Places and Faces

Places and Faces


Critical acclaim often comes to Oklahoma artists. In Tulsa, Claremore native P.S. Gordon garnered national attention for his watercolors but now works almost exclusively in oil. Hyper-realist Otto Duecker paints surreal compositions with classical techniques; he often incorporates photographic images into his works. An inaugural studio artist at Hardesty Arts Center, Claremore resident John Hammer produces works labeled as pop impressionism.

In OKC, former Oklahoma State University basketball star Desmond Mason has works lauded as abstract expressionism. Landscapes, interiors and landmarks are favorite subjects of Greg Burns, who paints by holding a brush with his teeth due to his arthrogryposis. Arcadia resident Stephanie Brudzinski has said her passion is nature and that her “creations convey words of hope.”

Charity Event

Oklahomans are annually among the most charitable Americans. In Tulsa, they generously support events such as the Painted Pony Ball, which benefits the Children’s Hospital Foundation at Saint Francis and offers up cocktails, dinner, dancing and a live auction. Carnivale, benefiting Mental Health Association Oklahoma, raises money to provide safe and affordable housing and access to mental health resources to low-income Oklahomans. Another popular charity event is Icons and Idols, which benefits the Tulsa Ballet and its many community programs.

Not to be outdone, Oklahoma Citians give hundreds of thousands of dollars to galas like the Boots and Ball Gowns, benefiting Infant Crisis Services. The Renaissance Ball, benefiting Oklahoma City Museum of Art, offers up a night of beautiful art, cocktails and dancing. The Gumdrops and Lollipops Ball, benefiting The Anna’s House Foundation, is another top choice for charity events in OKC.

William Lyle – The Summit Club, Best Chef (Tulsa). Photo by Josh New


The state draws (and retains) chefs with experiences coast to coast. In Tulsa, William Lyle of The Summit Club promotes healthy eating and farm-to-table cuisine. James Shrader of Palace Cafe utilizes produce from the Cherry Street farmers market, but also prepares dishes with some Northern California influences. Tim Richards of Doc’s Wine and Food is a 30-year veteran of the Tulsa restaurant scene.

In OKC, Kurt Fleischfresser of Vast has twice attended the prestigious James Beard House in New York as part of a regional chefs program. Jonathon Stranger of En Croute takes the comforting food and atmosphere of European eateries and gives them an Oklahoma twist. Jason Campbell of Mary Eddy’s Kitchen x Lounge uses a rotisserie, smoker or wood-burning hearth to showcase beef from the OKC stockyards.


The chief executive officer sets the tone and direction for an organization. In Tulsa, Jake Henry Jr. of the Saint Francis Health System preaches strategic planning, especially when it comes to expansion. Terry Spencer of ONEOK, Inc., has led the company to notable profits throughout 2017 and part of 2018. Paula Marshall of The Bama Companies has expanded the group’s reach throughout the food-service industry. Phil Albert of Pelco Structural has pushed the Claremore company’s client base all the way to American Samoa.

Robert A. Funk, the CEO of Express Employment Professionals from 1983 until April 2018, is also a reader favorite. Bill Cameron of American Fidelity Assurance Co. follows the paths set by his grandfather and father, who began the firm together in 1960, and David Green of Hobby Lobby began the precursor of the business empire by making picture frames out of his home.

Company to Work For

A good employer recognizes and rewards valuable workers. Cherokee Nation Businesses, based in Catoosa, is the economic engine for the largest tribe in the United States. Tulsa’s ONEOK, Inc., has 38,000 miles of integrated pipelines for natural gas and natural gas liquids. Williams Companies is one of the leading energy infrastructure firms in the country. Manhattan Construction Company has some high-profile buildings to its credit, including the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Saint Francis Health System, with more than 9,500 workers and 1,000 physicians, is the largest private employer in Tulsa County.

The Chickasaw Nation, based in Ada, is diverse in its multifold businesses throughout 13 Oklahoma counties. In OKC, Cox Communications emphasizes diversity and inclusion. American Fidelity Assurance Co. has more than a million customers using its specialized insurance products.

Hanson, Best Local Band (Tulsa).
Photo courtesy Hanson

Local Band

Live music thrives in Oklahoma, home to many top-shelf performers. Hanson – Tulsa brothers Zac, Taylor and Isaac – are in the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. The Fabulous Mid Life Crisis Band covers many classic rock songs at venues in and around Tulsa. Branjae Music, the brand name of Broken Arrow High alumna Branjae Jackson, performed at this year’s South by Southwest music festival.

In OKC, The Flaming Lips have rocked out since 1983. In its 20th year of performing, Superfreak has played many venues … from backyards to large arenas. Kyle Dillingham and Horseshoe Road, specialists in bluegrass and western swing, perform original and cover tunes.

Golden Driller, Best Local Icon/Landmark (Tulsa)
Photo courtesy Expo Square

Local Icon/Landmark

Tourists and locals flock every year to visit notable places in Oklahoma. In Tulsa, the Golden Driller, at 75 feet, is the sixth-tallest statue in the country. The Center of the Universe, on the old Boston Avenue viaduct in Tulsa, produces an echo that only the speaker, not those nearby, can hear. The Blue Whale of Catoosa has provided the photographic backdrop for millions of Route 66 fans.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is somber in its history and architecture, but uplifting in its message of hope and perseverance. The Devon Energy Center offers a quarter-mile walk around and a free elevator ride to the top of the 50-story building. Atop the 100-foot-tall Wheeler Ferris Wheel is a majestic view of downtown OKC.

Local Park

Public green spaces are the mark of great cities. In Tulsa, Gathering Place highlights earthly beauty along the Arkansas River within an urban setting and is set to open Sept. 8. Guthrie Green in the Tulsa Arts District is a notable performance venue … and great place to lunch, have a movie night or try a workout class. Since 1929, Woodward Park has offered solace in nature with thousands of flowers and trees.

In OKC, Myriad Botanical Gardens is a downtown masterpiece featuring the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. Kite Park in Nichols Hills is the venue for many community events throughout the year. Mitch Park in Edmond has 5 miles of paved trails, a disc golf course, an amphitheater, two playgrounds and an athletics complex.

Local Radio Personality

Familiar voices on the car radio can help you survive rush-hour traffic or the workday. In Tulsa, Jeremie Poplin of 1430 KTBZ is an afternoon sports host with plenty of know-how to keep the day interesting. Chubbs and Tara of 106.9 K-HITS serve up a morning mix every weekday. Morning drive host Sunny Leigh of 98.5 KVOO writes on her Facebook page, “I put the ‘broad’ in broadcasting.”

In OKC, Joey and Heather of 98.9 KYIS-FM have hosted their morning program since 2001. Jack and Ron of The Jack and Ron Show Podcast, formerly of 96.9 KQOB-FM, have been together as an OKC duo for more than 23 years. Jeff Roberts of 104.1 KMGL grew up in Bethany and is consumed by all things football.

Local TV Personality

Many people get attached to their favorite television anchors, who bring the good and bad news of the day to you. Scott Thompson of KJRH Channel 2 returned to Tulsa TV last year after 28 years at KOTV. Karen Larsen, also of KJRH, anchors and helps to write the station’s 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts. Lifelong Tulsan LeAnne Taylor of KOTV Channel 6 hosts the station’s morning show.

In OKC, Kelly Ogle of KWTV Channel 9 is known for his “My 2 Cents” opinion pieces on the station’s 10 p.m. newscast. Paul Folger of KOCO Channel 5 is the evening anchor; he also has a website called Paul’s Plate with some of his favorite recipes. Emily Sutton of KFOR Channel 4 has been a general assignment reporter and has sung the national anthem at OKC Thunder games.


Meteorologists often propel much of a station’s live content with coverage of storms. In Tulsa, Travis Meyer of KOTV Channel 6 has more than 30 years of experience and is a trusted source of weather-related news in Tulsa. Lacey Swope, also of Channel 6, is from Kiefer and loves hunting and fishing, along with storm-chasing. Tulsa-born-and-raised Mike Collier of KJRH Channel 2 is heavily involved in the community and social media.

In OKC, Emily Sutton of KFOR Channel 4 began tracking storms while she was a student at the University of Missouri. Tulsa native Mike Morgan, also of KFOR, joined the station in 1993; at age 13, he had an internship with the National Weather Service. David Payne of KWTV Channel 9 has deep roots in the state (as his ancestors participated in the 1889 Land Run) and hosts his Wild Weather Camp for kids.

Performing Arts Organization

Professional entertainment doesn’t just happen on its own; putting on a show requires the work of many. Celebrity Attractions brings Broadway touring performances, including Hamilton in the 2018-2019 lineup, to Tulsa and five other cities. Tulsa Ballet, formed in 1958, is one of the top companies in the nation with 29 dancers from 14 countries. Since 1948, Tulsa Opera has been a staple of the city’s fine arts fabric, often by serving as the venue for premieres in the state. Opening in 1977, the Tulsa Performing Arts Center is a versatile space, with a 2,365-seat main hall and three smaller theaters, along with a studio and an art gallery.

In OKC, Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma, founded in 1963, produces classic and contemporary plays and musicals in its two venues. The Oklahoma City Philharmonic is led by longtime conductor Joel Levine, whose farewell concert is expected to be this fall. The Oklahoma City Civic Center Music Hall, with its distinct Public Works Administration architecture, has more than a million visitors each year for its fine-arts performances.

Claremore, Best Small Town (Tulsa)
Photo courtesy Visit Claremore

Small Town

In the small cities and towns across Oklahoma, everyone seems to know each other. Claremore mixes the modern and the traditional with Will Rogers Boulevard serving as a main drag connecting the colorful, vibrant community. Bixby is one of the fastest growing places in the state, but its old-time atmosphere is readily apparent downtown. Jenks, centered by its quaint Main Street, is home to a booming, successful school district.

Oklahoma’s territorial and original state capital, Guthrie thrives by combining Victorian-era charm, Western heritage and entertainment options. Yukon thrived in the past because of its granaries, but today has many residents who commute to and from OKC because of its quality of life. In addition to being the home of Oklahoma State University, Stillwater has a thriving downtown and is a hub for Red Dirt music.