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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — For Oklahoma City residents, Robert Montgomery’s poem, THE STARS PULLED DOWN FOR REAL, lit up in LED lights on the north lawn of the Oklahoma Contemporary, is a miniature landmark. It stands out to drivers and passersby as a reminder of the powerful weight words carry.

On April 12, Montgomery’s work will depart, but in remembrance of the value of poetry, Oklahoma Contemporary hosted families from across Oklahoma City Saturday for a Kid’s Open Mic, joined by live music and DJ-ing.

Poetry and Chill

The event was primarily a live-music event, with the talents of Poetry and Chill and Izzie sounding off on the mic. Poetry and Chill OKC is an entertainment company, primarily for adults, but with a non-profit wing dedicated to youth.

Its founder, Gregory II, describes Poetry and Chill’s function as hosting “workshops to give students a safe space to express themselves freely, through music, poetry, hip-hop, writing, and communication skills.”

Saturday, those skills were on full display as Gregory II and other artists performed original music. Gregory himself shared some of his poetry with the Oklahoma Contemporary, painting an image of what it is like to grow up under the spotlight of race in America and in Oklahoma City.

Open mic

When Poetry and Chill were not performing, the mic was opened up to children and adults alike. Most children at the Oklahoma Contemporary were kept pleasantly entertained by the activities offered by the museum, but a few brave souls ventured up to the open mic.

One sang a soft cover of Billie Eilish’s song “Lovely,” (feature photo) and her talent and bravery won a strong round of applause from the audience.

Another, having written a poem on fall, shared her poetry through her mom, not quite plucky enough to speak herself but nonetheless taking the brave step many artists fear: sharing one’s work with others.

Most children, however, were kept busy by the poetry-writing activities themselves. The museum offered pages of writing prompts, art supplies, and even pages from a book to write block-poetry, a particularly modern twist on poem-writing.

The open mic wasn’t just for kids on Saturday. Some audience members shared their own experiments with rap and spoken-word poetry. Another played a fantastic cover of SZA’s “Good Days” on the saxophone, capturing the mood of the day perfectly for many in attendance.

Nonetheless, the Second Saturday event was a program targeting youth, inviting them to create art and not merely view it.

“To Connect kids”

Christine Gibson, Manager of Youth and Family Programs, explained the importance of answering the question of “how to connect kids and contemporary art in a fun and funky way that gets them really excited to just be here and engage.”

For so many museums and galleries, this is a difficult question. Art today is simultaneously more accessible than it has ever been, and less accessible to more people than ever.

Oklahoma Contemporary, however, has sought to reduce this gap, with programs like Camp Contemporary and Second Saturdays, and help kids “to think about how artwork’s not always a picture in a gold frame in a museum – it’s everything around us all the time.”

To that end, THE STARS PULLED DOWN FOR REAL is a powerful reminder of the flexibility and omnipresence of art in the lived experience of not just adults, but children as well. It will be missed, but its departure marks the maturity of the Oklahoma Contemporary as a year under COVID-19 and nearly a year since opening passes by.

Montgomery’s poetic installation will be succeeded by an installation by Chakaia Booker, whose piece will set a new tone for the public art of the museum.

Last Updated April 10, 2021, 9:45 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor