolio. 

Gonzales hopes to apply to different galleries around the nation once she’s finished with her tenure at the Paseo. She even wants to go for another residency in France. 

“My life goals are to be happy, travel and do art,” she says. “And the Paseo residency has been a great stepping stone to do that.”

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