The arts foster a greater sense of community spirit. They create a sense of cohesiveness and belonging that is hard to deny. Lawton is lucky. Arts for All Inc. has been spearheading the growth of the city’s arts community for 40 years.

Arts for All, for the uninitiated, is an alliance of local arts groups formed in 1977 to create a thriving artistic community right here in southwest Oklahoma. The umbrella organization is made up of six participating member groups: Lawton Philharmonic Orchestra, Lawton Community Theatre, Wichita Wildlight Photographic Society, Southwest Oklahoma Opera Guild, Lawton/Ft.Sill Art Council and Lawton Pro-Musica.

In an age of almost non-existent public funding for the arts, Arts for All leads the way in raising funds to keep the community strong. The AFA Fund Drive is the organizations major fundraising effort, and each year the fund drive kicks off with the Arts for All Luncheon in February.

The annual luncheon features appearances from many of the local art world’s most popular figures, individual awards recognizing the accomplishments of different artists and organizations and a noted guest speaker.

This year’s guest speaker will be Glen Henry, former State Director of Arts Education at the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Currently, Henry serves as an adjunct instructor at Cameron University where he teaches in the areas of Sculpture, Advanced Sculpture, 3-D Design and Computer Graphic Design.

Henry’s speech will be called “All Steamed Up? Seriously…Let’s Talk.” In his speech he will explore the different aspects of arts education, in particular STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs.

“For some time, we’ve wanted a guest speaker who was knowledgeable about the STEAM program, and Glen is just the one,” said Bobbi Matchette, the executive Director of Arts for All.

“I spent an hour with him recently and was fascinated both with his knowledge and ability to entertain. His Dad was a fisherman by trade, and Glen grew up helping his Dad fish the ocean off the coast of Connecticut. There’s definitely something about the way he talks and thinks that reminds me of ‘Moby Dick.’”

Henry’s connections to the Lawton arts community run deep. He spent 18 years working with the various member organizations of Arts for All before he left to work for the state. He was recognized twice by Oklahoma Governors during his time in Lawton for his work.

When it comes to arts education, Henry said he is uniquely qualified to speak on the topic because he has had experience with it in nearly all of its forms.

“I’m someone who has seen really wonderful things happen through arts education and I know how important it is,” Henry said. “I want to share that knowledge with the rest of the community because it is important that they know the role that art plays in creating possibilities for a future that can be diverse and exciting.”

Henry recalled a time when he watched a young girl at a previous Arts for All Festival painting a rock. When she was asked why she was painting the rock, she gave an answer that Henry said was a simple but obvious truth, “to make it beautiful.”

“That’s the simple truth behind art,” Henry said. “Art takes the ordinary and transforms it into something extraordinary.”

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