The bigger picture

Art connects across continents.



The late Yevgeny Yevtushenko and artist Vladimir “Vova” Shamarin and his painting “Children of War.”

Courtesy Sue Bennett

Just as an artist can transform shards of glass into a dazzling piece of art, I believe God can take the broken and fragmented pieces of our lives and create a masterpiece.

Last year, I was witness to an unlikely meeting of 10 Russian orphans and a world-famous poet. The event electrified the orphans’ minds, opened their eyes to love and kindness from an unlikely source and showed them they are special.

 

Artful designs

It began almost two decades ago.

In 2000, at a Russian camp for nearly 200 orphans, one shy, sickly, disheveled boy named Vladimir “Vova” Shamarin stood out with his shock of blond hair and artistic talent. He and his siblings became orphans after their father died. Their mother struggled with mental illness. Too weak to walk as a child, Vova was put in a special needs orphanage.

That year, we met Vova during a mission trip through Orphan’s Tree, a nonprofit that works with Russian orphans as they age out of orphanages and transition into adulthood.

As an eighth-grader, Vova’s artistic talent impressed me and my husband, Tom Bennett Jr. We provided him with art supplies and encouraged him to pursue an art education.

In adulthood, Vova attended the Suzdal Art Restoration School, which specializes in restoring older Russian artifacts. Today, he is a graduate of the prestigious St. Petersburg Institute for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.

For Tom and me, the chance encounter with Vova and other orphans changed our lives. This is our 18th year working with the Russian orphans.

 

A heart for orphans

The seeds for going on a Russian mission trip were planted early in our marriage when we heard a church visitor talk about delivering Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. In the mid-1970s, our family began praying for Russian Christians, never dreaming we would meet one. Years later, a Bible study classmate suggested we should go to Russia and help George Steiner, who founded Colorado-based Orphan’s Tree.

The idea of working with orphans resonated with me. I understood what it meant to be poor, lost and without parental guidance or protection. My mother died young from cancer, and my brother and I were shuffled to foster care or relatives’ homes as our father remarried multiple times.

To draw attention to the orphans’ plight, in April 2016 I organized an art exhibit of artwork by Russian orphans at First Oklahoma Bank to coincide with an Orphan’s Tree board meeting that was being held in Tulsa.

I also arranged a reception with the Russian-born wife of a bank shareholder and asked Bob Donaldson, the former University of Tulsa president, to invite the Russian poet laureate Yevgeny Yevtushenko to read his poetry. (Yevtushenko died April 1, 2017.) A longtime Tulsan, Yevtushenko was best known for his criticism of the Soviet bureaucracy and appeals for getting rid of Stalin’s legacy. His poems have been translated into more than 70 languages.

A week after the reception, Yevtushenko visited the bank to see the orphans’ art exhibit. Vova’s painting, titled “Children of War,” captivated him. We learned Yevtushenko’s grandmother had been an orphanage director in Siberia.

That meeting turned into an invitation from Yevtushenko for me and 10 orphans with Orphan’s Tree to attend a public event in June 2016 in Moscow’s Red Square, where Yevtushenko would read his poetry. We jumped at the opportunity.

 

A masterpiece unfolds

Yevtushenko agreed to spend one hour with us and Orphan’s Tree representatives prior to his presentation. Some orphans traveled nine hours from St. Petersburg to meet him. Vova and his girlfriend wanted to come, but the meeting coincided with Vova’s graduation finals. Stressed, he needed to finish an art project. But he stuffed the project into a trash bag and lugged it to Moscow so he could work on the project at night.

Outside of Moscow, the 83-year-old Yevtushenko welcomed us to a two-story museum filled with his photos and artwork. During the tour, Vova presented Yevtushenko with his “Children of War” painting, which I carried from Tulsa. Vova recounted how as a young orphan he and several others were bundled into coats — some wearing rags on their feet — and loaded into a wagon that took them into the forest. They were then dumped alongside the road to collect sticks for firewood for their orphanage. The painting reflected what war felt like to him.

Yevtushenko embraced Vova, gave him a kiss, held onto his arm. The museum visit extended into an invitation for tea and treats at Yevtushenko’s Russia dacha (a seasonal country home). For three hours, Vova and the other orphans basked in Yevtushenko’s presence.

At the dacha, Yevtushenko showed Vova a 1,000-year-old icon of the Madonna holding Jesus, which he rescued from a church. The artifact had been used for dart practice. He asked Vova what he thought of the piece, and then offered to hire him to restore the antiquity.

When our group finally arrived at Red Square to hear the famous poet speak, we were escorted to fifth-row seats. Hundreds of people erupted with cheers and applause when Yevtushenko arrived. His arms rose and gestured as he read with gusto about love, forgiveness and unity. Behind him were the onion-shaped domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral.

The entire experience was amazing, surreal. Afterward, I invited the orphans to my hotel to eat and talk. Shy Vova became animated when he spoke. He marveled at how Yevtushenko treated him like a son. The other kids were astounded that someone of Yevtushenko’s stature would welcome them. They were treated like royalty.

 

The bigger picture

Looking back, I can see God’s presence and providential guidance threaded throughout a lifetime.

What are the chances that my bleak, shame-filled childhood, which I once considered a curse, would become an absolute blessing? My painful past has enabled me to identify with orphans, to understand their hurt and want to share Christ’s love with them.

What are the chances that our family would start praying for Russians and years later seek to serve them?

What are the chances that a poor, weak Russian orphan who was labeled a “special needs” child would graduate from a prestigious Russian art university and meet Yevtushenko?

What are the chances that Yevtushenko would live in Tulsa and agree to attend a reception and then subsequently invite several Russian orphans to his museum and home in Russia?

It can’t all be coincidence. No, something bigger is at work. Something divine.

I truly believe that God has a plan for us that is good, and it spills into the lives of others.

God is creating a masterpiece. He is taking all the messy, ugly, painful and broken pieces of lives and creating something awe-inspiring.

Just wait for it. A masterpiece is unfolding. 

 

Sue Bennett is the director of marketing and investor relations at First Oklahoma Bank.

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July 2018

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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
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Cost: $100.00 per Child

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
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Telephone: 918-296-FISH
Contact Name: Ann Money
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Telephone: 405-236-3100
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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
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Cost: Free with admission

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Oklahoma City Museum of Art
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Cost: Prices Vary

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Mabee Center
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Telephone: 918-495-6000
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Cost: Free

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108 Contemporary
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Telephone: 191-889-56302

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Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

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Cost: Free

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God’s Church
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Sponsor: God’s Church
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Cost: $100.00 per Child

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Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Drive
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Telephone: 918-296-FISH
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Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
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Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405-236-3100
Website »

More information

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Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918-495-6000
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Telephone: 191-889-56302

More information

Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
God’s Church
1301 S Canton Ave
Tulsa , OK  74112
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Sponsor: God’s Church
Telephone: 918-834-2537
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36 Degrees North
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Cost: $100.00 per Child

Where:
Oklahoma Aquarium
300 Aquarium Drive
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Telephone: 918-296-FISH
Contact Name: Ann Money
Website »

More information

Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper features the life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave (born 1946). Following a...

Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405-236-3100
Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Website »

More information

The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918-495-6000
Website »

More information

Crossing borders are central Consuelo J. Underwood’s artistic practice. In this exhibition inspired by land, politics, and spirit, Underwood speaks to her individual understanding of borders...

Cost: Free

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Telephone: 191-889-56302

More information

Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
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View map »


Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: League of Women Voters Metropolitan Tulsa
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Free!!! July 23 - 27  6:00pm to 7:30pm ​Games, Activities, and a Snack We hope to see you at God’s Church. 

Cost: Free

Where:
God’s Church
1301 S Canton Ave
Tulsa , OK  74112
View map »


Sponsor: God’s Church
Telephone: 918-834-2537
Contact Name: Randy Alley
Website »

More information

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Cost: Lesson: $10 Social Dance: Free!

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418 S. Peoria Ave
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The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

More information

Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper features the life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave (born 1946). Following a...

Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405-236-3100
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918-495-6000
Website »

More information

Crossing borders are central Consuelo J. Underwood’s artistic practice. In this exhibition inspired by land, politics, and spirit, Underwood speaks to her individual understanding of borders...

Cost: Free

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Telephone: 191-889-56302

More information

Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
View map »


Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

More information

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Sponsor: League of Women Voters Metropolitan Tulsa
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More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
God’s Church
1301 S Canton Ave
Tulsa , OK  74112
View map »


Sponsor: God’s Church
Telephone: 918-834-2537
Contact Name: Randy Alley
Website »

More information

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Cost: $55

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Fuel 66
2439 E 11th St.
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Sponsor: Tulsa CARES
Telephone: 918-834-4194
Contact Name: Katie Sawicki
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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Website »

More information

Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper features the life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave (born 1946). Following a...

Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
View map »


Telephone: 405-236-3100
Website »

More information

The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
Website »

More information

 ORU offers a wide variety of summer camps from basketball camp to swimming camp for all ages. For a schedule and list of options visit ORUCES.com/camps.

Cost: Prices Vary

Where:
Mabee Center
7777 S Lewis Ave
Tulsa, OK  74171
View map »


Telephone: 918-495-6000
Website »

More information

Crossing borders are central Consuelo J. Underwood’s artistic practice. In this exhibition inspired by land, politics, and spirit, Underwood speaks to her individual understanding of borders...

Cost: Free

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Telephone: 191-889-56302

More information

Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
View map »


Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

More information

Free!!! July 23 - 27  6:00pm to 7:30pm ​Games, Activities, and a Snack We hope to see you at God’s Church. 

Cost: Free

Where:
God’s Church
1301 S Canton Ave
Tulsa , OK  74112
View map »


Sponsor: God’s Church
Telephone: 918-834-2537
Contact Name: Randy Alley
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10 for members; $15 for non-members

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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330

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Isabelle de Borchgrave: Fashioning Art from Paper features the life-size, trompe l’œil paper costumes of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave (born 1946). Following a...

Cost: $12

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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Telephone: 405-236-3100
Website »

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Opening to the public on Thursday, Nov. 16, the 110th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood, “The Art of Oklahoma” celebrates the Museum’s outstanding and...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Oklahoma City Museum of Art
415 Couch Dr.
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
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The work of renowned artist Christopher Curtis will be featured at Tulsa Botanic Garden’s first sculpture exhibit March 17 through August 26. Curtis works primarily in stone and he often...

Cost: FREE for Garden members; $8 ages 13+, $4 ages 3-12. Kids 2 and under free

Where:
Tulsa Botanic Garden
3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson
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Crossing borders are central Consuelo J. Underwood’s artistic practice. In this exhibition inspired by land, politics, and spirit, Underwood speaks to her individual understanding of borders...

Cost: Free

Where:
108 Contemporary
108 E Mathew B. Brady St, Tulsa, OK 74103
Tulsa, OK  74103
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Telephone: 191-889-56302

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Break the rules of conventional museums at the third annual Please Touch the Art exhibit. Mark your calendars for the opening reception Friday, June 1 from 5 - 9 p.m., in conjunction with the Tulsa...

Cost: free and open to the public

Where:
McKeon Center for Creativity
910 S. Boston Ave.
TCC Metro Campus
Tulsa, OK  74119
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Sponsor: McKeon Center for Creativity
Telephone: 918-595-7339
Contact Name: Cindy Barton

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The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) hosts a Swing dance and lessons  The Oklahoma Swing Syndicate (TOSS) is the only UNESCO recognized dance organization in Oklahoma.  We are a 501c3...

Cost: $7

Where:
Community Center - South Minister Presby Church
3500 So Peoria
1/2 west of Peoria, on 35pl behind the church
Tulsa, OK  74102
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Sponsor: The Ok Swing Syndicate
Telephone: 918-450-691
Contact Name: Rita Robbins
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TULtalk


Roy Lee NYC street photography on display

Liggett Studio will host the local photographer's solo exhibition, “42nd Street: Grime, Glamour, and Glory,” July 13-August 4.

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Video: Auburn Cord Duesenberg Co.

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July 2018 Charitable Events

Celebrate summer, have a great time and support worthy causes at these fundraisers and events.

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Church Studio Visionary Buys Harwelden Mansion

Businesswoman Teresa Knox is building quite the collection of historical properties. Harwelden is her latest acquisition.

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Circle Cinema Celebrates 90 Years

July 7-15: Expect new documentaries and features, silent classics, special guests, discussions with filmmakers, a reel-to-reel 35mm screening and much more at Circle Cinema Film Festival.

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