Out of the Box in the Circle
They don’t fit in a square, box, or any other shape. Yet among the crowded Circle Cinema lobby on a Saturday afternoon in July, No Parking Studios is a part of it.
Deren Walker is an artist, slash designer, slash vintage icon guru. He has many traits.
Tyler James is an artist, designer, and overall creator here in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Hidden Display is a DJ with No Parking Studios, artist, and mental health professional outside of the collective.
Cruz, who goes by one name, is a clothing artist, a painting artist, or any kind of artist you could think of.
Owen Rendel is an artist, designer, and customizer.
Antonio Andrews, founder of No Parking Studios, is an artist, musician, and all-around creative person.
The whole crew is here. A lineup that has been years in the making, with membership extended at the right time.
"This thing came together organically. You know, we was kind of right up under each other's noses and didn't even know we was all into the same thing, you know what I mean,” Deren explains. “How this all came together, it was real. So I feel like we are the dopest collective in our city. So why not do it all together, you know?”
Tucked behind the brick divider as the line goes by, No Parking Studios is installing pieces on the wall for the night's main attraction.
Collective effort is part of what makes their collective’s efforts work so well.
“The respect we got for each other creatively, it's like iron sharpens iron,” Tyler tells ASLUT. “Working together, trying to help each other and build the brand that we envision for ourselves, it just makes sense.”
“What you do with them in Miami?" one of the members asks while neon tubes wait in an open box on the floor to be attached to the painted piece atop the table. The conversation is as light as the tubes because the art of installation is a medium they are becoming familiar with.
No Parking Studios isn’t unknown in Tulsa. And they are installing their mark across the country.
NOPS is featured in the documentary Oklahoma Underground, premiering later in the evening. Brea Mullen’s film follows Tulsa artists, including NOPS members, exhibiting in Miami for Miami Art Week 2022. Tulsa Creative Engine is sponsoring the “Miami in Tulsa” reception in the lobby that this install is a part of with other artists featured in the documentary.
In addition to Miami and all over The Town, art has brought NOPS members to Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Each show, exhibit, residency, and premier is another step toward what’s next.
“Honestly, I just feel like we just ain't got to where we actually can be at,” Antonio says. “All the stuff we've done up until this point, it's really been about preparation and getting us to reach higher stuff.”
Showing up for each other has become a crucial component of the ascent.
“I don't feel pressure, but I will say that there are expectations,” Hidden Display admits. “But with their support and them just pouring into me, I feel capable of meeting those expectations.”
Two women having a conversation about the piece at 4:49 p.m. can’t resist including the artists.
Atonio, without breaking from the task at hand, finishes the unplanned Q&A with a projection that the piece will be done in 20 minutes.
A neon light flashes every few minutes, signaling that another bar was successfully done. The reassuring bursts started before the 20-minute deadline.
The first piece is ready to go up at 5:10 p.m.
“Oh it’s up! Is the neon on? When I get out of my movie? Is there a price on this piece? Who is the artist?” The Q&A has resumed with a spectator. “I just want to touch you!”
Deren whispers the price into her ear as she leans in. Not every piece they create can be priced for Tulsa.
“I love you, honey, but I can’t,” she says. “That’s half my mortgage…for the year. I love it. I love it. I absolutely love it.”
Once she’s left the lobby, her reaction still lingers.
“You got to say that just in case you don’t know who you’re talking to,” Antonio says to the group he knows after the walk-by price check.
Pricing their work is another art they are becoming familiar with as a necessity in pursuit of their art.
“[It’s] kind of tricky,” Antonio tells ASLUT. “[With] Miami, you know you sell a piece and it's maybe my work is worth this, and then you go back home and I can't sell a hundred dollar painting easily. For me personally, it's just a weird feeling to sell pieces for thousands of dollars and then question whether or not your stuff is worth $100 at home.”
They practice a dance to the rhythms of creation and commerce.
“We gotta get creative sometimes when it comes to the pricing of it,” Tyler says. “But at some point, though, you don't want to cap yourself as an artist and limit yourself. We got a vision for ourselves as artists, and, just successful-wise, that stuff counts. But we gotta do it in a proper way for us.”
Sales are often invested right back into their next pieces because the vision isn’t limited to the Tulsa skyline or Tulsa checkbooks. Miami opened a window outside Green Country.
“We want to do bigger stuff than people are ready to receive,” Antonio tells ASLUT. “I just don’t know if the city is even ready for what we possibly can do. Those framed neon pieces are just the start. We have so many ideas, sculptural and big stuff to do. All that stuff is sitting in sketchbooks.”
“Ready to load this one?” The second piece is about to go up at 5:23 p.m.
“It never gets old.”
A chorus of NOPS members at 5:35 p.m. signals success.
As big as the smiles are at the moment, no one is satisfied.
“Today just ain't the day, man. That's how we trying to just look at it,” Deren tells ASLUT. “Like Tone said, the sketchbook is loaded up.”
“Even though it's not right now, the work doesn't stop,” Hidden Display adds.
The pieces are up. No Parking Studios made sure of it together.
The neon is bright. It won’t be their brightest work. More will come. No Parking Studios will make sure of it together.