Oklahoma Contemporary
Photo: Chandler Domingos
A teen is waving two glow in the dark wands. On the right is blue and on the left is yellow. He is waving them in a circle, and the camera caught the image of incomplete-circle, floating, neon twirls. The rest of the image is dark.

New Light

May 18, 2022

#ThursdayThree: OCTAC's Teen Night

Drag queen Holly Wood Hills in a yellow, vintage cocktail dress and fiery red wig with dark sunglasses stands in the sun, back against a brick building. She is peering at the sun, one hand holding her glasses, the other stretched in front of her.
Drag performer Holly Wood Hills

Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council sets the stage for Friday night and beyond

Teen Night is back, baby! It’s a drag and dancing extravaganza, paired with collaborative art-making and tattoo screenprinting for parent-free fun and a night among peers and friends. All high schoolers are welcome to hang, explore and craft with local artists and performers from 6-9 p.m. this Friday, May 20.

Coordinator of Teen and Youth Programs Kau’i Kanahele gives background, inspiration and insider deets to sway local teens still wondering if they should attend this Friday’s event. First introduced to the arts center as a Camp Contemporary camper, Kanahele leads the Teen Arts Council with passion, creativity and connection, the perfect leader for a dope group of teens and a stellar night-to-be.

What is the goal of Teen Night?

To engage teens in our community and get them interested in the arts — specifically our arts here (laughs). And, hopefully, to make patrons or meet people who want to learn more about art and to inspire others.

A rectangle screenprint on canvas with bright and colorful abstract shapes, layering and overlapping in blues, reds, yellows, oranges and hues of green and pink.
Virginia Sitzes' There was a Time When It was Your Hat and Mine (2021)

I always encourage teens (in the Teen Arts Council) to be active in some of our programs, so they can engage with the people we engage with and also get a feel for what a program looks like. But it’s really important, for me and I think to them, to uplift the people in our community trying to do the things they want to do. Hopefully they can see that in themselves as well as they grow. We have talked about paying people for their time and understanding how the art world has a history of letting people down that way with unpaid labor. We want to counteract that and give people a space to get paid and do things they’re great at!*

A black, femme presenting person in a bright, coral sheer top and large headphones on their head is DJing on a stage with a black curtain and large pink balloons with long, yellow tassels.

What should people expect from Friday?

Anyone who comes to Teen Night will get to partake in a kind of community identity project with thumbprints that just really gets everyone to be like, “Hey, look! We have a lot of similarities!” They get to experience Nature’s Course and Off the Wall on their way upstairs, and once they’re upstairs, it’s kind of straight into Te Ata Theater. There will be lights all over the place! First thing they’ll see is Virginia (Sitzes) and the DJs and food — I mean, who doesn’t like to see pizza as soon as you walk in the door? There will be Just Dance!, which they LOVE and are obsessed with. Plus there will be live drag performances. There are two time slots for drag — a performance around 7 p.m. with two drag performers and another time slot around 8 p.m. with another round of two drag performers, kings and queens!

I’m honestly really excited to see if we get the same people as we did last year. Hopefully, we engage with the right audience for us! As we move along, I’m hoping we can move toward a more regular event for people to come to. There’s that age gap between who’s an adult and who’s a child, and we don’t have as many programs for that group. I hope we can fill in that gap and we don’t lose them once they graduate — we want to become a space that people can come back to or grow into.

A group of teens in masks are outside. A white sheet is on the green grass underneath them as they paint a large, moveable wooden mural with white paint.
Teen Arts Council

What is the role of the Teen Arts Council?

They decide everything. I’m really here to maintain their focus and to reach out and connect with people. All of the things at Teen Night are from their ideas. They wanted drag performers, so we found drag performers. Down to the pizza, the sticker- and button-making, that was all them. They want to have a fun and engaging evening for their peers, and they want to build upon last year’s Teen Night. But I think also a little bash for them as well! A lot of the Teen Arts Council are seniors and graduating this year. I really hope through this Teen Night people become more interested in the Teen Arts Council in general, too.

Group of teens sit at wooden tables and face a TV hanging on the wall in the Nature's Course: Learning Gallery -- we can see the artist John Newsom. The interactive piece is to their right, a large, cutout jaguar facing outward, the blue door swung open.
Teen Arts Council in the Nature's Course: Learning Gallery

But overall, the main goal of our Teen Arts Council is to give (the teens) a voice and give them a place to make choices, have a say and to decide what happens rather than being told what to do — through art. And honestly, everyone on the Teen Arts Council is super creative in their own way. It really helps them explore their own creativity and learn about what they like, what do they think about their art, what do they want to do … but also learn more about the options within art. So many people think artist or curator, and that’s the only two options, but I think this gives them the opportunity to see just how many positions there can be within the art field.

All teens who attend must agree to a code of conduct before entering the event. Want to skip the check-in line? Fill out the Teen Night Pre-Registration Form in advance. Be sure to bring an ID or school ID with proof of age, leave your parents and your bags at home, be respectful and have fun.

To stay up to date with all things Oklahoma Contemporary Teen Arts Council (OCTAC), check out their Instagram: @okcontemporarytac.

*Teens are financially compensated for their work in OCTAC.


Teen Night 2021. Photo: Chandler Domingos. 

Drag performer Holly Wood Hills. Photo courtesy the artist.

Virginia Sitzes, There was a Time When It was Your Hat and Mine, 2021. Screenprint. 15 x 22 in. Photo courtesy the artist.

DJ KORA WAVES. Photo courtesy the aritst.

Teen Arts Council at work on a collaborative mural. 

Teen Arts Council in the Nature's Course: Learning Gallery.

Tags tags
teens Teen Arts Council Teen Night art-making Screenprinting drag performance food and drink free activities

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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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