Dennis Spielman

The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Costa Magarakis’ “King Flamingo.” - Provided Photo

10 Things I’m Looking Forward to in Oklahoma for 2017

With 2016 over, it’s time to look forward to the wonderful things happening in Oklahoma for 2017. Here are 10 things I’m excited about happening this year in my state.

1. Sea Turtle Island

Oklahoma Aquarium – 300 Aquarium Drive, Jenks
Construction on the highly anticipated Sea Turtle Island at Oklahoma Aquarium is expected to be completed in March. This significant addition to the Oklahoma Aquarium includes two 300-pound loggerhead sea turtles, reef sharks and other tropical fish. The 65,000-gallon tank will be surrounded by a boardwalk and can be experienced from three viewing levels—including an underwater observation station for children to view the exhibit from within the water.

2. Chickasaw Cultural Center’s Growth

Chickasaw Cultural Center – 867 Charles Cooper Memorial Road, Sulphur
The Chickasaw Cultural Center campus has continued to expand since opening in 2010. Soon, a pedestrian bridge connecting the Chickasaw Cultural Center and the Chickasaw National Recreation Area will open, providing visitors easy access between the two attractions. I’m eager to take that because I enjoy both. Upcoming exhibits in 2017 include an Eagle Exhibit, January 13-March 31; a Basket Exhibit April 3-25; and a Tree Houses Exhibit May 13-September 11.

Right now, a Native American Nachi (Quilt) Exhibit is open through March 31. Native American artisans work in many diverse textiles, including leatherwork, intricate beading, woven yarn and cloth, and woven rugs. As settlers and missionaries moved west across the Chickasaw Homelands of the southeastern United States, Chickasaws traded for the settlers’ beautifully colored cloth. Through continued trade and later as the cultures meshed, Chickasaw women made quilts from this colored cloth. Using their skills and creativity, they also incorporated their own cultural designs in the patterns.

3. Art of the Shoe

Science Museum Oklahoma – 2020 Remington Place, Oklahoma City
“Sole Expression: Art of the Shoe” will open in Science Museum Oklahoma’s smART Space galleries on Saturday, February 18. The exhibit opening will be from 6-9 p.m. on February 18 and that the exhibit will be open as a normal part of the museum beginning the next day. The exhibit features local, national and international artists and will examine how the shoe has been interpreted in art throughout history, the science and engineering behind specific shoe designs, peoples’ relationships with footwear, and the powerful ways that this relationship effects our lives, activities, and perceptions.



Oklahoma Contemporary – 3000 General Pershing Blvd., Oklahoma City
The idea of customization has always been at the heart of couture. The gown made to fit you, perfectly; the hand- beading, hand-stitching and other time-consuming processes involved in the creation of couture garments that reinforce the notion of the piece as a work of art with a specific connection to the owner. The digital age has introduced a new approach to personalized fashion, and in some cases, a new iteration of couture. This exhibition will feature designers whose approach to personalization is sympathetic to the allure of haute couture, but whose methodology is rooted in coding.

CODED_COUTURE features the work of 10 international artist-designers whose approaches to personalization are sympathetic to the allure and history of haute couture, yet whose inventive methodologies are rooted in new technology. The traveling exhibit will open June 29th and stay until August 10th at Oklahoma Contemporary.

5. Norman Music Festival X

Downtown Norman
This year will be the 10th Anniversary of the Norman Music Festival. Headliners so far include Thee Oh Sees, Israel Nash, Oddisee & Good Compny, Low Cut Connie, Ggoolldd, Deerpeople, The Daddyo’s, and Lincka. The festival staff have some special plans for this year that have yet to be revealed.

6. Classen Senior Center Mural

Classen Senior Center – 913 NW 12th Street, Oklahoma City
The Oklahoma City Housing Authority and Downtown Oklahoma City, Inc. have partnered to offer a unique opportunity to create a mural at 913 NW 12th Street near the Midtown district. This project is open to collaborative submissions and encourages diversity of approaches. Proposed completion date is August 15, 2017. Deadline to submit proposals is February 21, 2017. I am personally following this project as part of a documentary.

7. Art of Japanese Woodblock Prints

Oklahoma City Museum of Art – 415 Couch Drive, Oklahoma City
After the Floating World: The Enduring Art of Japanese Woodblock PrintsAFTER THE FLOATING WORLD: The Enduring Art of Japanese Woodblock Prints” shares images carved onto wooden blocks used to create colorful prints on paper are among the most famous Japanese art forms. These prints, popular in Japan from the 17th through the 19th centuries, are known as Ukiyo-e, which translates as “pictures from the floating world.” Ukiyo-e artists produced prints in a variety of subject matter including actors in the Kabuki theater, female portraiture, folktales, and mythology and landscapes.

Organized from the collections of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, this exhibition focuses on two artists: Torii Kiyotada VII (1875-1941) and Hiroshi Yoshida (1876-1950). These printmakers were at the forefront of the early 20th-century evolution of the Ukiyo-e tradition into a style known as Shin Hanga that incorporated stylistic elements from the West. Kiyotada VII was born into a family with a long tradition of producing theatrical images, and his prints of Kabuki actors illustrate the rich tradition of Japanese theater. Yoshida (1876-1950) was a popular artist both in Japan and in the United States whose extensive world travels resulted in evocative prints of familiar landmarks such as Mt. Fuji, the Taj Mahal, the Acropolis, and Niagara Falls.

8. Tower Theatre Shows

Tower Theatre – 425 NW 23rd Street, Oklahoma City
The Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City’s Midtown will finally open this year! Construction is finishing up and shows are in the process of being booked for the venue.

Sneak peek of the construction of Stoneclound Brewing in OKC. @stonecloudbrewing #UncoveringOklahoma #okc #comingsoon

A post shared by Dennis Spielman (@dennisspielman) on

9. Stonecloud Brewing Co

Stonecloud Brewing Co – 1012 NW 1st Street, Oklahoma City
Stonecloud Brewing Co is doing a complete renovation of the old Sunshine Laundry Cleaners building and they hope to be open in early 2017. Once open, they will have a public taproom and offer tours. Behind the project is Stillwater native, Joel Irby. He’s had 8 years of Colorado brewing experience via Avery and Boulder Beer.

10. James And The Giant Peach

Lyric Theatre – 1727 NW 16th Street, Oklahoma City
At the Plaza Theatre in late March is the Theatre for Young Audiences production of James And The Giant Peach by Golden Globe winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. This colorful musical, based on the classic Roald Dahl story, follows a young boy who enters a gigantic peach and sets out on a cross-world adventure with several magically-altered garden bugs. What stands out about this production is that Lyric will produce two sensory-friendly performances specifically designed for children with autism, Asperger’s Syndrome or other sensory-processing disorders and special needs.

There are many more things to be excited about for 2017, not even mentioning the projects I’m involved with. My friends at the WAFTI Show and As Told By OKC did this podcast talking about various events and businsseses opening in Oklahoma City.

Stay tuned as 2017 will be a great year!

ArtNow Show - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Curator’s Tour of ArtNow

ArtNow from Oklahoma Contemporary is a survey of what artists are making right now in Oklahoma. In assembling this collection, curators Kelsey Karper and Jennifer Scanlan considered dozens of artists — seeking ideas from colleagues, reviewing websites and traveling hundreds of miles making studio visits across the state.

Hear their stories – and those of the 24 artists and more than 200 pieces in the exhibition – in this private, curator-led tour video. I’ve never done anything like this so depending on feedback, I may or may not do more of these tour videos.

ArtNow 2017 Show - photo by Dennis Spielman

The ArtNow exhibition opened on January 9th and highlights the diversity of Oklahoma art today. The January 20th closing event is an art sale, which is the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind works by Oklahoma artists. Proceeds help keep Oklahoma Contemporary exhibitions open free of charge, year-round.

I enjoyed the exhibition and recommend seeing it in person.

Hiking in Snowy Woods with Dog - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Snow at Sutton Wilderness Photo Gallery

Happy Snow Day! My wife and I took our dogs for a walk at George M. Sutton Wilderness Park in Norman this morning while I captured these snowy shots.

Snow at Sutton Wilderness - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Snow at Sutton Wilderness - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Snow at Sutton Wilderness - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Snow at Sutton Wilderness - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Hiking in Snowy Woods with Dog - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Dogs Running Together in Snowy Woods - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Snow at Sutton Wilderness - Photo by Dennis Spielman

Snow at Sutton Wilderness - Photo by Dennis Spielman

If you wish to buy any of these photos, you can over at 500px.

Reflecting on 2016

Time for my annual End of the Year Reflection. Warning: If you don’t want to read someone saying nice things about 2016, don’t read further. 😉

This year was, by far, my most productive year.

My personal growth was fantastic. It’s kind of a funny too. When writing this post, I looked back on my past yearly reflections and in My Review of 2014 I felt good about making five videos throughout that whole year and now, in 2016, I made that much in one month! Crazy.

Let’s crunch some numbers on what I’ve made!

Episode Videos for Uncovering Oklahoma: 30
Total Subjects featured for Episode Videos: Over 60
Artist Statement Minutes: 13
Feature Films: 2 (District Up! and Summer Fun Vol. 1)
Short Films: 3 (not counting Quarter Minutes)
Quarter Minutes: 10
Film Festivals: 4

The one thing I didn’t do was publish any new books this year, however, there were hours of videos.

As for personal adventures this year, my wife and I took our first cruise, starting in Tampa, Florida then visiting the Cayman Islands and Cozumel, Mexico. We also took a road trip from Oklahoma to Georgia to visit my family for Christmas. Visited a bunch of sights in Oklahoma, of course.

Top 5 Most Viewed Uncovering Oklahoma Videos
5. Half a Day with the Halfrican American
4. Heard on Hurd and iFly
3. The Happily Entitled – Friction [Music Video]
2. Uncovering Oklahoma visits The Escape OKC
1. Guthrie Haunts Scaregrounds

My Favorite Accomplishments
My favorite accomplishment this year, no questions, was my feature-length documentary, District Up. I spent over a year making it. I grew in ways that have elevated my skills and defined my style as a filmmaker.

The first video I did for Uncovering Oklahoma this year was about the Norman Music Festival. I wrote here my journey of having shot a totally different interview, but I scrapped it to go into a different direction, which, to this day, I’m so glad I did.

My videos on the Paseo Arts District, Half a Day with the Halfrican American, and Downtown in December were also some of my best travel videos.

I made a music video, Friction by The Happily Entitled, this year! And it was awesome. The band later did a remix music video, which you can watch here, and they did a callback to my music video with them, which I thought was really sweet. (The scene I’m referred to was how the lead singer was wrapped in the blanket.) I would love to do more music videos next year.

I participated in the 48 Hour Film Project for the first this year, making the short film, Guilt Trip. While it didn’t win any awards, we all had a blast and I made new friends.

I started a horror/comedy short film series, Quarter Minutes, working with people from our 48 Hour Project and those who wished they could’ve joined. Quarter Minutes pierces through the multiverse to capture 15-second glimpses of strange and seemly normal oddities of multiple realities. We managed to make 10 stories this year and plan to more next year.

There were some videos I felt “meh” about, but on those, I still learned things. You learn best from doing.

My Top 17 Most Played Songs in 2016
These were my most played songs in 2016 according to Spotify. Keep in mind I will often put a song on repeat when writing or being creative for inspiration.

Top 17 Songs in 2016

As for 2017.

As usual, I’m not one for talking about future projects here until they’re close to being ready, especially when they’re in the early planning stages. I’ve been meeting with friends and professional colleagues to discuss plans for 2017. I have ideas for some new shows. For one of the shows, I think it would be neat to have a studio audience because there’s nothing like that in Oklahoma.

I will release a new book from the 16th Phoenix Universe of Stories! Maybe two. Maybe three.

I am writing scripts for a fictional mini-series.

I am researching subjects for possible feature-length documentaries.

New videos will continue with Uncovering Oklahoma. I am working on stepping up my game.

Anyway, that’s a sneak peek of what I have planned for 2017.

I have accomplished more this year than I have my whole life and I must give thanks to my wonderful and supportive wife, Leslie, who helped made everything possible! I’m excited for what will happen next year.

Downtown in December

Get to know many of the fun activities of Downtown in December in this week’s video. Riley Cole gives an overview of what people can do in Oklahoma City throughout the winter months. Eric Oesch shares Red Earth’s story about Treefest. Michael Baron talks about the Lyric Theatre’s holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Then Leslie Spears discusses the events at the Myriad Gardens, like the Devon Ice Rink and Saturday’s with Santa.

This week’s video features the holiday songs, “Mr. Nicholas” by The Wurly Birds and “Breaking the Ice” by Samantha Crain. Both songs are from the Fowler VW & Blackwatch Studios Christmas Album Series. The albums can be downloaded for free, with 100% of donations going to Norman Public Schools elementary music programs.

I’m super proud as to how well this video turned out! There are many aspects to Downtown in December and so next year I’ll work on highlighting the others, like the shopping events. The video did mention the shopping events, but I didn’t do any interviews with them because if I was going to have one, I would want them all and one, the Deluxe Winter Market, has already passed. I’ll be collecting more b-roll footage to use for next year.

Help support my Uncovering Oklahoma series by becoming a patron today.

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