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Concept of Community

Offering anything from mixed media presentations to static paintings and writings, Steve Liggett and his studio is focused on providing a forum for underrecognized artists.

Michele Chiappetta
Sarah Eliza Roberts
March 28, 2020

Next time you’re downtown visiting the First Street Flea Market or window shopping at The Boxyard, take a walk over to Kenosha Avenue. There, you’ll find a small, unassuming white building that houses a unique art studio that is all about showcasing those in the community who need space and room to be seen and heard.

Liggett Studio, which has been around for about 15 years now, is headed by artist Steve Liggett, who has been an arts advocate and artist in the Tulsa community for over 40 years. He has taught art at Holland Hall Preparatory School and Riverfield Country Day School, served as a resident artist for the Tulsa Park and Recreation Department, and headed Living Arts of Tulsa, before opening Liggett Studio in 2005, just a couple doors down from where Living Arts was initially located before moving over to Reconciliation Way.

These days, Liggett is concentrating on art exhibits that embody the concept of community. “I’m more interested in building community and having a distinct look at who is out there making work. I’m pretty much focused on trying to seek out those people who are not getting shown but deserve to be shown,” he says.

“When I retired in 2017 from Living Arts, I started programming this place [the studio]. A lot of what I do is, oddly enough — it started that way, anyway — showing artists’ work after they’ve died. It was natural to give memorial shows to artists who have passed on, or artists who at one time were hot, and they want another show before they pass on.”

That approach leads to an exciting array of exhibits that Tulsa art lovers can enjoy when visiting Liggett Studio. You might see anything from mixed media presentations and live performances to static paintings and writings created in response to other artworks. One recent show featured artist Nylajo Harvey, a respected Tulsa artist who is in her 90s, and whose expressionistic works have been exhibited in Oklahoma and other states for over 60 years. Another exhibit featured photography from New York City’s 42nd Street by Roy Lee.

Currently on display through the beginning of May is the work of David Cardamone, whose show The Deaf Bruce Lee consists of paintings, films, music, and martial arts, highlighting the need for social justice and equal rights for deaf people. In addition to his visual artwork, the artist will give a live electronic music performance. Cardamone is another Tulsa artist, which is a fit for Liggett Studio’s vision to host Tulsa area creators.

Another goal for the studio is to serve as many artists as possible in the community. “I try to keep it as a level playing field for artists on the street who want a place to show. If they don’t have a place and they need a place, I try to make room,” says Liggett. Sometimes, that means bringing in individual artists; sometimes, it means exhibitions by groups such as Black Moon Collective. Other times, Liggett matches two artists whose works complement each other in intriguing ways for a dual exhibit.

At times, the exhibits can push the boundaries of politics, social issues, sexuality, and more — which is pretty much what you’d expect from any space that exhibits art. “Tulsa is pretty broad-minded,” says Liggett. Exhibits change monthly, with a variety of styles and approaches, so there’s always something appealing to check out. The studio also has plans to host a Bob Dylan tribute concert, as well as the Tulsa International Animation Festival later this year.

In addition to showing art, Liggett makes art, too. His preferred medium is pottery. “I always made art. Now that I’m retired, I’m really focused on it.” He is currently collaborating with P.S. (“Pat”) Gordon, who is a painter from Claremore. “This collaboration with Pat is perfect because I’ve always loved forms, and he’s a painter. So, I’m throwing the forms, and he’s painting them.” Their exhibit will be on display in December.

Liggett also periodically hosts art workshops through the studio. Right now, the focus is on papermaking and raku (a form of pottery), which are both art forms he is passionate about. “I teach clay classes out of Liggett Pottery [in Tulsa’s Heights District]. I’m doing a spring and fall raku class where we build the pieces in my pottery, and we fire them once, and then we go out to Craig County to raku fire them. Raku is a Japanese process of taking hot pots out of the kiln and letting them cool quickly, and the glazes crackle. The American form of raku is that you put them into combustible things, that then cause smoke to go into those cracks. It’s great fun.”

There’s also a papermaking shop in Liggett Studio, which allows people to make their paper. “I do a handmade paper workshop in the fall and spring. Paper is an amazing medium that is not often explored in this area of the country. There’s just so much you can do with it,” he says.  

Liggett Studio
314 S. Kenosha Ave. | Tulsa