The 2016 Lyon Gallery Artist: Tulsa Girls Art School

Alesia Valenzuela, 11 years old, works on an acrylic painting of a moon.
Alesia Valenzuela, 11 years old, works on an acrylic painting of a moon.

Tulsa Girls Art School:  Improving Community & Lives through Art

Tulsa Girls Art School (TGAS), a grassroots, non-profit art studio, founded in 2007 by Matt Moffett who, along with Mona Pittenger, envisioned an after school visual arts program for underserved elementary, middle and high school girls attending inner-city schools in the Tulsa community.

According to their website, the official mission statement of TGAS is “To empower underserved girls through visual arts education in a supportive environment, teaching financial management and life skills.” Their goal is accomplished by providing “specialized art training to talented and motivated elementary school-aged girls living in the inner city of Tulsa. TGAS is different from other local charitable organizations providing professional level art instruction by local art teachers and artists.  We provide a small class environment to give students plenty of individual instruction and encouragement. TGAS focuses on increasing student understanding and appreciation of art and the life of an artist. We encourage children to see themselves as artists and life-long participants in the arts and museums. TGAS is a federally approved 501(c)3.”

Since that time, numerous girls have been supported in the arts with the proceeds and sale of their art.  The girls sell their artwork at evening art openings and receive 30% from each painting they sell in a micro-savings account for them to use on personal art supplies or to save for college. The girls don’t just learn how to create art — they gain the skills necessary to represent themselves while interacting with the public and potential buyers.  In other words, they learn how to create a life in the arts.

Nyla Lovell, 14 years old, paints a jar of flowers for the Spring Art Show, Spectrum.
Nyla Lovell, 14 years old, paints a jar of flowers for the Spring Art Show, Spectrum.

TGAS hopes to provide opportunities to students who  may not have previously been able to develop their artistic skills into a career or education without TGAS’ assistance. Each year, the studio selects new Tulsa elementary schools to work with.  Kendra Blevins, TGAS’ marketing coordinator says, “We work with principals from underserved Tulsa Public Elementary schools . . . to identify students who would benefit from the program. The first 12 students who return their application to their principal are accepted into the program. It’s a bit like a lottery system, since we only have the space to accept 12 students at a time. We hope to expand our building in the future so that we can serve more students.” The community has welcomed and encouraged the school with social media reviews raving about the school with comments such as, “So inspiring” and “What a wonderful Tulsa treasure…I was blown away by the amazing art!”

They also have the opportunity to connect with the community they live in, for example, helping to paint a downtown mural in the Greenwood District — one of four new murals planned near OSU-Tulsa.  Under Moffett’s guidance, they are also afforded opportunities such as appearing on Good Day Tulsa and other media outlets to represent their works and discuss publicly how art — and the school — has positively affected their lives.

Recently, Moffett, artist Debbie French, three senior students and one junior student traveled to New York City to visit local artists in Brooklyn and tour the Guggenheim and other local museums.  Visitors from New York have also taught at the studio, most recently, Mad Luellen and Emma McMillan visiting to show students how to work in metal and use special grounds to create texture in painting.

Karen Mazariegos, 13 years old, is using oil paint to create a gray owl with striking eyes.
Karen Mazariegos, 13 years old, is using oil paint to create a gray owl with striking eyes.

The school holds an annual fundraiser in Tulsa entitled Through a Child’s Eye Gala.  In 2014 the gala, subtitled, “Beauty Beyond Borders” hosted honorary chair and guest, model and actress Amber Valletta, as well as internationally known artist Patrick Gordon. Blevins explains, “Beauty Beyond Borders was in 2014. Inspiring Individuality, The Addams Family was in 2015. The past two years we have partnered with Ihloff Salon & Day Spa. TGAS students and Ihloff stylists worked together to create a special look for the models to wear during the fashion show at the gala. Last year we used the gothic style of the Addams Family to create unique looks for the gala including ghostly portraits and a life sized cemetery. This year the gala is called The Table Scape Gala, Art History 101. We are partnering with Ihloff Salon & Spa again to create artist inspired looks for the fashion show. We are also working with local artists to create a unique art history inspired dining set with chargers and a center piece for the table. The Table Scape Gala is Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Sponsorships will be available soon. Please visit for the latest information.”  Tickets often sell out to the popular event.

Donations and volunteers are always welcomed and appreciated. Be sure to stop by the TGAS show at the Lyon Gallery throughout festival week and make a purchase to help TGAS continue to provide such opportunities in our community.  Together, we can make a positive impact and nurture another generation of artists.

Tulsa Girls Art School
2202 E. Admiral Blvd.
Tulsa, OK 74110
(918) 949-9638
Member of Arts Alliance Tulsa


Founder:  Matt Moffett
Director of Development: Sue Woodward
Marketing & Developing Coordinator:  Kendra Blevins
Artist Assistant: Kelsey Kriss
Administrative Assistant: Kat Holsten
Building Manager:  Brian Murphree
Second Art Instructor:  Marjorie Atwood


OK Mozart’s Lyon Gallery Reception at the Bartlesville Community Center
Sunday, June 12 • 5 – 7 p.m.
Join us and meet some representatives from the Tulsa Girls Art School while viewing the art.
Light hors d’oeuvres served.