Our Artist in Residence

Erica Bonavida

As the City of Oklahoma City’s first artist-in-residence, Erica Bonavida is bringing art directly to the community through outreach programs and by working out of a studio in City Hall. For most of her childhood, however, the Edmond resident was adamantly against art as a career. This stemmed partly from a need for perfection and a feeling that she didn’t have a talent for it. Then everything changed after she took a painting class in high school.

“I got to play around with oil paints and really get a feel for the brush and what I could do with it,” Bonavida said. This ignited a passion for art that led Bonavida to the University of Central Oklahoma, where she graduated with degrees in painting and French. After college, she launched a professional career as an artist, exhibiting her work at venues like Science Museum Oklahoma.

In February, the City of Oklahoma City named her its first Artist in Residence and through the end of the year, she will work out of her studio at City Hall for at least 12 hours a week. She’ll also organize three public outreach events, and hopes to do one of those in conjunction with a downtown-area elementary school.

“The thing I’m most looking forward to is getting to interact with people in a way that I haven’t before,” Bonavida said. “As artists, we’re kind of stuck in our studios and doing our own thing.”

Bonavida describes herself as a realist painter. Her primary subject is fabrics, ranging from ballet shoes to bedding. She discovered the subject as a passion during one of her painting classes at UCO, where her assignment was to paint a still life of something she was obsessed with.

“Eventually I figured out I was really obsessed with fabric because of all of the textures and the colors, and the fact that it was kind of a puzzle to solve, to figure out how you could paint it,” she said.

Bonavida was considered for the Artist in Residence program because she belonged to the city’s pre-qualified pool of artists, with whom she competed for the opportunity. Though the selection process was somewhat intimidating, it was also an opportunity to be part of something groundbreaking.

“It was exciting and fun to be a pioneer for something that hasn’t been done in Oklahoma City before,” she said. The city hopes to make the program permanent, based on how successful it is during the first couple of years. Bonavida sees interest in art growing all around the metro area, citing the popularity of events like monthly art walks and an increasing number of thriving arts districts. “It’s definitely showing that the arts are increasing in importance to us, and it’s bringing a lot more diversity into the community,” Bonavida said.

Bonavida believes this growing interest in public art makes the metro area more interesting but also prompts people to explore things they aren’t familiar with or don’t understand. “It brings out a side that we kind of push away, where we focus on the things that have to get done: the daily grind, and money and bills and things like that,” Bonavida said. “This provides an element of beauty and gives you a moment to pause and think about something a little bit different.”

To learn more about Bonavida’s work, visit www.ericabonavida.com.

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