365 Places: Photo Art Studios

Helen Grant

I want to believe my mind is as quick and nimble as a ballerina flawlessly performing Stravinsky’s “The Firebird.” But that’s not always the case, being human and all. So this is how I stumbled, and not pirouetted, my way into some new information regarding one of the oldest businesses in the Plaza District. I think the sage ones call this serendipity.


I do love long exposure night photography. Photo provided by Keith

I do so love long exposure night photography. Photo provided by Keith Rinearson


You see there’s going to be a “State of the Plaza” meeting soon. OKC.NET will be there to listen to reports on growth, goals achieved, goals set for 2014, and other news of that nature. Only yours truly walked into the picture a week early. Sometimes you’re in a rush and you accidentally key the wrong date into your calendar. It happens! So rather than condemn to wastefulness the final bits of dinosaur that combusted into the ether for this trip, I decided to explore Photo Art Studios. I’ve always seen this building in the Plaza, you can’t miss it. That neon sign is a real eye-catcher. But hand-to-heart I’ve never had a specific reason to walk into the place and what I found in there surprised me.


What first caught my eye when walking into the gallery wasn't the gallery. It was that back room.

Photo provided by Keith Rinearson.


Owner Keith Rinearson just happened to be there that evening as a group had rented the back room for a party. So once I rebounded from my my initial error, I got a private tour. We had enough time to walk through the main studio, out to the back patio, into dance studio complete with lights and projection equipment, over to the kitchen, and back out to the gallery. I have to say, I was impressed! The back patio is a wonderful space that feels relaxing, it’s decorated with comfort and aesthetics in mind, and so it has several posh seating areas. The kitchen is where Rinearson does his commercial food photography when he gets those contracts, but in the past people have rented this area to host specialty cooking classes. The lounge area has a pool table, TV, and other amenities conducive to chillin’ with friends. And what’s more, Rinearson said he decided only a few days ago to open his space up to rentals on 2nd Fridays in the Plaza.

So imagine if you will this scenario, because I have surely been in this situation more than a few times. You’ve commuted over to where one set of friends agrees to meet up, in this case 2nd Friday Art Walk a.k.a. Live on the Plaza, but after you’re done with all the highlights of the evening, you all agree to drive elsewhere to get in some quality friend time to hang out for awhile in a more private area. What if you didn’t have to leave the Plaza? You could all chip in a few bucks, maybe do take out from Empire Slice next door, then play catch up and/or dance party or whatever. Obviously this is not a new idea for groups of people to do, because I’ve attended private events in other locations with furnished spaces, but unless you have a reason to be up in Guthrie or down in Norman, and they have art walks and block parties too, this is just one more great spot in OKC to consider. There are others, but I do think Photo Art Studios being open for rental during an art walk is an opportune time.

Were I looking to get my company’s name out there by setting up shop during the busiest night of the month, this would be a great spot. Same said for hosting a company night during art walk, when the Plaza has provided all the diversion for you and all you have to do is tell employees that there is a private lounge set up just for them once they’re done wandering around that evening.

Rinearson said the gallery portion is open to art walkers, but if you decide to snatch this rental space at that time for private use, it will be closed off and further made secluded by drawing the heavy black curtains. The main studio is equipped with DJ lighting, allowing it to function as a dance floor when needed. If you’re into dress up parties and theatrical things, they have changing rooms and make up rooms. They also have a Photo Booth that can be rented during events, which takes the party to a whole new level of fun.


Photo by Keith Rinearson

Photo provided by Keith Rinearson


All said, Rinearson recounted the choice to build his business in the Plaza 8 years ago. The first important move he made was restoring the neon sign. In doing so, he hoped it would serve as a beacon for others to come get their start in the Plaza too. At first it was solely used a private photography studio back when the Plaza District was a forgotten part of Oklahoma City. Now that the district is beaming with life, he said they enjoy sharing the space with people looking for a unique place to host private events.

Both he and I exchanged memories of business that have come and gone, actually Coffy’s Cafe might be the first thing I wrote for OKC.NET back in 2011 (if you remember that place dab your eyes, I know: good times, sweet lady, loving community), but we also talked about the core business members that make up the current Plaza District community. I didn’t write up a review of last year’s Plaza Fest, but I did share on our social media that the 2013 Plaza District Festival had to have been the biggest and best one yet. And I can only imagine when I arrive on schedule next week that the news will be great. Who knows, maybe it will surprise me as much as Photo Art Studios did this week.

You can check out their website here and contact Keith Rinearson about pricing on studio rentals.


Gallery space. Photo provided by Keith Rinearson.

Gallery space. Photo provided by Keith Rinearson.

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