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Downtown Tulsa Partnership and Curbside Haiku!

A a few weeks ago, I saw that Downtown Tulsa Partnership was accepting haiku submissions! This was for their “Curbside Haiku” project, which would place winning entries on signs throughout downtown. I enjoy writing poetry, but haven’t written much haiku. But it seemed like a neat thing to participate in, so I gave it a go. Earlier this week, I received notification that my haiku was one of ten winners! Which means my poem and name are now on display in downtown Tulsa. What an honour!

Image 9413Roppongi: The Inspiration

My haiku was inspired by the teddy bear kakigori bowl at Roppongi. Joss adores Roppongi ramen, and the kakigori is an extra-special summer treat. We’d recently eaten one on the sidewalk outside Roppongi, despite it being very hot. And the rest is poetic history!

The winning Curbside Haiku entries were placed around downtown last week, and I couldn’t wait to go find mine 🙂 It was on Main Street around 5th Street – conveniently around the corner from Roppongi. So of course we had to go celebrate afterwards! (In addition to ramen and kakigori, they also have boba, bánh mì and an extensive shaved ice menu.

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I think it was supposed to only have one stupid nose! Still tasty though, haha.

Winning Entries and Where to Find Them

Find a map of the winning entries displayed around downtown at downtowntulsa.com/about/programs-and-initiatives/curbside-haiku. They’re clustered together so you don’t have to go hunting them down for hours. Each haiku was supposed to communicate “Downtown’s vibrancy and inclusivity.” Magic City Books was a partner on this program and chose the winners. Local artist May Yang created the background for the signs. More on all this below!

Here are a few of the other winning entries:

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Read others, including other submissions at downtowntulsa.com/about/programs-and-initiatives/curbside-haiku.

Downtown Tulsa Partnership: Interview with Morgan Phillips

Morgan Phillips is Downtown Tulsa Partnership’s new Director of Marketing & Experience. She agreed to answer some questions about DTP, the Curbside Haiku project and the organization’s plans for the future.

What is your role with Downtown Tulsa Partnership? I know you started this position recently – what excites you about working with DTP?

Morgan: My role with Downtown Tulsa Partnership is as DTP’s Director of Marketing & Experience. It’s a position I’ve held for a whopping eight weeks! In that short time, I’ve learned so much about DTP’s work to keep Downtown Tulsa clean, safe and welcoming to all. The role is a perfect fit for my energy and passion for all things Tulsa — I get to focus on making the heart of the city, Downtown, an even better place to live, work and play through placemaking and community engagement initiatives.

What are some things you love most about Downtown Tulsa, and what are some aspects that you think could be improved upon?

Morgan: In general I love that Downtown is a place where Fortune 500 businesses intersect with small retailers and restaurants, entertainment and cultural offerings, sports and a growing residential neighborhood. My daughters are 9 and 5, and it’s so fun to experience Downtown with them in the evenings or on weekends, whether we’re going to ahha, Drillers games, First Friday activities or Downtown parades.

In the future, I’d love to see some investment to make Downtown more kid-friendly, specifically with creative play structures. While my kids have fun Downtown, as an organization we see more opportunities for open spaces where kids can be kids and even adults can find their inner kid doing things like climbing, spinning and free play.

How did the Curbside Haiku project come about? Why Haiku? What does DTP hope to accomplish through the Curbside Haiku project?

Morgan: Curbside Haiku is a based on an award-winning annual poetry contest by the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District in Washington, DC DTP President Brian Kurtz suggested trying a similar project here to celebrate our organization’s first year of operations. Haiku is short and sweet, and it seemed like a great medium to capture and share what people love about Downtown.

The goals of Curbside Haiku are twofold: to engage Downtown stakeholders around what makes this a great place to be, and to enhance the public’s experience Downtown through temporary public art. For as much as Downtown has grown and evolved over the last decade or two, there’s certainly a lot of work remaining, and this project seeks to add a little fun to the journey someone takes as they walk down the street.

Curbside Haiku May

A visitor to Downtown Tulsa scans the QR code on a Curbside Haiku art board in front of the Mayo Hotel. Photo courtesy Downtown Tulsa Partnership

How were the winners selected?

Morgan: DTP partnered with Magic City Books to judge entries and selected 10 overall winners for display on art boards throughout Downtown. We loved the remaining submissions so much that we also included them on our website.

What can you tell me about artist May Yang? Where else can you see her work around town? Do you know what the inspiration was behind the Curbside Haiku background she created?

Morgan: As a designer, print maker and small business owner, May is a creative force in Tulsa, and so wonderful to work with! In commissioning her de ella to develop the background of our Curbside Haiku art boards, we provided her with five words as inspiration: advancing, authentic, creative, emerging and vibrant. These words describe just some of the brand attributes Downtown stakeholders connected with as we developed a new brand for our organization and Downtown last fall. True to her style, May took a colorful, abstract approach that perfectly fit the project’s needs.

What are some aspects of Downtown highlighted by the winning haiku?

Morgan: We specifically asked poets to write about Downtown’s vibrancy and inclusivity. Beyond that, it was interesting to see work comment on Downtown’s role in filmmaking, the Center of the Universe, and even favorite Downtown restaurants and hangouts. The beauty of May’s visual art combined with the winning Haiku reflect the beauty of Downtown.

How long will visitors be able to view the Curbside Haiku downtown?

Morgan: Given the temporary nature of the project and the art boards, we expect they will remain in place for the next 30 to 45 days. We’ve already seen so much love for this project on social media, so it will live in the digital realm for much longer! We hope to make this a regular place enhancement activity for Downtown Tulsa.

I know you have been hosting lunchtime concerts on Tuesdays in July, in addition to Curbside Haiku. What are some other upcoming projects/events DTP is working on? Anything kid-focused/family-oriented?

Morgan: Yes, during July we have hosted a lunchtime music series at Bartlett Square, which is located at 5th and Main streets. Our last performance is from 11:30 am- 1 pm, on Tuesday, July 26, with Papillon Parisien Café Musique, a duo comprised of vocalist Rachael Stockenberger and guitarist Randy Wimer. This has been a pilot project for DTP as we celebrate our one-year anniversary this month, and we fully expect to have more outdoor events like this moving into the fall and next year in Bartlett Square and elsewhere.

Bartlett Square Concert

Country singer-songwriter Braden Jamison performs at Bartlett Square on July 19 as part of the “Celebrate Downtown” lunchtime music series, which continues July 26. Photo courtesy Downtown Tulsa Partnership

We just launched a new website, DowntownTulsa.com, that serves as a great guide for Downtown restaurants, bars, venues and services. In partnership with Root Tulsa, our homepage is a great place to find out what events are going on Downtown — in addition to our weekly newsletter.

Working with the City of Tulsa, we’re in the beginning phases of design work to reimagine and preserve the uniqueness of the Center of the Universe, which needs significant repairs and improvement. In the coming months, we will publicize opportunities for community engagement and planning to inform a design concept. This process will inform the types of improvements to be made and future programming and operational needs.

What’s going on with Chapman Green? They were hosting such fun, kid-friendly events for awhile! I know Covid disrupted that, but have been curious if someone will bring them back at some point…

Morgan: Before the pandemic and its merger with ahha, Mayfest was responsible for producing Chapman Green Arts events with private donor support, and we hope to work with partners to turn that into a really great public space. Chapman Green is grossly underutilized today and is one of a number of public spaces we are eyeballing for future programming, including family-friendly and holiday activities.

I saw someone wearing a DTP uniform cleaning up trash in the Tulsa Arts District. Is this something we will see more of? What is the Downtown Ambassadors program, and what are they doing “to provide beautification, maintenance and hospitality services”?

Morgan: You saw one of our awesome Downtown Ambassadors! Our team of 13 Ambassadors works seven days a week to keep Downtown clean, safe and welcoming. During our first year of operations, they picked up more than 300,000 pounds of trash from sidewalks, streets and alleyways. They also clean up graffiti tags, stickers and biohazards, and interact with Downtown businesses, motorists and pedestrians.

What are some ways in which you support and work with Downtown business owners?

Morgan: Support may look differently from one business to the next with both indirect and direct benefits. Our Ambassadors are interacting with individual businesses each shift and fulfill needs brought to our attention by the business community through requests for service.

Beyond our Ambassadors, one of our core efforts to help market Downtown as a destination for residents, workers and visitors is putting individual businesses in front of a wide audience of residents, workers and visitors. For the last few years we’ve been a neighborhood champion for American Express Small Business Saturday, providing marketing benefits for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday in November. At the onset of the pandemic, we partnered with Tulsa County Cares to allocate nearly $500,000 to Downtown small businesses to add or enhance outdoor operations. The parklets you see today are the fruits of that labor.

In your opinion, what are some of the “hidden gems” of downtown? What are some new businesses/venues you’re excited about?

Morgan: Since joining DTP, I have loved walking to new lunch spots like Sando’s Rockin’ Deli and Provisions at 522 S. Boston Ave. A fun mode of transportation I’ve long known about but finally tried — at Brian’s encouragement — is the This Machine e -bike share. When it gets cooler, you might not be able to get me off those bikes! I just visited the Bob Dylan Center for the first time and loved how they told the story of such a prolific artist. Like many people, I’m definitely excited about OKPOP opening next year.


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