Oklahoma City’s 1st ‘Artist in Residence’ settles in to new studio, windowless office in basement

OKLAHOMA CITY - The business of running a big city, even on a beautiful spring day, inevitably runs to minutia, to council chambers, to dry language of ordinances and to gray, echo-filled hallways.

Then, people run into a small office in the basement of the city's Municipal Building, where Erica Bonavida is settling in as the city's very first 'Artist in Residence.'

"It's been busy," Bonavida said. "There's a lot of traffic through here. People are stopping in, but they've all got their own agendas for the day."

The selection process was pure government work, two months of paperwork and committee interviews, but she passed.

"It's a lot of responsibility being the very first Artist in Residence so I, honestly, almost didn't apply because I was kind of scared," Bonavida said.

We found Bonavida at work on a portrait of a police flag, black and white, except for a thin, blue line.

"It's actually a commissioned piece for an Oklahoma City police officer," she said.

Bonavida's office lacks the kind of northern exposure she might wish for. Building maintenance also warned her about making a mess.

"If I were to spill anything, it would be bad," she said. "But, I can't help but think what if you get a messy artist in here... And, fortunately, and, maybe, that's why they picked me; I'm not a messy artist."

But, Bonavida likes the little spot as she settles in for a year as the city's arts ambassador.

There are work friends to get to know and new textures to explore as a still life painter.

"I've been thinking what goes on in this area and what are people doing," she said.

Bonavida used to paint at home in sweat pants. Now, she wears business casual, but the work is the same and she has a new audience walking past all the time.

"It's been interesting to be in a completely different setting," she said.

Bonavida's work will hang in the halls of the building for a whole year too, just as long as she doesn't scuff up the paint with nails in the walls.

"If they have stipulations, it's totally fine with me," she said.

To see more of Bonavida's work, click here.

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