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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October 2019

The Brush Creek Bazaar is South Tulsa's largest and longest running Arts and Crafts Festival. This year we will host over 70+ vendors, featuring handcrafted items from all around the region. We...

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Cost: 109

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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
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Cost: Free

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Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
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Cost: $15

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Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
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Telephone: 918-936-4544
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Contact Name: Emily
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Cost: $15

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Asbury United Methodist Church
6767 S Mingo Rd
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Sponsor: Asbury LifeCare Ministry
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Asbury United Methodist Church
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Edgar J. Helms Center
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Sponsor: Goodwill Industries of Tulsa
Telephone: 918-599-0067
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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
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Sponsor: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Lori Hutson

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Cost: $10 at the gate or $7 in advance for adults. Children 12 and under are FREE.

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River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: Resolute PR
Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
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Cost: Free

Where:
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307 East Reconciliation Way
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More information

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Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
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View map »


Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Baptist Village of Owasso
7410 N 127th E Ave
Owasso, OK  74055
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Telephone: 918-272-2281

More information

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Cost: $8 for ages 13+; $4 for ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are free

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3900 Tulsa Botanic Drive
Tulsa, OK  74127
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Telephone: 918-289-0330
Contact Name: Tulsa Botanic Garden
Website »

More information

Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
Website »

More information

Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
View map »


Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

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Sponsor: TU College of Law
Telephone: 918-631-2401
Contact Name: Jamie Lewis
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Cost: FREE

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Sponsor: City of Broken Arrow
Telephone: 918-259-8437
Contact Name: Tanner Wilburn
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Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
View map »


Telephone: 918-813-6514
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10 / $15

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Cost: 0.00

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Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
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Cost: $8 for ages 13+, $4 for ages 3-12. Children 2 and under are 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

More information

Willkommen to four days of Oompah (or Bavaria or Oktoberfest) in Oklahoma  with nationally known German bands, authentic European foods, arts and  crafters MarktHaus, full carnival, and fun...

Cost: $10 at the gate or $7 in advance for adults. Children 12 and under are FREE.

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
View map »


Sponsor: Resolute PR
Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
Website »

More information

Living Arts of Tulsa will present a multi-media exhibit of Jave Yoshimoto’s work. Intractable Chasm examines the refugee crisis in Greece, experienced firsthand by Yoshimoto when he...

Cost: Free

Where:
Living Arts of Tulsa
307 East Reconciliation Way
Tulsa, OK  74120
View map »

More information

Hello, Friends!   Fall is in the air! We are excited to present the 5th Annual Hugo Pumpkin Festival, a fun-filled event featuring a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family....

Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
Hugo, OK  74743
View map »


Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
Website »

More information

Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
View map »


Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
Website »

More information

Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
View map »


Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
Website »

More information

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Cost: $0

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society and Museum
2445 S Peoria Ave
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society
2445 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

More information

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Cost: $24.50-$75.00

Where:
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9341 N. 129th E. Ave.
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View map »


Sponsor: Compassion Live
Telephone: 877-234-3847
Contact Name: Carol
Website »

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Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
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Telephone: 918-813-6514
Website »

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Signature Symphony at TCC celebrates the work of the late Ernie Fields, a Tulsa icon who had a career as a bandleader and trombonist. Fields’ music developed at a time when R&B, swing,...

Cost: $36 - $58

Where:
VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education
10300 E 81st St
Tulsa, OK  74133-4513
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Sponsor: Signature Symphony at TCC
Telephone: 918-595-7768
Contact Name: Tabitha Littlefield
Website »

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Signature Symphony at TCC celebrates the work of the late Ernie Fields, a Tulsa icon who had a career as a bandleader and trombonist. Fields’ music developed at a time when R&B, swing,...

Cost: $36 - $58

Where:
VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education
10300 E 81st St
Tulsa, OK  74133-4513
View map »


Sponsor: Signature Symphony at TCC
Telephone: 918-595-7768
Contact Name: Tabitha Littlefield
Website »

More information

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The annual US National Arabian & Half Arabian Horse Show returns to Tulsa. You will be able to see over 1700 Arabian and Half Arabian horses competing in many divisions, including Breeding/In Hand...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Tulsa State Fairgrounds
4145 E 21st St,
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
Website »

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Nimrod Journal will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers on Saturday, October 19th, at The University of Tulsa. The conference will feature workshops on fiction, poetry,...

Cost: $10-70

Where:
Allen Chapman Student Union
440 S Gary Ave
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Nimrod
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

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Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry will host its annual Conference for Readers and Writers at The University of Tulsa on October 19th, 2019.   The Conference offers the...

Cost: $10-$70

Where:
TU's Allen Chapman Student Union
440 S. Gary Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74104
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Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

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Willkommen to four days of Oompah (or Bavaria or Oktoberfest) in Oklahoma  with nationally known German bands, authentic European foods, arts and  crafters MarktHaus, full carnival, and fun...

Cost: $10 at the gate or $7 in advance for adults. Children 12 and under are FREE.

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 S. Jackson Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: Resolute PR
Telephone: 903-292-7885
Contact Name: Zachary Johnston
Website »

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Hello, Friends!   Fall is in the air! We are excited to present the 5th Annual Hugo Pumpkin Festival, a fun-filled event featuring a variety of entertaining activities for the whole family....

Cost: $ 6 - $ 20

Where:
Endangered Ark Foundation
2657 E 2070 Rd
Hugo, OK  74743
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Sponsor: Endangered Ark Foundation
Telephone: 580-317-8470
Contact Name: Emily
Website »

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The Karbach Games and Competitions Arena becomes our own center of the universe Saturday at 2:00 PM for true fans of German bier. Why? Because it is ground zero for the Linde Oktoberfest Bavarian...

Cost: $40

Where:
River West Festival Park
2100 South Jackson Avenue
Tulsa, OK  74107
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Sponsor: River Parks
Contact Name: Ryan Howell

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Folk Salad Radio Show celebrates its 20th anniversary with a potluck meal followed by a concert featuring Grammy-nominated singer songwriter John Fullbright and several other Tulsa musicians on...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Stone Church
4225 W. Fifth St.
Tulsa, OK
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Sponsor: Folk Salad Radio Show
Website »

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Go into the woods and experience the return of this fantastic family production with performances in both Tulsa and Broken Arrow. Tulsa Ballet's Hardesty Family Foundation Children's...

Cost: $15

Where:
Studio K (Tulsa) and Zarrow Studio (Broken Arrow(
1212 E 45th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105
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Sponsor: Tulsa Ballet
Telephone: 918-749-6006
Contact Name: Dan
Website »

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Abersons presents Pink Ribbon -- an exclusive, high-fashion fundraiser featuring a runway show by one of the world's hottest designers. Cocktails 6 p.m. | Dinner & Live Auction 7...

Cost: $1,250

Where:
Southern Hills Country Club
2636 E. 61st St.
Tulsa, OK  74136
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Sponsor: Abersons
Telephone: 918-834-7200
Contact Name: Scarlet Henley
Website »

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America’s LARGEST interactive comedy murder mystery dinner show is now playing at the Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa Broken Arrow! At The Dinner Detective, you’ll tackle a challenging crime while you...

Cost: 59.95

Where:
Hilton Garden Inn Tulsa- Broken Arrow
420 W Albany St.
Broken Arrow, OK  74012
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Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
Website »

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Join us for Nimrod Write Night, the opening event of our Nimrod Conference for Readers and Writers weekend, on Friday, October 18th, at the Tulsa Historical Society, 6:30 p.m. Write Night is...

Cost: free

Where:
Tulsa Historical Society
2445 S. Peoria Ave.
Tulsa, OK  74114
View map »


Sponsor: Nimrod Journal
Telephone: 918-631-3080
Contact Name: Cassidy McCants
Website »

More information

Originally from West Africa, Kizomba is a partner dance that is a sexy addition to any Latin dance party. It is the fastest Latin growing dance in the U.S. Come and learn the basics plus a few more...

Cost: 109

Where:
THE DANCE PLACE
3310 WEST 42ND PLACE
TULSA, OK  74107
View map »


Telephone: 918-813-6514
Website »

More information

Flashes of vivid colors, laughter, dancers whirling around keeping pace with the energetic music, more laughter……this is what you will experience at Guthrie Green this Saturday,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Guthrie Green
111 East M.B. Brady Street
Tulsa, OK  74103
View map »


Sponsor: SAPAF
Telephone: 918-665-6419
Contact Name: Mohan Kelkar
Website »

More information

Signature Symphony at TCC celebrates the work of the late Ernie Fields, a Tulsa icon who had a career as a bandleader and trombonist. Fields’ music developed at a time when R&B, swing,...

Cost: $36 - $58

Where:
VanTrease Performing Arts Center for Education
10300 E 81st St
Tulsa, OK  74133-4513
View map »


Sponsor: Signature Symphony at TCC
Telephone: 918-595-7768
Contact Name: Tabitha Littlefield
Website »

More information

Tulsa in Harmony is a congregation of community choirs, lending their voices in one accord. They sing of their hopes and their faith and aspirations of a more unified community and a more unified...

Cost: Free

Where:
Gathering Place
2650 S. John Williams Way E.
Tulsa, OK  74114
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Website »

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Where:
ONEOK Field
201 N Elgin Ave
Tulsa, OK
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Website »

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What's New


3.06: Representing District 73 - Regina Goodwin

A conversation with the state representative about issues in her district, plus what it's like being a Democrat in the state legislature. Plus Tulsa Architect Foundation's Amanda DeCort on the Blue Dome District and new music from Count Tutu.

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Oklahoma's Best-Sellers: Oct. 13

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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CLIFFDIVER on mental health, Tulsa and their new music

A Q&A with the Tulsa band that describes its sound as "Elevator Emo Pop"

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Oklahoma Best-Sellers: Oct. 6

Based on total number of book sales at Magic City Books, Best of Books in Edmond, Brace Books and More in Ponca City, and Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City.

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Henna Roso on food insecurity and songwriting

Members of the Tulsa funk, jazz band discuss their new album and what drives them

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