What Makes the Tulsa Performing Arts Center a Must-Visit Attraction?
Located along Cincinnati Avenue in the heart of downtown Tulsa, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center has been elevating the cultural standing of T-Town for more than four decades. If you are planning a visit to the first American city to have earned the title of “Oil Capital of the World,” then you must make it a point to tour the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, a venue where you can catch world-class musical performances, theater, ballet, cabaret shows, lectures, and art exhibitions.
The Tulsa Performing Arts Center (TPAC) is the bridge between the city’s downtown and arts districts; it is within easy walking distance from landmarks such as City Hall and Williams Green Park. Getting here is easy; the address is 110 E. 2nd Street, and the main ticketing office to access the various theaters is at the Grand Lobby on 3rd Street. If you are staying and parking at the Hyatt, the underground garage of the hotel connects with the PAC. You can still park at the Hyatt if you are not a guest; the fees are reasonable, and you can compare them with the fees charged by the parking garages on Cincinnati Avenue.
There are four main venues, a studio, and a pavilion for a total of six TPAC spaces. The largest and most memorable venue is the Chapman Music Hall, a grand auditorium boasting a 2,368-seat capacity to host everything from Broadway musicals and operas to symphony concerts and dance performances. Designed in a mid-century Continental style, the Chapman Music Hall was inaugurated in 1977 with a captivating performance by the legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Chapman is the home of the world-class Tulsa Ballet and Philharmonic. It’s also just a few blocks away from a musical center for another famous singer.
The John H. Williams Theatre is a smaller venue decorated in the same style as the Chapman Music Hall; it is intended to provide a more intimate musical and artistic experience. Whereas Chapman hosts major works such as The Phantom of the Opera, the Williams Theatre may host a classical pianist, a jazz combo, or a slam poetry performance.
At the Liddy Doenges Theatre, formerly known as Studio I, up to 300 people can enjoy plays and performance art in a venue that follows the “black-box” dynamic of being able to adjust the stage and seats to accommodate just about any dramatic work. There’s also the old Studio II, a smaller venue that is now known as the Charles E. Norman Theater, where you can find cabaret-style shows and workshops.
While the Robert J. LaFortune Studio is more commonly used for lectures and workshops, general-interest plays, performances, and even culinary receptions are sometimes held at this cozy space where attendees can sit at tables. Finally, the Kathleen P. Westby Pavilion is a large reception hall that can be rented for cultural and social events, but you may find performances scheduled here when you visit.
The TPAC Art Collection and Architecture
When you visit TPAC, one of the first things that will surely catch your eye is the architectural style designed by Minoru Yamasaki, the chief architect of the former World Trade Center Towers of New York City. This beautiful Art Deco structure looks striking from the outside and dazzling from the inside; it is adorned by more than 70 art pieces that run from the lobby across the paths that connect the performance venues. These pieces are part of TPAC’s permanent art collection, and many of them are from renowned Oklahoma artists such as Wilson Hurley. The collection also features Native American art and pieces that have been acquired from international artists.
You could spend more than a day evaluating every piece in the TPAC art collection; plus, temporary exhibits are often installed in the lobbies of the performance halls or at the Robert J. LaFortune Studio. If you want to see TPAC completely covered in art for an entire day, be sure to visit during the free Orbit Arts Festival, an annual event that showcases local artists.
Some TPAC visitors enjoy coming here to appreciate the art collection, architecture, and overall coziness provided by the green spaces and snack bars; however, most of them end up enjoying a performance, and this is where TPAC truly shines. If you take a glance at the February 2024 schedule, for example, you’ll see country and Americana music star Rosanne Cash scheduled alongside the Tulsa Symphony, Joyce Carol Oates, My Fair Lady, the Danish String Trio, Herbie Hancock, and comedian Brad Williams.