OKLAHOMA CITY - A new art exhibit is now open at the State Fairgrounds location of Oklahoma Contemporary, highlighting people from the Northeast Oklahoma City community. 

The "Oklahoma Is Black" exhibit turns Eastsiders into images that are larger than life, with relatable stories that aim to inspire. The eyes that gaze out from the sketches and paintings reflect the everyday people who reside on the east side, alongside icons from the past, and that is the point.

“This exhibition for us is really important because it reaches out to the Northeast and to a community that hasn’t always felt welcome in arts institutions, hasn’t always seen themselves represented,” explains Jennifer Scanlan, the curatorial and exhibitions director for Oklahoma Contemporary.

Oklahoma City native Tatyana Fazlalizadeh started this project with the support of Oklahoma Contemporary two years ago, focusing first on her family and friends, like married couple Lance and Chris Evans.

“Living our entire lives in the Bible belt, we’ve been in some very unwelcoming situations,” Chris says, “so to be able to walk into a place like this where we’re being celebrated is inexplicable.”

The Evanses admit they have never seen anything that captures their love so perfectly. Lance says, “I grew up sometimes hating myself, not really loving the skin that I’m in, and initially when Tatyana said she wanted to paint us, I myself questioned, ‘why? What do you see in me that I don’t see?’”

The answer is clear now.

Alana House's portrait is another timeless image that she hopes speaks to those who see it. “I feel very serious here,” she says, looking at the sketch, “and I feel very strong and empowered.”

Through the images and interviews she has compiled, Tatyana wants visitors to connect not only with fellow community members but also themselves.

Alana says, “It just feels very personal and very close, and I hope other people have that experience and recognize that their stories deserve to be told, too.”

The exhibit will be open through May 19 in the Oklahoma Contemporary building at the State Fairgrounds. You can attend a number of interactive events there, including listening to live poetry while drawing self-portraits on March 9 and April 13 from 1-4 p.m. Gallery talks are scheduled for Tuesdays at 6 p.m. For more details on the speakers, click here.