Oklahoma Contemporary
Sunset view of Oklahoma Contemporary

New Light

March 09, 2022

Unsung Supporters: Founders Day

Recognizing those who make Oklahoma Contemporary’s vision a reality

To make art accessible to Oklahomans, to provide a home for contemporary art and ideas, to be a leader in arts education and a contemporary art beacon for the region takes a village: volunteers, artists, educators and donors whose dedication and support to our mission and vision help our new home flourish in and for the community.

Once again, we take this Founders Day to honor special friends who go above and beyond in support of our mission to encourage artistic expression in all its forms. Inspired by the vision of our founder and chairman, Christian Keesee, we recognize individuals who have helped to make the arts center an indispensable resource.

This March, our honorees are Ann Johnstone and James Pickel, Nikki Nice and Eric Lyons.

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Detail view of Oklahoma Contemporary main building

Each honoree brings their own expertise, experience and background as artists and educators, volunteers and philanthropists. Supporting exhibitions, education, public programs and our move downtown, these community members help the arts center form connections between the community and contemporary art.

To honor the work of these outstanding individuals and further support accessible art, a collection of our most dedicated supporters has agreed to match donations up to $25,000 through March 24! If you make a donation today, it will go twice as far in furthering our mission.

“I believe, through the eyes of an artist, society can understand the past, the present and get a glimpse of the future,” said Johnstone, a 30+ year advocate, Capital Campaign chair and member of our Board of Trustees. “Oklahoma Contemporary provides all members of our community this opportunity — a space to experience creativity and learning.”

Ann Johnstone and James Pickel holding their nominees
Ann Johnstone and James Pickel

Ann Johnstone and James Pickel

Ann Johnstone and James Pickel have served on our Board of Trustees for more than two decades, shepherding the arts center as it grew from a small community space at the fairgrounds to the dynamic cultural resource it is today.

Johnstone and Pickel were a force in raising the funds to build Oklahoma Contemporary’s new home. The pair chaired the $30 million Capital Campaign for new downtown building, provided endowment and supported opening celebrations and are both members of our board’s Founders Circle.

Founding trustee Ann Johnstone was born and raised in Oklahoma City. Married to Bill Johnstone, Johnstone has three grown children and five grandchildren. She is board chair of Versateq, LLC, a national provider of bank image forms and image consulting services in Oklahoma City.

Johnstone currently serves as a trustee of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, the Kirkpatrick Family Fund and Allied Arts. She previously served as board chair of Allied Arts and Integris Mental Health. She has served on the board of numerous other civic organizations. She was honored with the 2008 OCU Norick- Hulsey Gallery Award and is a member of the The Societies of Oklahoma City University.

Founding trustee James A. Pickel, originally from Duncan, is a graduate of Oklahoma State University. For the past 46 years he has lived in Oklahoma City and been employed in the architectural and construction industry. The former owner of Smith & Pickel Construction, he now serves on the company’s board. He currently owns and manages Prairie Earth Gardens.

Pickel is involved in numerous organizations, serving on 13 nonprofit Boards of Directors, including the Allied Arts Foundation, Cultural Development Corporation of Central Oklahoma, Myriad Gardens Foundation, Oklahoma Arts Council and Friends of the Mansion.

Nikki Nice holding her nomination
Councilwoman Nikki Nice

Nikki Nice

A fourth-generation Oklahoman, Councilwoman Nikki Nice has supported Oklahoma Contemporary in a number of ways: as a reader for The Odyssey project, an advisor to the screenings of Rope/Fire/Water and a champion of the We Believed in the Sun exhibition. Nice regularly attends openings and programs and spoke on Oklahoma Contemporary’s behalf at last year’s Allied Arts allocation meeting.

Nice was born, reared, educated and spiritually nurtured in Ward 7. She was elected in 2018 (and re-elected, unopposed, in 2021) to serve as Ward 7's representative on the Oklahoma City Council. She is the 10th woman, and the second woman of color, to serve on the Council since the City's incorporation in 1890. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcasting from Langston University and studied abroad in The Gambia and Dakar, Senegal, in West Africa. Nice is a well-known television and radio personality with nearly 15 years of on-air experience in the Oklahoma City market.

Nice brings to the Oklahoma City Council a wealth of leadership and community service. She is the proud recipient of several awards and is a member on numerous cultural boards and councils.

Eric Lyons holding his nomination
Erik Lyons

Eric Lyons

Oklahoman Eric Lyons is a painter, teacher, photographer and explorer. In contrast to his pioneering brothers such as Jacques Cousteau and Ponce de León, Lyons does not delve into the depths of the unknown. Lyons explores the “already known” or “the forgotten” in his photography and mixed media. His work focuses on whispers of the past, memories captured. His subjects are often broken, splintered, unwanted and uninteresting to most. Lyons looks for beauty in the seemingly mundane, seeing a uniqueness or hidden elegance in ordinary everyday objects that have withered over time.

Lyons sees Oklahoma Contemporary as a beacon of light to not only artists in Oklahoma, but also as an opportunity to allow Oklahomans self-expression and worth through the arts center’s many educational programs. As someone who has taught at Camp Contemporary for more than 20 years, Lyons see the versatility in the classes, the instructors and the exhibitions as a tool that propels the value and importance of the arts into the future. In addition, Lyons is a mentor for Studio School and camp instructor Angel Little, a past Founders Award recipient.

At Oklahoma Contemporary, people of all ages and backgrounds can experience art, encounter new ideas and ignite their creative potential, all made possible by the support of our honorees, community and donors. Your matched Founders Day donation benefits all that we do, including keeping exhibitions and many programs free of charge. Explore further ways you can donate and support future artistic ventures.


Sunset view of the main building. Photo: Bayley Hanes.

Headshot of Ann Johnstone and James Pickel.

Headshot of Nikki Nice.

Headshot of Eric Lyons.

Detail view of the main building. 

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Phone: 405 951 0000
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Oklahoma Contemporary
P.O. Box 3062
Oklahoma City, OK 73101

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