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Mr. Narciso Argüelles’ life is rooted in education and service. He moved to Oklahoma almost 15 years ago as part of a mission program for his church. His time here has been a busy one, balancing community work, teaching art, and an art career. First let me speak to his community work. Probably his most import achievements are his most recent ones. The development of the first sustainable Latino cultural center in the state of Oklahoma has been a goal for Argüelles since he moved here. For about a year, Argüelles has been working with other local Latino leaders in Oklahoma City on this goal. A plan for a permanent structure and home could be realized within a year or two. Until the permanent structure is finalized, it was Argüelles’ idea to team up with Oklahoma Contemporary Art Center to develop programing and to house the Oklahoma Latino Cultural Center. This relationship and partnership should be announced by the end of 2017 with the first programming to take place around February 2018. This is a huge deal for the Latino community of the state of Oklahoma and will have a lasting impact of the arts and cultural landscape of Oklahoma.
The other major accomplishment that will impact the art and cultural landscape of Oklahoma is the new digital gallery of Oklahoma. Mr. Argüelles has teamed up with the Lamar billboard company to display art on their digital billboards on a semi-monthly basis in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Argüelles will serve as their art curator for their digital billboards. If this is not enough, he also approached the Oklahoma Newspaper to include their digital screen in Oklahoma City to this digital gallery and they have agreed to team up with Argüelles and Lamar. This will launch by the end of 2017 as well. This new digital gallery has the potential of elevating the state of Oklahoma into a higher level nationally as an art force.
These two accomplishments are the culmination of years of planning, relationship building, and hard work. Argüelles’ community involvement includes championing people of color. This includes serving as the Executive Director of the non-profit group Inclusion in Art since January 2017. Inclusion in Art had fallen in hard times in 2016 and Argüelles has essentially saved the organization by providing stability in leadership, a clear vision, and streamlined programming. Inclusion in Art’s mission is to advance racial and cultural diversity in Oklahoma’s visual arts community. All someone has to do is go to any art event in Oklahoma to see the need for cultural diversity. Inclusion in Art puts on exhibits at @1219 Creative Gallery, near the Plaza District for artists of color; they started a mentor program teaming established artists with emerging arts with the goal of teaching them the ins and outs of putting on a successful exhibition. Argüelles has also developed new partnerships with other groups with shared goals. One of these partners include the University of Central Oklahoma, which starts with a huge exhibit in December of 2017. This exhibit is designed to be the premiere art exhibit for artists of color in the state of Oklahoma; a sort of art event like the “Made in California” exhibits. Argüelles takes no salary for his work at Inclusion in Art, and prefers to donate his time. He supports other non-profits as well. He has donated his time to the Oklahoma City Arts Council, Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, and Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition just to name a few.
Argüelles teaching experience is vast. In Oklahoma, he started his teaching at the University of Central Oklahoma. His impact was immediately felt with organizing student exhibits around town. He established a relationship with Individual Artists of Oklahoma Gallery and UCO students were soon exhibiting every semester. His adjunct teaching included Oklahoma Christian University, Platt College, South Western Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma City Community College. His curated student exhibits have been featured in newspapers, and television programs. With Mr. Arguelles’ guiding hand,
these young artists have graduated and matured into some of the more accomplished artists in Oklahoma.
For the last six years, Arguelles has worked full time at the high school level, and teaching at night at OCCC, Oklahoma School of Science and Math (OSSM), and Rose State. Argüelles has led his students to great successes, including awards and exhibits. One rare thing to mention is that Mr. Arguelles is not only an AP Studio Art teacher but he is also one the graders of the exam working for ETS and the College Board. Just to show you how rare it is for a grader to also teach an AP Studio art class in high school, let us consider the numbers. There are only about 140 AP Studio Art graders in the whole country. This includes both high school teachers and college professors; so not all 140 are high school teachers. In the state of Oklahoma there are only two or three AP graders and Narciso is one of them. It is an enormous honor to be selected as an AP Studio art grader and he has been doing it for ten years. His students certainly benefit from him experience.
His accomplishments as a practicing artist are numerous. His goal it to educate and promote Latino, Mexican, Chicano and Indigenous art and culture. His most recent art achievement is being selected at one of OVAC’s Art 365 winners. This is one of the top honors in the state. This year long program, hence the name, culminated in an exhibit at Mainsite Contemporary and will travel to Tulsa at the Hardesty Arts Center AHHA. For this exhibit Mr. Argüelles produced and directed a conceptual art film. You may have read about his film in the Oklahoman Sunday Newspaper recently. One of the unique aspects of the film is that it includes Wanbli Tallchief dancing with Oklahoma City Ballet members in the still unfinished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum. This is the first art produced inside that museum, which is an amazing historical detail. The Museum is scheduled to be finished in 2021. If Wanbli’s name sounds familiar it is because she is related to the famous Tallchief ballerinas. This short film will have a life after the Tulsa opening in October 2017. It will be in several film festivals. The film’s message is about inclusion, which is a big theme in Narciso’s art work. His honors include the 2016 Hispanic Artist of the Year. He was also the first artist in residence for the OVAC’s Concept/OK exhibit. His work has been featured in magazines and on TV many times. He is THE prominent Chicano artist in Oklahoma. His impact is felt in the arts community, the Latino community, and in arts education.