- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - Few career moves demonstrate a circular destiny like the path of Lee Anne Zeigler.

Pondering how to protect the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture’s aging archives introduced Zeigler to the process of book binding. Delving into those preservation steps invigorated her long-held passion for weaving, embroidery and other fiber arts, things she’d studied three decades before in Tulsa’s Johnson Atelier arts education programs.

“It’s just something in my DNA,” Zeigler, 55, told The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/QPnvMa). “I just have loved it since I was a child. My grandmother did a lot of handmade work and I’ve always appreciated it. I’ve always loved fine needlework.”

That enthusiasm helped lead Zeigler into a full-circle career change. After administering the foundation for a dozen years, in December 2012 the landscape architect and horticulture specialist took over the executive director’s chair at the nonprofit WaterWorks Art Center - Tulsa’s arts education successor to the old Johnson Atelier program.

The fact that WaterWorks operates in the city’s original water treatment plant made the job even more appealing to her architecturally honed love of sustainability.

“I needed the next challenge,” Zeigler said of her move. “I had come to the WaterWorks grand reopening in March of 2012 and I thought, ‘This is so exciting, what they’ve done with this building and the programming ideas they have and the future of this place.’ I started thinking about the possibilities and I felt that I had probably done as much as I could do at the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture.”

Heading WaterWorks allows Zeigler to study fiber arts even as she works to grow that department and others.

“This is one of my wonderful reasons for getting up in the morning, building the fiber arts program,” she said with a smile, noting its many different disciplines: book arts, paper arts, marbling of fabric and paper, painting on silk, basket weaving, tapestry weaving, loom weaving and others.

WaterWorks’ staff of three full-time employees, multiple contract trainers and numerous part-time volunteers now oversees 39 classes ranging from fiber arts to pottery and ceramics, painting and drawing, jewelry making, mosaics, fused glass, and metalsmithing. Zeigler said attendance averages 10 students per class this spring semester, with another set of classes coming this summer and fall.

“I love the creativity here,” she said while contemplating different growth strategies. “We’ve got a nice palette to work with, great staff, wonderful patrons, and the classes and workshops are getting better and better.”

Zeigler has taken steps to not just extend existing programs, but also branch WaterWorks into new avenues. With this summer’s camp programs from June 2 through Aug. 8, WaterWorks will add its first session for the so-called tween age group, for children from 12 to 15 years old. Past camps had stopped taking children at age 11.

“It will have a little more advanced curriculum,” she said. “We did this just so we can get back some of our kids that we love who love us.”

WaterWorks has started hosting privately scheduled instructor art parties, which allow instructors and students to bring their own food and drinks for a gathering time with friends.

“There’s just no end of the different programs I hope will come through the door,” she said.

In September Zeigler helped launch the nonprofit’s first fundraiser, a series of quarterly wine and art parings.

The first event, called Pairing No. 1, attracted 52 participants to sample Spanish wines and artists at a cost of $50 per individual or $90 per couple. WaterWorks augmented the experience with historic and cultural insights from certified wine educator Randa Warren and University of Tulsa art history professor Maria Maurer.

Pairing No. 2 drew 64 enthusiasts just two days ahead of Valentine’s Day and the next fundraiser will sample German works on Oct. 2.

“I thought they went very well,” said Warren, who was intrigued by the whole concept of matching art to wine. “I learned quite a bit from Maria.”

Another new WaterWorks program took a page from Tulsa’s Philbrook and Gilcrease art museums.

Seeing their work with dementia patients, Zeigler reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma Chapter for exposing caregivers and patients to different WaterWorks art experiences. That developed into a monthly series of classes extending on the association’s national Drawing on Memories program.

“Some of the individuals diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s can come in with caregivers, talk about pieces of art, then lead them through a hands-on project,” Zeigler said. “It’s just amazing, the response we’ve gotten from this. It’s just been very gratifying to reach out to this group of individuals and many others.”

Such programs help reinforce communicative ties for both the patients and the caregivers, said LaShondia Horn, early-stage coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association Oklahoma Chapter.

“It’s working out good,” she said, noting how WaterWorks’ variety of available programs helps them to match art experiences to the patient’s history and memories. “It opens up the part of the mind that’s dying.”

Since its September start, Zeigler said one to two dozen individuals have participated each month from Tulsa’s Inverness Village or other senior care centers. WaterWorks has extended invitations to Life Senior Services and other organizations.

“I’m very fortunate that, if I have sound reasoning and I feel like it’s going to be in demand with the public, I can build these programs,” she said of her plans for WaterWorks. “There’s an underserved community here in Tulsa, and I recognized it as an underserved weaver and a fiber arts builder, and I know others did, too. There was no other place to get this experience. It certainly has paid off.”

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Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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