The Tulsa Arts District
In years to come… most will assume that the game changing events which led to downtown Tulsa’s revitalization were the addition of the BOK Center and ONEOK FIELD as major pieces to the puzzle. Make no mistake about it; they were pivotal in providing the kind of public investment needed to inspire confidence in the local development community which will complete this work.
It would be wrong, however, to diminish the critical role of those entrepreneurial pioneers of the Tulsa Arts District, formerly known as The Brady Arts District who had a vision for what downtown Tulsa could be and worked tirelessly for 30 years to make it happen.
Over that span, The District has morphed into an eclectic collection of mixed use businesses including museums, bars, clubs, restaurants, office space, arts establishments and a growing supply of housing. In the process The district has become a cultural and urban arts destination, emerging with a regional and national identity with an authentic character that is incubating a growing creative economy.
The Brady District – Some background
Wyatt Tate Brady, after whom the Brady District was named, was one of the original incorporators of Tulsa. He came to the area in 1890 as a shoe salesman and promptly opened one of the town’s first mercantile stores. Slowly but surely the area has begun transforming the former warehouse district into an arts and entertainment center by the addition of new venues which complement the rich cultural icons of bygone days, such as the Cain’s Ballroom the Ole Lady on Brady (Brady Theatre).
Many new additions are either completed or in the works to compliment those early cornerstones of the District, including the renovating of the Mathews Warehouse, to house Woody Guthrie Museum, 108 Contemporary, and Philbrook Museum’s downtown gallery. The Guthrie Green, a new park and music stage has complimented the overall beautification plan with lighting, sidewalks, landscaping and consistent and distinct district signage.
Name change finally becomes official
Over the years, The Brady Arts District’s name came under intense scrutiny when revelations surfaced that its namesake, early Tulsa businessman Wyatt Tate Brady, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The Tulsa City Council, which has jurisdiction over the street name but not the business district, eventually renamed the street M.B. Brady Street, after Civil War photographer Mathew Brady.
The business association voted in the Fall of 2017 to re-brand the district following months of consideration in light of and more recent racially charged events in Charlottesville, Virginia, which left one counter-protester dead. The occurrences in Charlottesville ignited renewed protests racism across the nation and locally.
The new name is the Tulsa Arts District
The now-named “Tulsa Arts District Business Association” sent out a statement that the name change came with a vote and “strong support.” The new name and logos were to be rolled out with marketing in November of 2017. “The new name, Tulsa Arts District Business Association, represents an exciting venture for the association,” said Heather Wimberly, vice president of operations at Guthrie Green, in the statement. “We are proud to share a name with the city that’s supported us over the years as we continue to execute diverse programming opportunities for the entire community to enjoy.”
Guthrie Green (pictured below) anchors the Tulsa Arts District with exciting events and programming
An exciting new plan for The Arts District
In 2008 and 2009, neighborhood, philanthropic, business and city leadership came together to articulate a cohesive and exciting new vision for the future of The Brady District. The idea was conceived to align previous community and planning efforts, and then establish a vision statement based upon broad-based community input. The resulting Small Area Plan will provide a guideline for development, to further revitalize and shape the area.