Inclusion In Art is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting racial and cultural diversity in Oklahoma’s visual arts community through exhibitions, workshops, creative projects and lectures. Our organization works to support artists of color by connecting communities through socially conscious presentations that challenge the mind and embrace progressive thought. Formed in 2005 by African American visual artists Nathan Lee, Suzanne Thomas and Robert Skip Hill, the initiative began as a small collective of visual artists of color doing small exhibitions in the community.
The collective quickly grew and in December of 2005, Inclusion In Art held its first prominent exhibition entitled “Defining and Defying” at the Individual Artists of Oklahoma’s gallery. The event saw the largest non-fundraising opening that year, drawing in members of the African American community as well as patrons of Oklahoma’s visual arts community. The success of this exhibition led to greater visibility and awareness of the diversity within Oklahoma’s visual arts community and Nathan Lee taking a leading role in the future of Inclusion In Art.
The second prominent presentation “SKIN” was focused on the social issues of internalized racism, society’s notion of physical beauty and identity. Inclusion in Art’s sophomore effort drew positive reviews by Oklahoma art critics and art patrons alike. It sparked an even greater interest in artists of color working and exhibiting in Oklahoma. As Lee began to recognize this interest, he made a decision to become an activist for the cause of racial diversity in the arts. He began by reaching out to other visual artists of color. As his work continued, he would eventually be invited to be a part of several panels, think tanks and conferences locally and nationally through this work. With his visibility increasing, he promoted Inclusion in Art throughout the state and was joined by other artists of color looking for ways to cultivate connections to the Oklahoma visual arts community.
Many artists of color found Inclusion in Art to be the best way to discover resources available to them. The partnerships that had been formed with galleries resulted in exhibitions for these artists, some of which were their first showings. Living Arts Tulsa, the Individual Artist of Oklahoma, Mainsite Gallery in Norman, OK and other galleries in the state turned to Inclusion in Art to connect them to these largely undiscovered artists. Inclusion in Art produced “Transcend” the first film about contemporary Black visual artists living and working in Oklahoma which initialized “In Color” the first annual film event focusing on filmmakers of color.
In 2014, Inclusion In Art began holding programming in a dedicated space at 1219 Creative. During this time Inclusion In Art held numerous group and solo exhibitions featuring the work of Oklahoma artists of color every other month, workshops, lectures and social events.
In 2018, the group shifted back to operating without a dedicated space and with a focus on collaboration. Through the efforts of a volunteer board of directors, the group initiated collaborations with local visual arts and other community organizations in an effort to create lasting and meaningful relationships between these organizations, and the diverse audiences and artists throughout Oklahoma. During this time, Inclusion In Art worked with organizations such as Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, The Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma Contemporary, The Art Hall and also held programming at the UCO Chesapeake Boathouse and Dunlap and Codding on Film Row.
One of Inclusion In Art’s most recent and prominent projects is their annual Mentorship program. The first iteration of this project was held in 2017 at 1219 Creative as a short-term exploration of pairing a mid-career artist with an emerging artist. The following year the group implemented a several-month-long project where two emerging artists worked closely with Inclusion In Art’s Visual Arts committee. With the guidance of this committee, both artists managed to secure project funding through OVAC’s grant opportunities, connect with artists of color who inspire them, put together an exhibition at Oklahoma Contemporary and find and secure opportunities to exhibit their work locally and nationally.