Be Wild for Art has invigorated hometown libraries the past two summers with its painting classes for adults, giving artists or would-be artists a chance to show their creativity in a festive environment of camaraderie.
The group takes its talents outside its Norman studio again for this summer’s tour of the library to add to what they’d guess is thousands of individual paintings since its opening in 2010, all of them unique.
“People all come in and pretty much they’re all frightened,” said owner Desiree Cashman. “But by the end of the class they all are having fun and find they’ve really learned something.
“At the end what they’ve painted may not be identical to what I’ve done but you always expect that. I can paint the same thing seven times and have seven paintings that all look a little different.”
This year’s library event will be for teens ages 12 to 17, who will begin from a sample design that will be displayed for all to see and then work on their own canvas. Class size will be limited to 20, not only so enough materials are available but also so staff members are able to help artists with tips for their new creations.
The staff at the studio also have seen a variety of interesting requests from visitors to the studio for projects they’d like to try. One family asked to do a painting based on a photo of the house of a beloved grandmother who recently had passed. And they came to the studio, some 70 strong, to use painting as a way of honoring their family member.
“And it was great, because everybody had a different remembrance of Grandma’s house,” Cashman said. “It was really a way they were able to celebrate her.”
Be Wild for Art has moved forward in remembrance in the past year also, as Desiree’s sister and co-founder of the business, Cyndy, died last summer after a battle with cancer.
The staff has remained strong and the studio moved earlier this year, down the street from its longtime site to a new Norman address, 480 24th Ave. NW No. 142, a location that will allow them more flexibility on the sizes of programs they will offer.
But for a third year in a row, some of those programs will be headed on the road and throughout the Pioneer Library System.
The worst day of Kelsey Philo’s life also was the day that turned her life in a new direction, taking her to places she couldn’t have imagined and likely wouldn’t have gone without that fateful experience.
In the past decade, her life went from a diagnosis of perhaps never walking again to a battle with depression and physical pain, as she rebuilt her life in into one spreading a positive attitude and inspiration to those she meets through hula-hooping.
“Hooping was the one thing I started doing that was positive that started pulling me out of it,” she said. “Hooping got me back on my feet, helped me to feel alive and capable.”
It was one of those few days each winter when the weather turns nasty in Oklahoma. Not cold enough for an all-out snowstorm, not warm enough to just be a cold rain, so everything turns into a slick, icy mess.
This was an unusually early day for such weather, in late November 2006. And it went from bad to worse for Kelsey, then a college student at the University of Oklahoma. An accident on the ice had left her stuck underneath the car, and she hadn’t been found for about two hours. “I thought I was going to freeze to death,” she remembered. A woman eventually spotted her and called 911 for someone to come help.
But the responding fire truck lost control on the ice-covered street and crashed into Kelsey and her car, further pinning her. She suffered a fractured vertebrae and 4th degree burns on her lower back. “The exhaust pipe was just pushing into my back and burning me.”
She was finally freed and rushed to a local hospital. Multiple procedures followed. She endured five surgeries on her back in a short period of time, including having removal of a disk that had been forced into her spinal cord, just to try to stabilize her condition.
She was told there could be complete paralysis of her left foot and leg, in addition to the damage done to her lower back.
Life as she had known it appeared to be over. And it was, but not in the way she thought at the time.
As the musical duo Adam & Kizzie, Adam and Kim Ledbetter are making beautiful music together.
But that’s just part of the lives of this couple, whose musical talent has been blended together even as their lives have blended. And it’s a talent they’ll share with audiences in hometown libraries during this year’s Summer Reading Program.
Once choir classmates in junior high school at Classen School of Advanced Studies, they had gone their separate ways for more than a decade before their paths again crossed in 2001.
“We came back together as friends, and things like blossomed almost like magic,” Adam said with a big smile. “We were developing this whole romantic thing, but the music was still kind of separate.”
The couple actually started their music career together about as far away from Oklahoma as you could get. They had an opportunity to go to India and perform as a cover band in locations on the other side of the world.
After six months there, things were going alright but hadn’t taken off the way they might have wanted.
“One night we were sitting by the pool talking and realized we needed to do something else,” Adam said. “We talked about things we wanted to do and to be back home. We wrote it all down, and it’s crazy to see how now we just keep ticking things off the list from that conversation we had that night.”
Since their return to Oklahoma, the pair have developed their own style, which they call “a tribute to everything that is genuinely great about music.” They’ve also worked to spread their music in different phases and regions, first locally, then branching out to audiences statewide and eventually to different parts of the country.
“We really followed the same strategy as we did here, just find places that would let us perform,” Kim said of their efforts to go on a national level. “When we got a footing here, had earned a bit of a following, and then we started touring. From there, once you get your foot in the door, they want you to come back.”
Bringing their unique ideas for easy recipes and maximizing resources available in the kitchen and pantry, the Food for Thought Learning Institute returns to the Pioneer Library System for a fourth year as part of this year’s Summer Reading Program.
This year, they’ll be spicing things up by giving participants a look at various types of easy salsas they can make.
Participants will get to take a variety of fruits and vegetables and look at, think about and even taste various options to decide what might work well in a salsa they’ll make and then take home.
“We will do tasting exercises with the ingredients first, and we want people to think about how to combine different things, the value of things with what actually just tastes good together,” said Sunny Hill, one of the chefs and instructors with Food for Thought.
The organization has worked throughout Norman and the surrounding communities since 2010, educating local residents on good ideas for healthy eating and for making common ingredients go into tasty recipes and not go to waste. They’ve worked with organizations like Bridges of Norman, the United Way, Dimensions Academy, and most recently the City of Moore on several healthy initiative projects.
“We are already busy with what we do separately, but we see this work as a calling,” said Matt Joplin, one of the founders of Food for Thought.
Hill is the newest member of the institute’s staff and will be part of this summer’s tour. She has taken over for Amy Radford both in projects with Norman’s Food and Shelter for Friends and with Food for Thought.
“I was all about what they do, I love teaching and loving teaching people,” Hill said. “I think it’s really important to take the mystique out of cooking and cooking well to eat well. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult to do it.”
The salsa program will be for adults 18 and up and there will be a limit of 24 people for each class so enough supplies will be available. All the supplies, including containers for participants to take home their salsa creations, will be provided.
And they’ll be returning to hometown libraries this summer with a number of programs that will give all ages a taste of science, and some of the ways the organization is able to educate while entertaining.
“We have always liked hands-on for teen programs, and adults seemed kind of surprised we were doing programs that way for them, but they like it a lot,” Castle said.
This year’s SRP themes focus on exercise and healthy living, and the OMN has designed a variety of activities that reflect that in unique ways.
This year’s slate of programs includes: