Artists salvage dumped artwork, supplies outside of now closed ahha

TULSA, Okla. — On Sunday, Jan. 22, 2023, a social media post alerted artists to a dumpster filled to the brim with artist supplies, and artwork amidst some trash outside what had once been the ahha building in downtown Tulsa.

On Nov. 3, 2022, ahha announced that it would suddenly close its doors on Nov. 4.

RELATED: The ahha closure aftermath, the impact on local artists and the Tulsa community

Former employees and local artists told FOX23 that the decision last year was a shock and left the artist community devastated.

On Saturday afternoon several people showed up outside of ahha to dumpster dive for paintings, baskets, fabric, canvases, colored pencils, lanyards and ahha buttons. Financial paperwork and personal information were also spotted in the massive pile of items.

A set of 18 butterfly paintings were recovered from the dumpster by someone who hopes to return them to the original artist.

Former employees believe that the contents are only 10% of what was left inside the building.

With only a one-day notice, many artists, teachers, students and employees didn’t have time to retrieve their supplies and artwork. They are hoping that whoever is clearing out the building now will allow them to collect the rest of their items at some point.

“Nobody seems to be accountable for this behavior as they continue to cause distress in the artist community,” said Lauren Rainbow Lundsford, a former ahha art educator.

According to the Tulsa Assessor Property website, the City of Tulsa owns the building.

When FOX23 reached out to the City of Tulsa to ask who the new tenants or management company were, they responded with the following statement.

“The City owns the ground under the ahha building which ahha leases and ahha owns the building. We do not know of new ownership of the building at this time.

For answers on artwork contact ahha representatives.”

- The City of Tulsa

FOX23 spoke to Jason Cleary with ahha and said that the organization is, “dedicated to finding a solution,” and asks for the community’s patience.

“Since November, the board of ahha has worked to reunite dozens of pieces of art with artists and has preserved thousands of art supplies that will soon be donated to local teachers and organizations that will keep creativity alive in Tulsa. Our goal has been to pay back any unpaid debt, find a solution for the building and keep our programs (Any Given Child, Artists in the Schools, Mayfest) intact. We continue to work towards those goals and hope to have something to share publicly soon.”

-Jason Cleary with ahha

The local artists were able to collect an abundance of art supplies on Sunday. They are hoping to hold an art drive for local artists and art educators.