Since 1977, the Oklahoma Arts Institute (OAI) has served as the state's flagship arts education program for high school students, educators and other artists wishing to further their skills in the literary, visual and performing arts. It all began with a three-day pilot program serving 100 Oklahoma high school students in five artistic disciplines.
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This first Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute (OSAI), held at Camp Egan near Tahlequah, was a resounding success. Some of the nation's top artists served as OSAI faculty, including America's first major prima ballerina, Maria Tallchief.
OSAI expanded to two weeks in its second year and relocated to Quartz Mountain State Park in the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma. Today, OSAI is the state's premier experience for artistic high school students. Almost 300 attend the program each year to study acting, chorus, creative writing, dance, drawing & painting, film & video, orchestra, and photography. Students earn a place at the Institute through a rigorous statewide audition process aimed at identifying Oklahoma's most talented young artists. All accepted students automatically receive a full scholarship, thereby ensuring that all students can attend, regardless of financial means.
In 1983, the Institute responded to the needs of Oklahoma teachers seeking an educational experience on par with OSAI and created the Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain. This annual series of four-day weekend workshops for educators and artists of all skill levels offers training with nationally renowned artists in the literary, visual, and performing arts.
A devastating fire at Quartz Mountain in 1995—one of the Institute's most challenging years—turned into an opportunity for significant transformation. The fire tragically destroyed the original Quartz Mountain Lodge, but through the leadership of the Oklahoma State Legislature and the tireless efforts of OAI and its partners, Quartz Mountain was rebuilt with spaces designed to best facilitate OAI's programs. In 2001, the Summer Arts Institute returned home to the new Quartz Mountain Arts & Conference Center, which boasts a beautiful lodge building, 120 guestrooms, a 700-seat performance hall, five studio pavilions, and the Beverly Badger Memorial Library, as well as the Institute's Quartz Mountain Art Collection.
As Oklahoma's Official School of the Arts, OAI has served thousands of students, educators, and other artists whose experiences at Quartz Mountain have enriched the cultural landscape of Oklahoma and beyond. Educators participating in the Fall Arts Institute reach more than 50,000 PK-12 students across Oklahoma every year. Summer Arts Institute alumni have gone on to exhibit artwork internationally, write award-winning screenplays, accept Grammy nominations, and more.
Now in its fifth decade, this timeline serves as a written, visual and audio record of the Arts Institute and its one-of-a-kind programs.