On the record: Teresa Knox

Teresa Knox has purchased two of Tulsa’s historic buildings with visions of bringing new business and life to the sites.



Teresa Knox at Harwelden, a historic mansion she recently purchased in order to preserve part of Tulsa's history.

 

Teresa Knox’s roots run deep.

A fourth-generation Oklahoman and lifelong Tulsan, she was raised with an appreciation for the history of her state and the people who have called it home.

In 2016 her passion for her hometown and her entrepreneurial spirit converged with her love of music when she and her husband, Ivan Acosta, purchased Church Studio, the former home office and recording studio for Leon Russell’s Shelter Records.

In Church Studio, Knox saw the opportunity to preserve a piece of Tulsa’s history while supporting the city’s burgeoning music industry.

Now, she’s at it again. Knox recently purchased Harwelden, and renovations are underway. The historic mansion will be the featured home of the 46th annual Tulsa Designer Showcase.

Knox holds an M.B.A. from Oral Roberts University. As a young woman, she worked as a dental assistant for nearly a decade after graduating from a career college. For her, that professional training was a life-changing experience and one she wanted to share with others.

She founded Community Care College in 1995 with the belief that a rewarding career can be the foundation for positive life change and happiness. Knox added Clary Sage College and Oklahoma Technical College in 2006 and 2009, respectively. She’s now bringing the same energy, business savvy and practical experience she used to create that educational framework to a new arena. At their 20th anniversary, the colleges formed a nonprofit called Community Higher Ed, fully committing to the mission to serve the community and inspire changes in others.

“I do like to work. I’ve worked since I was a child,” she says. “I like to identify areas in the market. I like to take risks. I like to research. Going into uncharted territory is very exciting to me. My brain doesn’t shut down, and the more I can learn about something, the better.”

One of her favorite business reads and a book she frequently recommends is “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. It’s based on the premise that competing in overcrowded markets isn’t the way to sustain a business because “cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool.”

Instead, the answer is to “search for a blue ocean” by discovering new markets and creating new demand. For Knox, purchasing and renovating two of Tulsa’s landmark properties might just be that clear blue sea.

“We’re definitely going into areas that are disruptive in the marketplace,” she says. “I did the same thing with my colleges. It always created opportunities, and I like that — doing something different.”

 

Harwelden

Harwelden, 2210 S. Main St., was built in 1923 as the private residence of Tulsa oilman and philanthropist Earl Harwell. Following the death of Earl’s wife, Mary, in 1967, the mansion was bequeathed to the Arts Council of Tulsa (the precursor to Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa, now ahha). It served as its headquarters from 1969-2012.

Over the past 50 years, dozens of arts organizations have occupied offices on the mansion’s second floor. When Harwelden came on the market in 2017, the first contract for sale fell through, and Knox stepped in with an offer of her own.

“I am from Tulsa, and I’ve always loved the mansion,” she explains. “I’ve been to the mansion so many times over the years. When I was in my early 20s, I lived in an apartment complex just south of the mansion, and as it has been for a lot of Tulsans, it has always been a staple, a presence in my life.”

Knox intends to operate Harwelden Mansion as a boutique hotel and event space, with an opening planned for June. Her goal is to preserve as much of the original home as she can through the renovations, and she has spent significant time searching for blueprints, looking through sketches and researching the history. Her efforts have led to a friendship with Caroline Crain, the Harwells’ granddaughter, who grew up in the stately home.

Harwelden was the family home of Mary and Earl Harwell, an early Tulsa oilman. The Harwells’ granddaughter, Caroline Crain, left, grew up in the home. Since purchasing the mansion, Teresa Knox and Crain have become friends. Knox, right, is creating a Harwelden archive full of historical materials and artifacts from the mansion, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

“It’s in good hands with Teresa,” Crain says. She walked through the mansion with Knox and pointed out where the original bedrooms were and how the family used the house, sharing a lot of personal and family details, according to Knox.

Along with restoring Harwelden itself, Knox is creating a Harwelden archive with the material and historic photographs she has collected during this process.

“You don’t want to live in the past, but the history of Tulsa is such an integral part of our cultural identity today,” Knox says. “To me, it’s just an honor, and it’s just so cool to be able to share a space that past generations shared and used and enjoyed. I find it really fascinating.”

Prior to his current job as the executive director and CEO of the Route 66 Alliance, Ken Busby worked for 12 years in similar roles for the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa.

“Harwelden is a true Tulsa treasure,” Busby says. “Its distinctive Gothic Tudor architecture adds to the wonderful architectural vernacular that helps tell Tulsa’s story. When Teresa told me she was considering purchasing Harwelden to preserve this architectural gem, I was thrilled.

“Teresa had a vision to restore Harwelden to its original grandeur, returning the second-floor offices to the original four bedroom suites, among other renovations, and she has worked with local architects and builders who share her passion for historic preservation. I can’t wait to see the final results.”

He adds, “Teresa not only has a passion for Tulsa, she also has a passion for history and preservation. The projects she’s developing are meaningful and add to the rich culture of our community.

“Preserving our history is so important in telling Tulsa’s incredible story, and I’m so glad that there are people like Teresa Knox who care about our city.”

 

Church Studio

Long before she became the owner of Church Studio, Knox was a music fan.

She’s the second youngest in a large family. “My oldest brother, a multi-instrumentalist, taught me to play the flute at the age of 8 and I got into music early on,” she says.  Money was tight for the family. “We really didn’t have television or activities. I had a little radio, and I ended up getting a vinyl record player. That’s all I did every day — listen to music.”

A lifelong collector, Knox’s pride in her city expressed itself through a self-described “obsession” with Oklahoma musicians. She has amassed more than 4,500 pieces of Oklahoma musician memorabilia over the years, much of it centered around Leon Russell and his influential career.

“I’m first and foremost a huge Leon Russell fan,” Knox says. “I didn’t know him. I’m not in his circle, and I’m not related to him, but I have a lot of his stuff. I had read a lot about him, and after I bought the Church, I dove even deeper into his vision for the studio.”

The building that eventually became Church Studio sits at the corner of East Third Street and South Trenton Avenue. It began life in 1915 as Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the earliest churches built in the city.

“It has a beautiful sanctuary,” Knox says. “It’s not big and ornate like the fancy churches that were on the other side of downtown, but it served its purpose at the time.

“It’s over 100 years old, and it was a poor church. It was a church that was built by the people, so it didn’t have that craftsmanship that you see in those glorious churches that we have downtown. It was literally built on the other side of the tracks for those people who worked for the oil barons.”

Russell purchased the church in 1972, and for a brief but historically important time, it became the epicenter of a music scene that resonated well beyond the city limits to the greater world of rock and roll. Russell’s Church Studio also was the home base for Shelter Records, a record label started by Russell and British producer Denny Cordell.

During Russell’s time, the Church became a creative space for songwriters, musicians, engineers and singers. Major industry talent such as Tom Petty, Phoebe Snow and Peter Tosh recorded at Church Studio, along with nationally acclaimed Tulsa-based acts like the GAP Band, JJ Cale and Russell himself.

Many point to Church Studio as the epicenter of what later came to be known as the “Tulsa Sound”: that hard-to-define, potent, shuffling stew of rockabilly, country, rock and roll, and blues associated with Russell, Cale and Eric Clapton.

“It’s so magical what happened here,” says Knox of those years. “It’s just a very magical, incredible time in our city’s history.”

Stories from those years abound, and truth has intertwined with fiction. In her mission to be a good steward of Russell’s legacy, Knox has spent countless hours researching the history and interviewing those involved or associated with the business and the man.

“There are so many Leon Russell fans,” Knox says. “I love the feedback. Not everyone agrees with what we’re doing, but we like to be transparent about our business plan.”

While Knox aims to stay true to Russell’s vision for the space, she also understands the importance of looking toward the future and building something relevant for the community and beyond.

In addition to shoring up the physical building, Knox is creating an analog and digital recording studio, a small theater/screening room and a gallery to display Tulsa music memorabilia and music-related exhibits. A June 2020 opening is planned.

“I want the studio to compete with Nashville and L.A.,” she says. “We’re hoping to get local musicians, too, but we’re looking for other musicians that are maybe more established and want a diverse recording experience.”

Knox prefers to work collaboratively, and she wants to bring other businesses to the neighborhood. Tulsan and Grammy award-winning drummer David Teegarden Sr. has his own recording studio, Teegarden Studios, in a nearby building.

“She’s a sparkplug,” Teegarden says of Knox, thinking of all the support and commitment she has given to the area. “What she is going to do with the Church Studio is what Leon would have wanted.”

“I absolutely love David,” Knox says. “I consider him one of my best friends, so we’re working together to be a viable resource for musicians.”

David Teegarden Sr. and Knox inside Teegarden Studios. Friends and collaborators, the pair is trying to create a neighborhood experience dubbed “Studio Row,” which includes the Church Studio, Teegarden Studios and several nearby businesses, restaurants and entertainment destinations.

They identified the area early on as “Studio Row” and are trying to create a neighborhood and an experience for locals and visitors alike — thinking about what types of businesses the musicians, band managers and engineers that will be traveling to Tulsa would like and need.

Church Studio is on the National Register of Historic Places, which brings with it an additional set of concerns and requirements when undertaking a restoration such as this. Knox estimates it will be another year before the building opens.

“It’s still mind-blowing to me,” Knox says of the two very different, but culturally significant, properties she’s renovating. “After we purchased Harwelden, I stood on the roof of the Church looking west toward Harwelden, and I thought ‘Oh, my gosh. This is how it was.’

“You had these people and you had those people and somehow the city made it work, even thrive, due to the diligence and collaboration of the entire community.”

 

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October 2019

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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

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

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

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

Nimrod Journal and Booksmart Tulsa will host Write Night 2019 at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, October 18th, at the Tulsa Historical Society & Museum. Write Night will feature a reception and...

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

For the first time in 10 years, we will hear new music and get a new tour from three-time GRAMMY® Nominated, American Music Award and Dove Award winning recording artists Avalon. The group will...

Cost: $24.50-$75.00

Where:
Owasso First Assembly
9341 N. 129th E. Ave.
Owasso, OK  74055
View map »


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

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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
View map »


Sponsor: Arabian Horse Association
Telephone: 303-6964500
Contact Name: Kelsey Berglund
Website »

More information

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
View map »


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

More information

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
View map »


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

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

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

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
View map »


Sponsor: River Parks
Contact Name: Ryan Howell

More information

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
View map »


Telephone: 866-496-0535
Contact Name: The Dinner Detective
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

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
View map »


Sponsor: Folk Salad Radio Show
Website »

More information

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

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
View map »


Website »

More information

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


Website »

More information

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What's New


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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MUSED. combats mental illness with poetry

Tulsa’s poetry and collaborative arts nonprofit, the MUSED. Organization, is teaching local adolescents who require psychiatric care how to utilize the benefits of poetry.

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