rally podcast S1 EP05

Follow the Rally Podcast your favorite provider below:

app download app download app download

The Rally Podcast S1 EP05

[00:00:00] Josh Vaughn: Welcome to the Rally podcast. I’m Josh Vaughn

[00:00:14] Marissa Raglin: And I’m Marissa Raglin we are the co-founders of Rally. Where we are all about cultivating community through creativity. In this podcast series, we explore our creative communities and the communal landscapes they foster. Welcome to my studio.

[00:00:27] Josh Vaughn: And thank you for having us in your studio.

This is a great to be in Studio Six and as you can hear, we’re doing a podcast and a thunderstorm. So there’s nothing more Oklahoma than that.

[00:00:37] Marissa Raglin: We are located in the heart of the Paseo Arts District. So yeah, we’re very excited to be here

[00:00:43] Josh Vaughn: Today we have the privilege of sitting down with state Senator a longtime champion of the arts in Oklahoma, Senator Julia Kirt. She has an experienced community leader who has led statewide nonprofit organizations for almost 20 years. In the past she has served as the executive director of Oklahomans for the Arts and as the executive director of Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) for over 15 years. In 2014, she received the governor’s arts award.

Also, she is an advisory board member for the All Access Arts Program and was elected as a council member by our national peers, for the Americans for the arts Action Network. That’s a mouthful, but this doesn’t paint a complete picture of how she has supported and affected the arts in Oklahoma on an individual level even. We have so much to talk about. So let’s get started.

[00:01:22] Marissa Raglin: So, Julia, thank you so much for being on this podcast. You truly have made a lasting impact on my career. And I was wondering if you remember where we first met.

[00:01:31] Senator Julia Kirt: Oh my gosh. You were in, you were an intern. That’s right. I didn’t meet you before that. Did I?

[00:01:36] Marissa Raglin: Nope.

[00:01:36] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah. You, she was a sweet, very enthusiastic intern who took every challenge on with, with gumption. I remember we gave you some curveballs.

[00:01:44] Marissa Raglin: Yes. Yeah. So interning at OVAC summer and it was just so impactful for just setting the foundation for career. So

[00:01:55] Senator Julia Kirt: I love that.

[00:01:56] Marissa Raglin: Yeah, I just, from seeing you as a mother, come to OVAC in return with Lila.

[00:02:03] Senator Julia Kirt: I had Roger first. Yeah. Yeah. Alila you would have been around with.

[00:02:06] Marissa Raglin: Yeah. I just remember you had turning and you brought her to the office and I just thought like, wow, this woman, she’s here to get stuff done. And now as a mom, myself, I just really admire just the gumption of. Just the scheduling and the challenges of, of just being a mom and also kicking ass.

[00:02:27] Senator Julia Kirt: That was fun. I’m both. My kids came. Roger came with me for almost a year part-time and then Laila way shorter, like. Like went home, crying every night. And my husband was like, we need to get daycare. And I was like, that’s awesome. Okay.

[00:02:40] Josh Vaughn: Gosh, uh, I, in my research, I saw that you got mom of the month and February, 2019 for oklahomacitymom.com. But your husband had nominated you, I think

[00:02:50] Senator Julia Kirt: That’s right. That was sweet.

[00:02:51] Josh Vaughn: And he wrote the sweetest little blurb about you and about how you rebuilt the art program in your daughter’s school.

[00:03:00] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah. So my kids, I mean, this is part of my story on how I ended up running for office because my kids go to my neighborhood school.

It’s Oklahoma city, public school, um, love our school. And I kind of was introduced to the school at a time of budget cuts. So like maybe my son’s kindergarten or first grade year, they started cutting things. We were having a budget crisis at the state level. And I, I went to a meeting with the superintendent.

Where we were complaining and advocating that they were cutting programs and they’re cutting teachers. And then they cut the art program couple of years later. And I just couldn’t have that for my kids. I knew that we needed it and it was kind of cool because I was able to get matching funds and a visiting artists from the Oklahoma Art Council.

I mean the Arts Council, Oklahoma City roster to come and serve part-time and then she ended up becoming a certified art teacher, which was awesome. But the coolest thing for me was not only did I get that for my kids, and I’m not saying by myself, we had a team of people working, but because we found out how many schools did not have music and visual arts in Oklahoma city’s public schools.

So there were 40 plus elementary. Shocked to find out how many of them had no arts programming. We made a partnership arts partnership for KCPS with arts council, Oklahoma city, and a bunch of other partners at the table to make sure that every elementary school in our OKCPS had access and service. And it stayed to this day.

And I think it’s one of the reasons why the arts were such an emphasis when they looked at closing schools. And when they looked at opportunities was that we’d already kind of established that we were making sure every kid got access to that.

[00:04:27] Josh Vaughn: Well I’d imagine those schools, probably the kids were doing better too.

So they were probably excelling because the arts attribute to just expanding your brain

[00:04:36] Senator Julia Kirt: A hundred percent, a hundred percent,

[00:04:38] Josh Vaughn: You have been a frontline advocate for the arts for a while, now. How have you seen the creative culture and communal landscape develop over the years and where do you see it today!

[00:04:46] Senator Julia Kirt: Oh, man.

It is, it’s so wonderful. Like I had never lived in a place as long as I’ve now lived in Oklahoma City because my dad was in the air force when I was young and we moved a couple of times. And so like getting to see the development over time is so wonderful and exciting. And when I first started, I’m thinking specifically about when I started Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, because that’s when I really started look broader.

Like before that I worked at the art museum, which was amazing. We were out on the fairgrounds. A real interesting place to be. But when I started OVAC is when I started to learn about artists and who was out there. And really we had the young creatives were missing as far as I can say, you know, like there were a few musicians, but it was really like people were either leaving the state.

Or they were not making work and they weren’t out connecting with arts groups. They weren’t put on their own shows. They weren’t, there was none of that DIY stuff happening. And so when I started at OVAC, one of the goals was that I would work on engaging young artists. And I was 24 when I was hired as director and I had no experience, but they just thought that I seemed like I was willing to go for it. So I brought together all these creatives and just said, what do you want, what do you want in your city? And it was like artists, musicians, lots of restaurant people and hair people, you know, like those creative, young people that are out and around and they came up with Momentum.

And I just saw the other day, I just saw earlier today that it’s the 21st anniversary of Momentum. Which is like the weirdest feeling like I have goosebumps right now because the people that connected even then, like the beautiful thing is you bring people together. They had this voice, we had this amazing building that we got to do it in.

We had it at Stage Center back when that was around, really create a funky building, like tons of young people had never been. And we’re just like, what is this place? You know, and we got young people to perform and, and organize it. And I think the volunteers were one of the most important parts of it because they connected with each other, then it connected with artists.

And so many of those folks have gone on to be leaders and, you know, ongoing contributors to the art. So I think it was just like, how do you start to make things that help people connect early? And love their community and make it what they want it to be. I think we were at a time when the big institutions dominated a lot, then it was, you know, the big, the Philharmonic type entities, which I love and I think are valuable.

We need other voices. We need other platforms, right? And so that change has been night and day. And then the other biggest change I’ve seen is as public art. I mean, public art was totally misunderstood and not invested in when, when I was started in the arts. And in fact, I was on a committee probably maybe seven or eight years into being at OVAC where we, the city of Oklahoma city was trying to define art, public art, because they still categorized it as a sign.

If you wanted to get a permit for public art, you had to go through like sign ordinance stuff. And it was like, we didn’t even acknowledge it existed much less think it was important and put money into it. So night and day, we went from that to now, we have all these different entities doing, using public city money, public state money to invest in the arts and we have private entities making amazing murals happen, making temporary public art happen. I mean, thought this is such a vibrant part of our community now.

[00:07:49] Josh Vaughn: And even legislation that’s pointing money towards the arts more than, than in the past.

[00:07:54] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah. I mean that public art program at the state level got established and then got kind of kicked around for a while, but has now, now projects are starting to come out of it.

And I think that’s the kind of investment that we won’t appreciate as much for it’s going to take a decade or 20 years before. This is part of what makes us special is to have these unique things that have been made locally or from people from out of state. But they’re looking at what our local stories are in our local voices, I think, night and day difference with that.

So I love it.

I love it.

[00:08:23] Josh Vaughn: And we’re actually both. Kind of a product of OVAC, so the ArtistINC program.

[00:08:29] Marissa Raglin: So, and that’s where we met and, um, and our breakout session, all songs, Intentionalists. And we’ve been meeting monthly ever since. So how many years are we doing?

[00:08:39] Josh Vaughn: Since 2015. It’s me and Marissa and Gayle Curry. You probably know her. Brendon Williams. You may or may not know him. Then Heather Clark Hilliard was our instructor or like our advisor and her first meeting that we met after the, after the group, she said, I want you all to know I’m not your advisor anymore. I’m a member of the. So, yeah, and we will meet tomorrow.

[00:09:04] Senator Julia Kirt: That’s incredible.

You still get together. Yeah. I love that. Well, that was the other big thing. Like when I started OVAC they, they had been doing it once a year business of our gathering. And when I arrived, the board had gone through, it was artists led organization. So they went through a big thing where, what do we really want?

And they wanted a lot more frequent and more connections with other artists. They didn’t want to do a once a year conference. And so they started doing artists survival kit and. ArtistsINC and just kind of came out of that, um, as like, what are some ways that we can really ramp it up? And my experience over time was first we were trying to get our, our act together locally, but then we started being like, well, how can we be a platform for some of the artists want to be able to show regionally? How can we do that and start trying to make those regional connect. You know, Oklahoma doesn’t always get embraced as part of a region.

So we just had to like keep knocking on their door, like be our friend, like let’s let’s work together, you know

[00:09:53] Josh Vaughn: Knock on everybody’s region’s door saying, please let us be a part.

[00:09:56] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah.

I had a friend in Kansas city that I met through a national organization and, and I said, you know, we keep trying to get, I can’t remember what it was Dallas.

We keep trying to get the Dallas artist or whatever. And she said, work with the people that want to work with you. And so then we start making partnerships with Kansas City and Wichita and some of the other regional hubs where there were artists who were hungry to be connected broader than just their local community.

And that was really satisfying. You know,

[00:10:21] Josh Vaughn: I know the ArtistINC is still going strong in Kansas City and you’re able to see the that’s almost like the second generation of benefits come in. It’s layer upon layer of Kansas City is now, as they’re known as an arts community.

[00:10:33] Senator Julia Kirt: Yes. That’s great. Well, they make things happen.

Cause you, once you connect with other artists, you think about what you might want in a community and connect each other to it. And one thing I love about ArtistINC, which OVAC I don’t think they’re fully there. Um, you know, they were defined as a visual arts organization, so really focused on, you know, sculptors to filmmakers.

And when we looked at ArtistINC, it’s very important that be interdisciplinary. You know, it’s got musicians involved in performing artists and that wasn’t people were worried about us losing our mission, but, you know, artistic disciplines are harder and harder to separate and categorize. So, I mean, I felt like that’s one of our challenges as a community in Oklahoma is that we’re not so integrated with music and dance and performing arts. And I think it would benefit everybody.

[00:11:15] Josh Vaughn: We’re siloed. We’re kind of, we have these silos and you may have bleed over from individuals, but the communities don’t see themselves as part of each other. And that’s, whenever you start on that overlaying that it starts lapping over into just it’s one, it’s one big creative community.

That’s when the great collaborations happen. And that’s something where we’re passionate about. We want to try to try to do in the future, but.

[00:11:39] Senator Julia Kirt: One thing I love about artists Inc, was it gave me language that I had known in terms of how to understand artists, motivations, intentions, and like some of the language they would use.

For instance, I had noticed this difference, but I hadn’t had words for it, they would talk about how much commercialization and artists wants, like where are they on the commercialization spectrum? So being like, how much do they want to deal with money or not? Like, and how much do they want to modify their work in order to make money?

And I had experienced that for years. Like there’s some artists I know who just, they don’t want money anywhere near their art, you know, they don’t want, and then there’s other artists where that’s just not an issue. They’re making art to make money. And that’s that, that spectrum is okay. And like encouraging people to embrace what they care about and how they want to work and not feel like I oftentimes at OVAC would have people call and they wanted to sell their art. And I think that usually was them thinking validation, but really what they wanted and needed was someone to say, like, I’m glad you’re making art. This is a good thing that you’re making art.

You know, when lots of people gave up their work, you know, like they in high school or when they were thinking about college, they got dissuaded from majoring in art. And then they later like, wait a minute. Like, I put that part of me away. Connect with that again, you know,

[00:12:51] Josh Vaughn: I work with many people who have art degrees.

They’re doing great at what they do, but they’re not doing that. And so anytime I ask them, they’re like, oh, well that was back then. I was like, well, it doesn’t have to be, you know,

[00:13:02] Senator Julia Kirt: I mean, you can change it to something else so you can yeah. Or you can always tap back into that.

[00:13:06] Marissa Raglin: Do you consider yourself a creative?

[00:13:09] Senator Julia Kirt: I would say creative. Yeah. I’m not an artist. I’m definitely not. I’ve always been kind of like the stage manager. I was like the set dresser, you know, like, and then when I got to OVAC, I really found a niche cause I love creativity and I embrace it, but I don’t want to make my own work. You know, I have zero desire to make art.

I didn’t want to be a curator. I tried being a curator. Curators are really artists. You know, they really have an artistic vision. Didn’t fit with me. I’m much more about interested in helping people have their best voice, their best, you know

[00:13:39] Marissa Raglin: Uplifting people to make sure that you have the right people in the


[00:13:43] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah, totally willing bridging worlds. Like I love bridging, you know, the business and art or the, you know, who are the connections that need to be made between worlds for everybody’s benefit, you know?

[00:13:54] Josh Vaughn: So, what is your origin story at what inflection point does past Julia say, Hey, I want to be an advocate for others, I want to dedicate my life to making a difference, and I want to empower others in the arts and beyond. I’m just curious. Did it take place some working on the set of Texas Chainsaw Massacre IV?

[00:14:11] Senator Julia Kirt: You know, I didn’t know. So, um, you know, working on Texas Chainsaw Massacre IV was life-changing. Uh, I spent the summer, this was in Austin and I’m so glad.

And when it is something I tried to throw in, when I can, I try to tell my fellow legislators that I’m probably the only person with an IMDB account. I need some credit for that. Right. That was really life-changing for me. I thought I was going to go into film. So we went, I went back to college after that summer, working on the set, you know, horror, crazy horror movie set in the middle of the night and thought that that’s what I wanted to do.

But then when I did more film, internships and worked on projects, I really didn’t feel like that was my world. And later now looking back, I can say, well, really what I loved was creative collaboration. I love teamwork. I love being on a project where you’re all working together for something really interesting.

And so that’s why the art museum was a wonderful avenue for me into the, into the arts, my first kind of arts gig, other than the film. Interning at maybe Gare Museum in Shawnee, which is just a wonderful, wonderful little museum. If you haven’t been there, go and I got to do everything. Like they had me do everything from sweep, the floors to write about Renaissance art, to like, hang art you know, and I just fell in love with like doing community projects where people get to come enjoy what you’re doing.

And then working at the art museum was like that. I laughed because I was like every quarter we have a party where everyone tells us what a great job we’ve done, making something fun for them to come experience. Absolutely. Yeah, it was a great, great experience. So that led me into the arts, but I mean, OVAC was an interesting, cause I really just grew up with OVAC cause I didn’t know what I was doing when I started, but I just wanted to make things, look for gaps.

And I think over time, what I figured out was that I like to help individual artists and that meant a lot to me, but I could not stay in that helping one person at a time. Like I was about making systems better. And so it took me a while to kind of understand that, um, that I didn’t want to do things once. I didn’t want to just help one artist.

I wanted to take whatever I learned from you and figure out how that can help all the artists or what are the systems. And so like over time I kept backing up to be like, okay, What is it about our state that is not welcoming to creatives? What about our state does not help people find their, you know, whatever their creative passions are or what’s bad about for self-employed people?

Why is it hard to be self-employed in Oklahoma? And so I got that’s how I ended up kind of into advocacy was that from the very individualized, creative pursuit to how does that fit into our state? You know, And OVAC the one cool thing since they’re statewide, I spent time out in every little town, all over the state, talking to artists.

And I mean, there’s so many great people in every community making art and like, some of them are really public about it. Some aren’t, some are really big community leaders. But I just love that, that made me fall in love in Oklahoma in a way that I never knew I would.

[00:17:03] Josh Vaughn: Yeah. And we’ve seen that we saw that happen with our friend, Larry he’s from Woodward and he was in our ArtistINC class.

He was driving down from Woodward and let’s go to the meeting stay at his brother’s house, then drive back to Woodward. Well, he went back and he’s been trying to start and has started an artist collective up there and they’ve bought, he has a building. That’s awesome.

[00:17:23] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t take many people being excited and motivated to really change the community.

I, I had some buddies out in near out near Arnett and Gauge, which is way out it’s small towns outside of Woodward and they have an art gathering. They do regularly and it’s happened for years and they had me come out and speak and it just, people were just so alive. Like, I don’t care if they do something 10 years from now.

Like they were just so into what they’re doing and it was wonderful to see them and they helped each other and supported each other. And, oh man, good times. Yeah.

[00:17:56] Marissa Raglin: We took it back to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I am curious, um, middle school, high school, you know, was little Julia in the arts.

[00:18:04] Senator Julia Kirt: No. So little Julia had no idea what, like I was one of those kids who didn’t really know what I was good at, you know, like I was kind of generally I tested okay. I did okay in school. I never did homework, like, but, and did a little soccer, but I was never excellent. You know, and I was a maker. Like I did a lot of making of things and I love to do production work like beads and whatever, but I, you know, I didn’t really, let’s say I played in orchestra. But otherwise just consumer more than anything. But I was someone who didn’t have a sense of what I was really good at.

I don’t, I’ve tried to talk to kids about this. Cause I think there’s some kids who just come out knowing what they should do or have some kind of purpose or they’re like have that personality. And my personality was like as an exploratory personality and I didn’t know what I was good at. The things that I was good at are not tested.

Like, organizing people or like hearing what somebody really wants to do and helping them do that. You know, like that’s not a skill that you get tested on in school. So I always kind of thought I was just above average, you know, and things, and it took till a lot later. I forgot what I was good at, but the big turning point for me, I did theater, tech theater. And that was a blast, like organizing people around building sets and stuff. But then I helped with the, our newspaper was like really high quality in high school. And I went from writing the first year to being the editor the next year. And it wasn’t because I was the best writer. I wasn’t the best at anything, but I was good at helping everyone do their best.

And so looking back I’m like, that was a turning point because that teacher immediately knew that I could help everyone else do well, even. Yeah. And that also gave me that confidence to know like, oh wait, I am capable of this. You know, something that I definitely.

[00:19:38] Marissa Raglin: What drives you so strongly to advocate for the arts and why are the arts

[00:19:42] Senator Julia Kirt: so important?

So it’s interesting. Now I’m in this world now. So I got elected in 2018 and it was almost like a left my hometown, which was the arts. And now I’m in this big world. That’s kind of, I can’t, I don’t know if I can articulate as well as I used to. I mean, what I’ve always seen is that the creativity, the uniqueness, the collaboration of artists has always motivated.

And I love seeing when people make something they’re proud of or excited about. I love what it does for communities, how the pride I saw in people about their artists or about their own work. And those really got me motivated. I also think. Our society, our global community. There’s so much commonality now. We have brands that are global brands. We have restaurants that are global. Like where, where do we find that voice? That is not just part of the mainstream of the world, you know? And I, I find that in artists, you know, who’s making here. Who’s had an experience here in this community with this weather and no that hasn’t happened anywhere else.

And no, no one, no other state has our history as a state. I love when artists explore the history of a place. So I think I got motivated mostly about uniqueness and potential in that excitement. I think also I, human services are really heavy for me. Um, I, you know, I’m in it now in terms of funding it and understanding the challenges.

But I think when I looked at, I knew I wanted to work in community, but I, I didn’t want to go be in social services and be a social worker. I think maybe my heart gets broken too much. Um, and the arts it’s personal and it’s passion, but it’s not. It’s not like somebody’s going into foster care and I’ve helped my husband with health stuff sometimes.

And like, I can’t, when people are having health crisis, I am not good in an emergency. So I frankly think I, I fell in love with the arts, because to me it’s a platform where we can meet. That’s not based in those kind of like immediate human needs and that’s got some wonderful parts to it, to me. And then I studied art history.

Cause I kinda thought, well, what else do I want to know? What else I wanna understand? So I got my art history Masters after I started working in the arts and I really wanted to look deeply at how artists and arts interact with their, with their moment, with their time. And so I got really interested in, you know, how do people hug, does the history and the moment of the time affect the, what they make and how it’s viewed and how it’s marketed, what the materials are.

[00:22:02] Marissa Raglin: Right. Now with COVID, what are the ripple effects of what people are making, making, or

[00:22:09] Senator Julia Kirt: It’s hard to even imagine. Right.

[00:22:11] Marissa Raglin: But it’s something to, at least in a challenging time look forward.

[00:22:16] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah, that’s true. It’ll help us process things. That’s for sure. I wrote my thesis. This may be way down a rabbit trail, but I wrote my thesis about artists named Jesus Soto. Who’s Venezuelan. And I got interested in him cause I, when I worked at the art museum, there was a piece there that I really hated by him. That’s this like wire. Kind of like a wire jumble. It almost looks like a wire scribble. I just that’s where I started. Right. But then I saw, I experienced one of his, um, interactive sculptures at a museum and it was so wonderful and such a blast.

You walk through it and it’s got these big, um, like yellow. Almost hoses that hang down and you feel it, and it’s kind of minimalist, but it’s, I mean, it was just this beautiful experience and people are having a blast in it. And I was like, how is this the same artist? Right? Like this, what I viewed as kind of a Naval gazing abstract piece.

And in this experience that people were having. And so I ended up writing about that. Like I researched his whole trajectory. And like he is an artist. He moved from Venezuela to France. Cause that’s what you did. You moved to Paris to be a big time artist. Right, right. Left Venezuela behind wanted to go.

He was all about his legend and I’m going to go leave my legacy. Right. And he went and he made a bunch of, you know, stuff that was kind of critical successful, but then he started making this work that affected community and he started experimenting and made these amazing things in public spaces. And then he started making his work in Venezuela and all his work that he owned ended up going back to his hometown and made this amazing institution there.

So like he shifted from this kind of like super my I’m going to go get recognized in Paris to like making these amazing works that kids love. Yeah. And then I just love.

[00:23:53] Josh Vaughn: They are public art now and enriching everyone else. You know?

[00:23:57] Senator Julia Kirt: I mean, that’s a shift of, you know…

[00:24:00] Josh Vaughn: It’d be interesting to see what you may have found that out if he had something happen or was just a slow change

[00:24:05] Senator Julia Kirt: I could never find the personal story.

He started hanging out with some really experimental artists. I think that was part of it, but I don’t know why he became community minded

[00:24:12] Josh Vaughn: He may have found a community. Figured out that there’s more than just him. That that usually makes a difference. When you’re executive director of Oklahomans for the Arts, I heard you speak on public funding for the arts and how important it was.

Can you shared with us just a little bit about why it is so important to you.

[00:24:30] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah. You know, and, and seeing the whole picture of the budget. Now, I still feel this way is that the funding that goes into the arts and at the state level, that’s Oklahoma Arts Council. And then some communities have local entities that get, get funding. That invests in that local creative culture and those local stories.

I think. It is showing that it matters that we have artists here and that we have performing arts and visual arts here. It’s about encouraging things that can’t necessarily be paid for full price by everybody that we want our communities to have some experiences, even if they can’t pay for the whole cost of them and the artists should get paid for their work.

It’s important to me that. Creatives get some renumeration if they need to, you know, um, and that’s not always been a tradition and you need public money to match with private funds for that. A lot of art forms are not commercially lucrative, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value to our community and to our state.

And, you know, I watch what the tribes have done. It’s just been amazing, you know, tribes trying to come from, just economic desolation. I mean, pregame gaming, they, there were so difficult. They had no political power that no economic independence and then they got gaming and what they spent their money on is education and the arts and culture and making sure that their artists are well supported.

And I think watching that has been really formative to me because it’s about if we want to have a community and we want to have be, have empowered people. We need to invest some of our money in our artists. Um, I love that.

[00:25:56] Josh Vaughn: Yeah, that’s great. That’s perfect.

[00:25:58] Marissa Raglin: Yeah, great question.

[00:25:59] Senator Julia Kirt: Uh, can I add that there’s, there’s also an economic return and you know, that’s been quantified and Oklahomans for Arts has a great and economic impact study that is very conservatively done.

Now that I’ve seen a lot of economic impact studies, I can say, like we did not claim things that we didn’t do. Um, but it attracts visitors and it retains money and communities in ways that were surprising to me, even things like Paseo arts walk, where people aren’t paying to get. They spend money when they go out and it gives people things to do here.

So they’re not going to another community. And that makes a difference for communities.

[00:26:30] Josh Vaughn: And I think, especially for like the Paseo, you’ll have people that only come down here for like a date night. They are exposed to all this other stuff while they’re here, that makes them spend more money. They’ll have that in the back of their head.

Oh, I want to get it. I want to get that coffee mug or that sculpture that I saw at Paseo pottery or whatever, down here at the Plunge

[00:26:48] Senator Julia Kirt: People hang out longer too.

[00:26:50] Josh Vaughn: They do. They do .

[00:26:51] Marissa Raglin: Last first, Friday, Quinn and I just walked down for a change of scenery and we’re going to grab a quick bite at Picasso’s and there was a gal playing the harp and Quinn was mesmerized.

Just, yeah, no, you don’t get to play.

So in 10 or 20 years, where would you like to see the arts in our state? What can we do to push it forward and what changes need to happen?

[00:27:19] Senator Julia Kirt: Well, I think some of the changes are underway, but they probably, I, you know, who knows with COVID what that’s affected, but I think there’s, there’s some momentum for it.

One we already talked about, which is interdisciplinary connections between artists. I think, you know, even at the Capitol, I see efforts to promote film or promote music and they need to be integrated. I mean, we need to be connecting with each other. They might be really different in how they’re marketed and how they’re sold, but like this state, it matters that they, that artists are connected to each other.

So I think more connection and partnership there as is needed. You know, the other thing I think is socially engaged art work. I mean, it’s some of this has happened already, but you know, the amazing things, for instance, is it Poetic Justice that does poetry workshops in the prisons. Amazing program. And I think about all the ways that artists can benefit by being interconnected and more communities, it doesn’t have to be in a criminal justice system.

It can be an educational system, it could be in community, but those ways that we can find interconnections between our artists and our, and our communities and more ways, uh, I think that. Um, and that’s a change I’d want to see, but I’d say just overall, just having a stronger voice on an ongoing basis. So like feeling like, I mean, I know, I know I can’t help myself cause I’m at the state Capitol.

I want artists more involved with elected leadership, either in office or speaking up more like I don’t see very many artists engaged with who is running our state. Who’s running our cities and I’m, I know they have plenty going on, but we need more artists engaged with that realm, I think.

[00:28:49] Josh Vaughn: I heard you speak about it was the creative mornings. Where you spoke about ever an 18 month period, and you knocked on 20,000 doors, 22 plus, what did you learn about people and Oklahoma City and your district and what, you know, what surprised you, what was,

[00:29:07] Senator Julia Kirt: I mean, it was an amazing experience. So I announced pretty early. Um, for office and I was kind of informed by people who know what they’re doing, that if you’re number one, I was trying to flip a seat and I was new to politics and it was an open seat.

I was told you need to knock a bunch of doors. And at that time I was like, Knock doors? What do you mean? It’s their shorthand for go out and meet people at their homes. You need to go visit them. Right. And I always had kind of thought that was some kind of hazing exercise that was just, you know, that they just said you had to do that.

What I found out. I mean, it’s just the most amazing experience. It’s awkward. It’s hard. It’s time consuming. I mean, it is awkward to go interrupt people’s day and knock on their doors. I know I, when anyone knocks on my door I am interrupted from something. Right. But it’s an amazing experience. So like going and trying to gain people’s trust.

That’s essentially what you’re doing is like going out and trying to be like, but you can’t say, Hey, trust me, I’m a good person. Cause that doesn’t work. Right. So how do you build trust with people? Um, it was really, um, looking back, I mean, just, I had so many amazing experiences of getting to connect with people.

I had not been out of my bubble very much. I’d been working in arts, the arts and nonprofit realm for about 20 years almost. It was a big departure for me to be out talking to people. And that was huge to talk to people from all different walks of life, all different ages. I talked to a hundred year olds.

I talked to 17 year olds, you know, like amazing experience of the diversity of our communities. Um, and then the big thing to me was just gave me so much more hope politically. Um, I think. Our media storylines, flattened things they just do. And when we talk about people around politics, we really make it a polarized thing.

And we act like there’s only two ways to be not at all. Like when you go out and talk to people, like I talked to, you know, I knocked on 20,000 doors, probably talk to six to 7,000 people. Their values are all over the place. People have so many different experiences that make up who they are and why they’ve come to the political views that they have.

Some of which are real rigid, some of which are they’re still learning. People come at it from all different directions. And you cannot assume that just because someone likes a certain politician that their, that all these things align. Right. And that was beautiful to me to be like, you know, this community is so much more diverse than we know.

And anytime we start acting like you can categorize people. We are dismissing so much about those people. Um, cause I talked to people at the time where they had this weird mix of experiences or their parents did certain things or where they came from a certain community that affects how they see the world and how they experience it.

People have had a disease that changed their life. They’ve, you know, wide variety of reasons why people have the political experiences, interests that they have. Anyway. That was amazing. So learning about people’s values, talking to people. I mean, I love, I am kind of a know it all, like, I love to know a little bit about a million things.

Well, that’s a great thing when you’re a candidate of lay, because I’ve read the paper for decades and I let listen to music and I like to know about sports and, you know, just getting to try to connect with people was really wonderful because really people want to know more than anything, is this person gonna listen to me?

Right? Like, are they going to truly try to represent me and listen to me? And so I would feel that, you know, with them, whether they were connecting

[00:32:16] Marissa Raglin: I was just going to say, that skillset of listening as a foundation for then entering into politics? I, I don’t know.

[00:32:25] Senator Julia Kirt: It’s not always expected. Yeah. Well, I thought I would be doing more telling people, but that’s not my personality usually.

Anyway, so it was interesting. Cause I, when I got ready, I thought I needed to be like, okay, here’s my main points. Here’s the public education and mental health. And you know, what are my main things that I’m for. People didn’t want to get lectured. You know, they didn’t want it. And a lot of times people didn’t even ask me my stance on things.

Like I probably only was really grilled a dozen times out of 5,000, 6,000, which is amazing to me. You think people would be like, well, where do you stand on this? Where do you stand on that? Where do you say no, most of the time, people really want to tell you what they’re thinking.

[00:33:03] Josh Vaughn: They want to know that you care.

By you listening and doing that, I think is a, is a very, it’s a very important thing and something that’s impressed me too because I met you at an Oklahomans for the Arts event. Once Kelsey Karper was like, let me introduce you to, to Julia I was like, okay. And from that point on, you’ve always made a point to, if you see me, no matter what I’m doing, I’m usually, you know, in the middle of doing something and you’re just like, Hey Josh. When you came around, actually, how we got Julia for the podcast is I had just laid down for a nap on Saturday. I’ve been doing a bunch of work around the house and I was like, I was half in half out and my wife answered the door and she didn’t know Julia’s face.

And Julia is talking. She’s oh, I’ve heard about your book and she, she was campaigning. Even though she didn’t have anybody to campaign against. She was going out and making, building relationships. And I was like, I hear this in my half-sleep. And like, oh wait, me and Marissa, just talk about having her on the podcast.

She gets halfway through my yard and I storm, she doesn’t know it’s my house. And I stormed out the door. I go, Julia, she looks up, looks around like, where’s my mace.

[00:34:09] Senator Julia Kirt: Now, anything can happen when you’re out.

[00:34:11] Josh Vaughn: But then we had a conversation for about 10 minutes.

[00:34:14] Senator Julia Kirt: Oh, my gosh. I love it. I’m so glad. Yeah. So, um, every 10 years they redistrict because of the census.

So you have to make sure that the districts that you represent an equal number of people. So my district’s been pretty dramatically redrawn. It’s about 50% new, so I’m not knocking doors like I did last time, but I’m at least trying to get out in the new areas and start, start knocking them. And I’ll knock more the summer, even if I don’t have an opponent because.

I want to know who people are like that experience of doing it the first time it has so affected how I view. And it helps me push back against in the Capitol and online there’s pressure to do things. And sometimes people try to act like there’s only one option or they’re pressuring. And I, I can feel having talked to that many people.

What’s not that important to my district or what is, you know, like, and I don’t know everybody’s opinion, but I can I have a pretty good sample size

[00:35:00] Marissa Raglin: You have a finger on the pulse they say.

[00:35:03] Josh Vaughn: That too, just recently. I haven’t had a chance to vote for you. So that’s, you did all that. And I wasn’t even a constituent in your district.

I was a constituent in the state of course, but you know, living in Norman and then being outside of your district, that impressed me that you did that. And I wasn’t a pawn for you. I wasn’t a piece to move or relationship to get somewhere else. I was just some dudes, snapping photos, you know,

[00:35:27] Senator Julia Kirt: Well, I, you know, I want more people to feel engaged with their, their elected officials.

And I know not every elected officials as determined to be out meeting folks, but for me, that’s the most satisfying, gratifying thing. If anyone like it’s actually, that’s, what’s carried between my art life and my elected life is I still want people’s voices to be encouraged and empowered. And like, if that means getting you information, you need, if that.

Helping you know about a policy, if that means just commiserating with you, because something is a really bad decision and I can’t stop it, then sometimes that’s what it is. But I, I think that’s, that’s the most meaningful thing I get to do. For sure.

[00:36:03] Josh Vaughn: The one thing that we are most focused on is cultivating community through creativity.

What does that look like to you?

[00:36:10] Senator Julia Kirt: You know, I may be too knee-deep in my world that I’m in now, but for me, curiosity is a lot of that. I will say that I’m not currently in a community. Like our institutional culture of our legislative process right now is not a curiosity-centered process. Like I feel like we should be asking every question and wondering about everybody’s stance on things, and that’s not always where people are coming from.

Um, and so. Uh, to me, that’s a learning organization versus like that growth mindset versus fixed mindset stuff. So like, are you somebody who views the world as all done? And we just need to do our player part or do you view it as unfolding? And we need to do our, you know, grow and learn as we go. Right.

Personally, that’s really important to me to be focused on growth and learning. And you know, when I was on the doors talking to people, they would say, you’re going to change when you get an office, like you’re going to lose. And I was like, Absolutely. I expect to change. I should change if I haven’t changed, I’m not learning.

I know the things that won’t change about me, integrity. I know I’m there for good intent, et cetera, but so that mindset in my personal attitude is in my legislating. And, and I would like more of us, like there’s a, sometimes a fear about questions, a defensiveness about curiosity that I, that concerns me.

And I think it bleeds out into the state in general, in terms of that fear of curiosity by our kids or in our communities. And I don’t know if that makes sense, but I think how you, how I think we in the legislature create, can create culture with state agencies and with our constituent. We set a tone together.

Right know,

[00:37:44] Josh Vaughn: and I think that’s very clear. I haven’t necessarily looked at from that angle when you’re cultivating community or creating community, if your curiosity has to play a part because to be a community and to care for somebody, you have to take care of their needs, their wants, and, and take care of them.

You can’t find out you, you can’t just psychically know what those are. You have to ask them. You have to be curious to develop a relationship with someone. I have to be curious to find out more about Marissa or more about Julia. And that’s, that’s a great point that that does well.

[00:38:18] Senator Julia Kirt: If you think you already know everything, or if you think you already have enough friends or you already know enough people.

I’ve heard from enough people. I don’t know. That’s the thing I have to work at.

[00:38:27] Marissa Raglin: Could you speak to, you know, you had mentioned the questions and how they’re, you know, there’s some concern about the videos that you have been making recently that really break down, just basics where I think even myself included, I have concerns about questioning and better understanding the process. And you’ve started making these videos on social media that really enhance and break down.

[00:38:51] Senator Julia Kirt: Yeah, I’m trying to focus on finance. So interestingly, so I used to run a little non-profit organization. It was about a $500,000 budget, which seems huge to me from where it started when I was there. But, um, now I’m working with budgets. Like we look at budgets that are billions, right? Billions of dollars. And, but I’m like a finance nerd. And it’s because of the non-profits you have to look at every dollar and you have to justify everything and you ask hard questions and you’re, you’re answering grant requests. So you have to like tell people why all the time.

And so that’s translated into me being kind of the budget nerd in my caucus. And at first I just was like, well, I’m just, I just care. I want to learn about this. Cause it’s the biggest thing we do. I mean, Last year, $24.8 billion spent in our state on services and, and things that people need or that we think they need.

And prioritizing that is the biggest thing that’s in the legislative mandate. And so I just want to learn everything I can because I’m like, that seems too important to me. So I’ve been on this learning process and I’ve kind of gotten the point where I realized that not a lot of people are learning about this, partly because I think people are intimidated by finance.

It’s a bunch of numbers, a bunch of spreadsheets, and they’re afraid maybe that they don’t understand it. So they don’t know what to ask. And then, or you might know one piece, like we have some legislators that are knee-deep in the health-related expenditures that we have, or some other folks that are really into the, whatever they are into insurance or something.

Um, so I just started thinking, well, I’ve been doing this for like three years. If I can break things down, maybe I can actually it helps me learn when I break things. So I’m like, I’m just trying to break things down into one minute. I just, I, my goal is to do it for reels because reels have to be one minute.

Right. And so I was like, if I can make it a one-minute explanation, then I have broken its down enough because most people don’t want to listen to five minutes about the budget. They barely want to listen to one minute with the budget.

[00:40:37] Marissa Raglin: Gosh, growing up, math was my least favorite subject. Actually, when my dad would sit down to assist with homework with me, I would actually call it the math voice, because it was just like, come on, you can do it, push through, you know, math, voice, math voice.

[00:40:51] Senator Julia Kirt: Well, see, and I think, you know, I think some, like I did not like math at much. Geometry like spaces and stuff, but, but what I’ve ended up in my career, I’ve found that when I had the money to do stuff, it really made a difference. So when early on at Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, I started figuring out like, well, if we have these wacky ideas and then we figure out how to pay for them, we can do them.

Right. So like Momentum, we spent like a thousand dollars the first year, and then it made like $8,000. And we were like, oh, so we, if we have the money in hand, we can do stuff. So that got me motivated, like I to make our budget bigger so that we could do the things we dreamed of. And then with my campaign, it was the same way.

I just was like, I need the money to do what I’m supposed to do here. And so I think not being afraid to tackle it, even if you don’t like the individual numbers. Um, but there’s a huge learning curve. I know. And no legislator can be an expert in everything. So that’s why I’m like really, I should focus more on like breaking things down.

Because I want people to be able to say, this is not our priority. Why is this our priority? You know, for instance, we can talk about our incarceration rate in the state. We’re pouring money into incarcerating people. We know how ineffective it’s been and we are unwilling to change, right? We’re unwilling to focus on the prevention and there’s a huge cost to that, right?

Things like that. I think it’s hard for people to really query on if you don’t get the money at all, you know, or even talking about education, money. Like any statistics, things can get cast or framed in a certain way. Right. So maybe I’m, I’m not being creative with money because you’re not allowed to be creative with money.

Right. Just curious, just curious. Although I love visualizations and they kind of make fun of me cause I’m always like, oh, there’s some graphs for this or some like visualization of this so I can explain it to somebody, you know?

[00:42:28] Marissa Raglin: Yeah. I’m a huge visual learner. So yeah, it’s a must-have, could you name a couple of artists that inspire you?

Okay. I have to say Romy Owens. I know that Romy was on your show, but actually when I was describing my life at OVAC and how it changed over time in terms of my view of individual artists to my life now, her project, where she got people to knit squares, that then she seemed together into the unbearable absence of landscape, absence of landscapes.

Thank you. That project I still think about as such a tangible example of, each knot is its own. Not each square that people made was its own square, but she found a way to bring it together and cover a darn building and fabric. I love it. And I have her mock-up drawing on my wall and my office. Oh yeah.

[00:43:15] Josh Vaughn: That’s what she got on my radar for. And that we talked about that last week, but it was like, I looked at what they’re doing physically, and I was like, wow, that’s really tough. And then I started thinking about the logistics, the people, relationships, all the moving parts and Romy is just kind of like they’re all her marionettes. She’s got to bring it all together. She definitely is.

[00:43:35] Senator Julia Kirt: It’s just, it was also gorgeous. Like from the inside of the building, you had the light going out from the outside. It was like this big landscape thing. And then it’s all based around these little knots, which to me is really inspiring as far as like there’s one step at a time, just take one step at a time, you know?

[00:43:48] Josh Vaughn: Right. Each one of those knots could be a person. Each one of those knots could be an entity. You know, it takes a group to get anything done. It’s very beautiful.

[00:43:56] Marissa Raglin: That’s number one.

Okay. I got to say Soto just cause Jesus Soto. Cause I spent so much time researching him and I love that he ended up on community that that’s where he ended up.

That’s what he wanted was his legacy was to build community and build connections between people. I mean, what a great thing for his art, any gave his personal collection to this museum and it’s kind of a small town in Venezuela.

[00:44:16] Josh Vaughn: Have you ever been able to like get a, a print or original or anything from…

[00:44:21] Senator Julia Kirt: You know, that’s interesting, you’d say that.

Cause that doesn’t appeal to me at all. Yeah. I don’t want to collect it. Of course. I love that. So is penetrables are the interactive ones kind of the penetrable? And I couldn’t own one of those because they’re gargantuan public art pieces, but now I want to go see more of them. Like we went to my husband, I went to Caracas and to Cuidad Boulevard to go experience a bunch of them.

Cause they don’t travel much. And that, that was fun. Oh gosh. Now a third. Why can’t I come up with a third? It’s going to come to me in a minute.

[00:44:52] Marissa Raglin: It could be two favorite artists.

[00:44:59] Josh Vaughn: … Marissa Raglin

[00:45:00] Marissa Raglin: We are seated here if you need inspiration.

Well, is there anything else you’d like to add?

[00:45:06] Senator Julia Kirt: Well, I mean, I encourage people to just figure out who represents you. If you don’t already know. You can try to connect with them. I mean, they may not all be, you know, people that arts background like me. Um, but I’m glad to help people because I hear people complaining about things they don’t like.

And I just want people to understand that those decisions are made every day. Like literally at the state and local level decisions are made every day, that impact. Where money’s being spent, what’s being supported, what policies are happening in our communities and it, and it really is something people can engage and make change on.

[00:45:36] Josh Vaughn: We’d like to thank Senator Kirt for sharing her time with us. You can follow along with her at her Instagram or on Twitter at Julia Kirt. This information and other links mentioned in this podcast is in our show notes for this episode at our website, www.RallyOKC.com.

[00:45:50] Marissa Raglin: And of course we want to thank our audience for listening. Please like subscribe and share this podcast, if you enjoyed it. You can follow us on Instagram @rally.up.okc. We’ll be joining you here again soon. Cheers!