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Mel Cornshucker’s pottery on Brady Street

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A festive environment greets visitors the first Friday of each month.

Although the hushed, climate-controlled experience of visiting museums provides the most familiar atmosphere for admiring art, it isn’t the only way to do so. In fact, taking an after-hours ramble through either of the arts districts below beats the museum experience in several ways: food, drink, enthusiastic friends laughing and talking at full voice and music make an art walk an exercise in good taste and good times.

The Paseo, Oklahoma City

The Spanish word “paseo,” the name of a gently curving Oklahoma City street that anchors an historic arts district, means both a slow, easy walk and the walkway itself. The roughly two-block-long Paseo District has more than 20 galleries and a selection of unique restaurants and shops.

If you want to wear your art on your sleeve, you can visit UrbanSilk, where artist Diane Coady uses her hand-painted silk to make lovely garments. Some galleries serve as the studios of their artist-owners. Paseo Pottery is where Collin Rosebrook creates, shows his work and that of others and teaches classes in his art. Most of the gallery/studios open their walls to the work of other artists. This you-show-my-work-I’ll-show-yours attitude brings in nationally known artists and creates the community feel that defines the area.

This creative community knows a lot about the culinary arts, as well as the visual ones. The renowned Paseo Grill serves up what it calls “classic American cuisine with an international flair.” Sit on the patio, savoring Cherry-Smoked Salmon with Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Medley, which could be the name of a still life, and sipping one of its many specialty cocktails: The Paseo Persephone, which combines olives, pomegranate and vodka into a liquid masterpiece is but one example of many. The Red Rooster is also a nearby hot spot for cool food.  

Colorful, fluid pieces will draw your eye just as they do the light.

Every month, you’ll find the First Friday Gallery Walk, which runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. or so. At these indoor/outdoor parties, hundreds of art lovers browse exhibitions of fine art, meet artists, hear music, enjoy dinner at one of the fine restaurants or nosh on snacks and wine inside the galleries. The party spills over to Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., but the real event happens on Friday night. Many of the galleries schedule their art openings for First Fridays, so you can meet artists as you view their works.

Brady Street, Tulsa

The recently renamed Brady Arts District in Tulsa has been slowly growing for a long time. Anytime, a trip to Caz’s Chowhouse, one of the area’s several restaurants, will provide a plate of traditional culinary creations with a focus on comfort: Mom’s Meatloaf and Pop’s Pot Roast share the menu with fried green tomatoes.

Once the stomach is satisfied, you can work on the soul by moving on to the real focus of the Brady Arts District. The Tulsa Glassblowing School showcases the work of Sarah Diggdon. Her colorful, fluid pieces will draw your eye just as they do the light. Mel Cornshucker’s pottery reflects his native heritage as well as his individual style, and Donna Prigmore’s Boston Artists Gallery & Gallery Beads offers custom jewelry.

In the near future, the arts district is expected to burst into full bloom with the completion of the Visual Arts Center in the 40,000-square-foot old Mathews Warehouse on East Brady Street. Building on an already vibrant local arts scene, the VAC will create a home for the Arts & Humanities Council’s visual arts programs and be an anchor for the developing area. The VAC will house gallery space, artists’ studios and classrooms, as well as programs for all ages.