Oklahoma Contemporary

Media Release

Indigenous filmmaker Sterlin Harjo to receive the ArtNow 2023 Focus Award

December 21, 2023
Sterlin Harjo Photo by Shane Brown

Sterlin Harjo. Photo: Shane Brown.


Contact: Communications team | 405 951 0000 | communications@okcontemp.org
Media kit: bit.ly/ArtNow2023FocusAward

Storytelling elevating Indigeneity celebrated

Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.
You must make your own map.
— Joy Harjo, A Map to the Next World, 2000

On Jan. 11, 2024, Indigenous artist and filmmaker Sterlin Harjo (Seminole and Muscogee (Creek)) will be honored for his groundbreaking work through film that celebrates, uplifts and challenges notions of what it means to be Native.

Art Now23 409 2 email
Installation view of Sterlin Harjo’s A Map to the Next World (2023). Photo: Ann Sherman.

The Oklahoma-based creator, known for his Indigenous comedy series Reservation Dogs, will be the second artist honored with the ArtNow Focus Award, a storyteller whose Oklahoma-centered filmography includes Four Sheets to the Wind (2007), Cepanvkuce Tutcenen (Three Little Boys) (2009), Barking Water (2009), This May Be the Last Time (2014) and Mekko (2015). Bert Seabourn received the award in 2021. Connie Seaborn, artist and daughter of the late Bert Seabourn, will present this year’s award.

“We are overjoyed to be giving the ArtNow 2023 Focus Award to Sterlin Harjo for his commitment and contribution to the arts in Oklahoma and beyond,” says Guest Curator Lindsay Aveilhé. “As a film director, screenwriter, show runner, and artist, Harjo has pushed the boundaries of representational storytelling, moving the dial for generations of artists to come.”

Harjo’s video on view in ArtNow: The Soul Is a Wanderer is installed on the second floor where it is both the first work visitors encounter upon entering and the last upon exiting the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery, acting as both a welcome and farewell to all. In his A Map to the Next World, 2019-2022 United States Poetry Laureate Joy Harjo wanders among the land on her residence in Oklahoma as the poet reads her exhibition-inspiring poem of the same title.

“Oklahoma is lucky to have such a creative force among us, and I continue to be in anticipation for what will come next from the creative polymath,” says Aveilhé.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend the ArtNow 2023 Focus Awards, Jan. 11 at 6 p.m. for a reception with light bites and a cash bar, followed by an Artist Talk with Harjo and Aveilhé at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for members and non-members can be found here.

ArtNow: The Soul Is a Wanderer is the latest edition of Oklahoma Contemporary’s biennial ArtNow exhibition, showcasing new and made-for-the-space works from 13 Oklahoma-connected, cross-generational artists, organized by Tulsa-based Guest Curator Aveilhé. The exhibition will be on view through Jan. 15, 2024.

The ArtNow 2023 Focus Awards are sponsored by the Oklahoma City Film & Creative Industries Office and Oklahoma Film + Music Office, with additional support from Kirkpatrick Family Fund, Allied Arts, Oklahoma Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Adventure Road and ArtDesk.

A media kit featuring this press release, an artist list and high-resolution images can be found at bit.ly/ArtNow2023FocusAward. Interviews with the artists, curator and Oklahoma Contemporary staff can be organized through the Communications team (communications@okcontemp.org ). Past press releases and information are archived at oklahomacontemporary.org/media.

About Oklahoma Contemporary
At the new, state-of-the-art Oklahoma Contemporary, visitors explore art and creativity through exhibitions, performances and a wide variety of educational programs. At its core, the multidisciplinary contemporary arts organization is an inclusive space. Exhibitions and most programs are free. You are always welcome here.

In addition to the 8,000 square feet of galleries for visual art, Oklahoma Contemporary’s new downtown home includes a flexible theater, a dance studio and nine classrooms for Camp Contemporary and Studio School. The 4.6-acre grounds also include The Studios, a renovated warehouse that houses ceramics, fiber, painting, printmaking and sculpture classes. Campbell Art Park, our Sculpture Garden and North Lawn lend outdoor space for exhibitions, programs and performances.

After providing contemporary art experiences of all kinds for 30 years at the State Fairgrounds, these new, centrally located facilities dramatically increase Oklahoma Contemporary’s capacity to meet growing demand for arts and culture across our city, state and region.

Oklahoma Contemporary is a regional 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization founded in 1989 by businessman and philanthropist Christian Keesee and Kirkpatrick Foundation Director Marilyn Myers.


Sterlin Harjo. Photo: Shane Brown.

Installation view of Sterlin Harjo’s A Map to the Next World (2023). Photo: Ann Sherman.


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