Along the west side of the Skirvin Hilton Hotel in downtown Oklahoma City, you will find a spacious room naturally lit by six large windows below striped awnings, inviting the peering eyes of the public.
Inside sits a table with a black tablecloth underneath colorful, handmade journals. Hanging from the edge of the table is a poster board sign reading “Free Poems.”
It is flanked on its right by another sign that says “Poetry Stand.” Both are written in colored markers.
On the wall behind the table are marbled wood panels, each scrawled with poetry. There is an innocence to the setup, much like a child’s lemonade stand or something you might find at an elementary school festival. It is here where Kerri Shadid, the hotel’s newest artist-in-residence, will create work with help from the hotel patrons and community.
Shadid, a 30-year-old poet and freelance writer, uses a blend of unusual syntax, interactivity and spontaneity in her art. It all began with the simple idea of a poetry stand.
“A lot of my work is about surprising the viewer,” Shadid said. “I ask someone if they would like a free poem. They give me a word, and I write the a poem in three minutes.”
The poetry is often based in word play and absurdism, an idea that the tendency of humans to find meaning in life will ultimately fail due to the vast information and realm we will never know. Shadid’s take is to enjoy life rather than look for answers that are impossible to know.
She has taken the stand to events such as the Oklahoma City Storytelling Festival, Live on the Plaza and the Paseo’s First Friday gallery walk. It was extremely popular. She was encouraged by another artist to apply for the residency at the Skirvin.
The program, which began in 2012, is the result of a partnership between the Skirvin and the Paseo Arts Association. Both parties take part in choosing the resident artist. Brett Sundstrom, general manager of the Skirvin, believes the residency not only elevates patrons’ experience but also helps the city’s arts community.
“This program is very important to the Skirvin. We are proud to be supporting local artists,” Sundstrom said. “Also, it’s not very often you can come to a hotel and visit with an artist. It provides some soul to the hotel.”
Shadid is the third artist-in-residence at the Skirvin. The first was Romy Owens, an Oklahoma City-based multimedia artist. During her tenure, she created abstract mosaics by hand-stitching photographs together. Arsenios Corbishley, a local musician and luthier who spent his residency building stringed instruments, followed Owens.
Owens, who is friends with Shadid, was the artist who encouraged her to apply.
“I think Kerri is talented and very personable,” Owens said. “Her poetry stand has been a huge hit at public events, and she’s making visual art that compliments it well. The Skirvin and downtown community will love Kerri.”
The visual aspect of Shadid’s art will be a large part of the Passing Through project she will create during her tenure. The work will be composed of books, marbleized wood panels and collages resulting from the poems she writes for patrons who “pass through” her studio.
Shadid is eager to begin the project and her stay at the studio.
“I’m thrilled. You don’t know what can happen,” she said. “Things I can’t even foresee. I’m excited.”
By Kerri Shadid
For the Paseo Arts Awards Dinner
Nov. 12, 2014
On the map they trace their way from New York to LA—
They may miss that we are more
Cultural fly-over state.
But those of us who make our art
In this red-dirt land
Know that culture is fertile here,
Grows like wheat from our skilled hands.
In this state those who
Create never are left in the cold,
We support each other here,
Weave a blanket to help us be bold
In our decision to embrace a role
Filled with scary uncertainty,
But one we know is necessary
To keep society thinking free.
Thank you for overseeing the arts
Organizations—Our greatest assets—
That make possible life as an artist here
With less financial and emotional distress.
Thank you for bringing in films that help us
Question the human condition,
And open the door for conversation
And teach us how to truly listen.
Thank you for giving us ballet and dance
That lifts spirits in a presage for the heart,
Each of your gifts add bright new strands
To our cultural blanket of art—
That grows and changes every year as
New threats connect each innovative part.
And thank you Paseo for making a home
For decades past and decades to come
For all of us who would rather create
Than live a life accepting the humdrum.
Working together we keep on building
A more vibrant, imaginative city,
Those fly-by planes can’t stand not to land
With the force of our creativity.
Print headline: Poetic residence, Skirvin Hilton Hotel provides a place for a poet and artist to find peace and produce work.