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Norman Arts Council to transform abandoned lumber yard, draw residents to re-imagined Main Street

An abandoned lumber yard in downtown Norman will become the heart of a month-long public arts initiative by the Norman Arts Council to turn vacant space into a vibrant downtown destination that kicks-off with a grand re-opening celebration from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, April 11 on the southwest corner of W. Main Street and Webster Avenue.

The re-opening celebration is free and open to the public and will include light hors d’oeuvres by Local, a Norman restaurant specializing in farm-to-fork dining.

The StART Norman initiative combines a three-day Better Block Norman project and a month-long No Longer Empty-inspired art exhibition inside the lumber yard, renamed ‘Space.’ The goal is to present Norman residents and visitors with a new vision of the area as a bustling marketplace and creative social hub.

“StART was born out of the idea that the arts can affect positive and lasting change in a community,” said Erinn Gavaghan, executive director for the Norman Arts Council. “Combining the concepts of “placemaking” and a site-specific art exhibition, StART will transform a Norman city block into a destination full of creativity and possibility.”

More than 30 Better Block Norman volunteers will revitalize the 200 block of W. Main Street through temporary, inexpensive, high-impact alterations to pedestrian and public infrastructure and the additions of art, culture, pop-up businesses and street life.

This marks the third Better Block project in central Oklahoma and the first for Norman. In May 2012, Better Block OKC attracted thousands to N.W. 7th Street and Hudson Avenue in the Midtown neighborhood, followed by a one-day makeover in May 2013 of the historic Farmers Market District in downtown Oklahoma City. Better Block Norman activities will take place April 11-13.

The centerpiece of the re-imagined Main Street block will be Threshold: the promised land, a month-long art exhibition curated by heather ahtone and Laura Reese from Norman, featuring eight site-specific installations by C.Maxx Stevens from Boulder, Colo. and 13 Oklahoma artists, a film room and a collaborative mural.

According to a curator’s statement, the exhibition will explore the space as a site for transformation. Threshold implies an opening for change, a boundary yet to be crossed, and the maximum or minimum point of change.

The phrase “promised land” brings to mind hope and new beginnings, as well as reflection on local history.

Oklahoma artists include: Marwin Begaye, Eyakem Gulilat, Heather Clark Hilliard, Alexandra Knox, Erin Latham, Cedar Marie, Leigh Martin, Ellen Moershel and Michael Wilson from Norman; Sarah Hearn, Richard Ray Whitman, and The Wriders from Oklahoma City; and Tulsa artist Joseph Erb.

‘Space’ will also feature live music, poetry, performance art, theatrical dance, art workshops and lectures throughout the month.

Threshold: the promised land is free to the public and will remain open through Saturday, May 10. Hours of operation will be11a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment.

StART Norman is made possible through public funding generated by the City of Norman’s hotel tax and private funding by Fowler Holding Co.

“This public arts initiative is important to downtown because it will create a conversation and inspire us to really imagine what we want our town to be and where we put our priorities,” said Jonathan Fowler, vice president of operations for Fowler Holding Co.

“It will also bring a new generation to the table working hand in hand with people that have dedicated their lives to community efforts. Start Norman will help to train our next generation how to think creatively and critically.”

For more information about StART Norman visit or call (405) 360-1162. Updates will be shared viaTwitter and Facebook.

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