Norman Arts Council 2

The Face and Voice 
of Arts Advocacy

When you think of the holiday season, what comes to mind? Do you have visions of sugarplums dancing in your head? Or how about a beautiful rendition of “White Christmas” playing while you browse a local gallery opening? What would the holidays be without the arts? The Norman Arts Council makes sure your holiday season is filled with one-of-a-kind sounds, gifts and cheer.

I spoke with Erinn Gavaghan, executive director of NAC, about the tremendous impact the arts have on our community year-round, how to get involved and how to support their cause.

What is your mission?

The Norman Arts Council shall enrich the Norman community by stimulating artistic, cultural and economic growth through the support and promotion of the arts.

When were you founded and 
what are some details of your organization?

NAC was founded in 1976. At its inception, it became the face and voice of arts advocacy. Since then, the NAC has continued to uphold its mission through a variety of programs and initiatives.

In 1981, the NAC, along with the Chamber of Commerce and other civic leaders, campaigned for the successful passage of the Norman Transient Guest Room Tax. Each year, the NAC uses the arts portion to sponsor festivals, programs, workshops and arts education through its grants program.

How has your organization grown?

2008–NAC creates the Norman Music Festival, a multi-genre music festival that has grown into a three-day event featuring over 300 bands from across the country each year. In 2012, the NMF became its own 501C3: Norman Music Alliance.

2009–NAC and the City of Norman creates the Norman Public Arts Board, with the mission to create exciting, appealing and harmonious public spaces by integrating art into the public place. PAB currently oversees the care of a public art collection of over 130 works.

NAC also begins the 2nd Friday Art Walk, a monthly, city-wide celebration of art and a collaboration between artists, arts organizations and businesses.

2011–NAC moves its headquarters to MAINSITE Contemporary Art Gallery on Main Street and takes over the programming of the gallery, creating a community arts destination.

2015–NAC launches Cultural Connections, an internationally recognized series that promotes the exchange of ideas, art and culture, opening world-wide dialogue between the City of Norman and our Sister Cities around the world.

2016–NAC designates The Walker Arts District in Downtown Norman in memory of longtime NAC board member and arts advocate Larry Walker.

What are some of your programs?

ARTS GRANTS—Since the creation of the Hotel Motel tax fund by the City of Norman in 1982, the NAC has administered over 
$2 million in grants to eligible organizations.

UNDERCOVER ARTIST SERIES—a series of art workshops celebrating the creativity of amateurs and practiced artists, alike

CULTURAL CONNECTIONS—a program to further the bonds between Norman and its Sister Cities across the globe by bringing visiting artists from abroad to share their heritage with us through their art while sending off Norman artists to further our city’s history internationally

2ND FRIDAY ART WALKS—a monthly celebration of art and creativity in the Walker Arts District

MAINSITE Contemporary Art—hosts numerous exhibitions, events, workshops, performances and concerts (also available as a venue for event rentals!)

ARTS EDUCATION—provides support for Norman students in grades K-8 to attend arts education programs with an established arts organization or educator

What are some of your holiday happenings?

December is BIG for the arts! December’s 2nd Friday Art Walk will be on Friday, Dec. 8, AND Saturday, Dec. 9! That’s right–two nights of Art Walk. Join us Saturday night on Main Street to watch the Annual Holiday Parade, happening at night for the first time!

Who do you partner with in the community?

We regularly partner with the arts organizations in the community on many, many projects. Other partners include the Downtowners Association, Norman Economic Development Coalition, Visit Norman, Norman Chamber of Commerce, University of Oklahoma School of Visual Arts and the National Weather Center.

What challenges do you face?

FUNDING! Even though we receive 25 percent of the Hotel Funds in Norman, we still have to raise about 65 percent of our annual budget for administration and the programs we run—that is about $250,000 annually!

What can people in the community 
do to help your organization?

Support the NAC with an annual gift. Gifts can be made on our website at