WaterWorks Art Center is a first-class example of a historically significant, repurposed building.
Lee Anne Zeigler
Less than a mile from downtown Tulsa, located in the historic Newblock Park, sits a magnificent, circa-1910 building with expansive glass windows and a stunning view of the city. Inside this building is arguably one of the better-kept secrets in Tulsa.
WaterWorks Art Center brings visual fine arts experiences, hands-on classes for all ages and quality art exhibits to the citizens of Tulsa. The art center recently underwent a major renovation and expansion, opening the new space in March 2012.
In 1904 Tulsa built its first water treatment plant in Newblock Park, home to the city’s first swimming pool. After the Newblock Pumping Plant — also referred to as the Newblock Pumping Station or the City of Tulsa Water Works Building — flooded in 1923, the facility was relocated to what is now Mohawk Park. The Spavinaw Water Project was completed the following year.
Members of the Tulsa Parks board later saw the old plant could benefit the community in another way.
“(The board) had a great vision for this space, even back before repurposing buildings was ‘in,’” says Lee Anne Zeigler, WaterWorks executive director.
“Tulsa Parks still owns and operates the facility, but we also have a WaterWorks Advisory Council, which is a nonprofit organization that supports the mission of WaterWorks.”
Although Zeigler has only been the director for three months, she has been coming to WaterWorks for decades.
“I started coming here as a child, even before it was named WaterWorks,” Zeigler says. “Not only are the art classes affordable, the teachers are amazing and really know their craft. I love to weave and still take classes to this day.
“The WaterWorks teaching method is a classical one, where you continue to build upon your knowledge instead of starting over each semester. ”
WaterWorks offers classes year-round on everything from jewelry-making and painting to mixed media and textiles.
“But we are probably best known for our ceramics,” Zeigler adds. “We actually have a waiting list for our pottery classes.”
WaterWorks offers classes and camps for children, as well.
“Our mission is ‘Art for Everyone,’ and we really strive to bring the fine arts to children,” Zeigler says. “We have a wonderful spring break camp and summer day camp for school-age children.”
The existing historic building has housed WaterWorks Art Studio since 1999. The renovation and expansion last year provided 7,300 square feet of studio space. The facility also is available for birthday parties and private rentals.
“This is such a beautiful and unique space,” Zeigler says. “We hope to make more Tulsans aware of this treasure and continue building upon the synergy of everything happening in this area. It’s an exciting time for downtown Tulsa.”