Poole Travel Award Makes Trips Across North America Possible for Two Oklahoma Artists

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Oklahoma artists Mayumi Kiefer and Solomon Mahlatini will have their travels to Utah and Mexico City, respectively, to further their artistic practices funded in part through the Norman Arts Council-administered O. Gail Poole Memorial Travel Fund. 

The award began in 2014 as a means to honor the late Norman painter O. Gail Poole, a longtime proponent of seeing the world to inform your art and career therein. Since 2014, Oklahoma artists Marwin Begaye, Douglas Shaw Elder, Sarah Engel-Barnett, Skip Hill, Debby Kaspari, Liz Roth, Craig Swan and Holly Wilson have been able to travel to conferences, retreats and journeys of inspiration across the world because of awards from the fund, spreading Oklahoma’s creativity to others in the process.

 Ceramic pieces of Kiefer made with the Ittekoi Kiln

Ceramic pieces of Kiefer made with the Ittekoi Kiln

Mayumi Kiefer is a Norman-based ceramic artist who has exhibited and had residencies in Japan, France, Ohio, Utah, Oklahoma and more. With the Japanese designer’s approval, Kiefer built the first Ittekoi kiln outside of Japan at the University of Oklahoma and will use the award to travel to Price, Utah to construct another kiln at Utah State University Eastern, aimed to help build community, advance ceramics studies and jumpstart at stagnant economy in the eastern portion of the state. 

The Ittekoi Kiln is a modern kiln at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park located in Shiga, Japan, and one of six such ancient kilns of Japan. Kiefer previously held a residency at Shigaraki, which is how she came to build one at the University of Oklahoma. 

The constructed kiln will be utilized in programming offered by The Arts Center in Utah, which includes significant outreach to local public schools in the region where government spending on the arts is near zero. 

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Mahlatini is a talented artist who has shown in exhibitions in in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, New York, California, Oklahoma and Washington D.C.. Born in Harare, Zimbabwe and now studying at East Central University in Ada, Mahlatini will use his travel award to visit Mexico City, home to the Frida Kahlo Museum (memorializing one of his biggest artistic inspirations) and a number of other world-class museums and galleries. 

Sexuality, race and tyranny are the themes most often explored his Mahlatini’s work, though visually expressed through the cultural traits and practices that he absorbed from his time growing up in Zimbabwe. He sees similar cultural traits in the artistic history of the Chickasaw Nation — headquartered in his college town — as well as in Mexican culture. In addition to a dose of inspiration, Mahlatini aims to explore the universalities and parallels of all three respective cultures and how that translation towards artistic expression. 

The O. Gail Poole Memorial Travel Fund will open up with applications for more artists to apply for a travel award in Spring 2019.