City is culturally progressive

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Daily Oklahoman
Edie Roodman
10/22/1999

CITY Arts Center at Fair Park is the site of a unique artistic exhibit by the world-renowned Israeli photographer Micha Bar-Am. Bar-Am, considered Israel’s premier photojournalist, has exhibited his work in prominent galleries and museums in major cities well known for their art tradition. Why then Oklahoma City, known for its barbecue, country music and cowboy art? The answer is collaboration. Oklahoma City has been the site of more impressive cultural events in the past several years than many cities larger in size and perhaps with a more cosmopolitan image.

A subject dear to my heart, the relationship between Oklahoma, Israel and the Jewish world, is case in point. SHEBA Choir, a spectacular Israeli troupe consisting of talented Ethiopian youth who poignantly sing of their dramatic rescue and resettlement in Israel, appeared in Oklahoma City last fall under the sponsorship of OKIE (Oklahoma Israel Exchange) in partnership with the Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Oklahoma Arts Council. ESTA, a colorful, multicultural Israeli musical group featuring a fusion of pop and Mediterranean music, was brought here first by OKIE in cooperation with OCU and OCCC, and most recently again by Friends of the Metropolitan Library System in partnership with OCCC, OSSM and Fountains of Canterbury.

The story of Gerda Klein, a world-renowned Holocaust survivor, whose remarkable rescue from a concentration camp by an American soldier, now her husband, has been told to stunned audiences throughout the world, including our city in April 1996 under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City. She has just returned by invitation from our town’s Young President’s Organization to educate both adults and youth about issues of hate and tolerance.

Following a long run at the Field Museum in Chicago, the highly acclaimed “Varian Fry, Assignment Rescue” exhibit is now on display at the Edmond Historical Society Museum due to the efforts of the museum, the Holocaust Resource Center and funding from the Oklahoma City Jewish Foundation, along with the private and public sources.

“Daniel’s Story,” a moving exhibition that is part of the permanent collection at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., (a replica of the original was designed for traveling purposes) will arrive in our fair city in the Spring of 2000 after runs in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Denver.

Oklahoma City was selected as the only regional site for this extraordinary opportunity. This is a direct result of the Jewish Federation’s persuasion and insistence that our arts agencies and facilities would work together for the privilege of hosting a major exhibition. The Omniplex, along with the Jewish Federation, has been working for months to bring this project to fruition.

Oklahoma has acquired a reputation of a city where collaboration between community agencies fosters an artist-friendly and supportive environment for cultural projects. These partnerships of mutual interest heighten awareness, maximize limited resources and elevate this community’s stature among other communities. Local collaboration builds bridges, broadening our perspective and reaching beyond our own sometimes narrow viewpoint. Call it partnership, collaboration or joint venture. It works for everyone!

Roodman is a member of The Oklahoman ‘ s Opinion Board of Contributors.