About El Reno Area Arts Council

Mission Statement - To foster a greater interest in the arts, to encourage the creative & artistic talents of our citizens, to build a sense of community among the artistic & cultural organizations of our town.

The El Reno Area Arts Council was formed in 2007 as a non profit organization by Bert Allen, Bonnie Jordan, Dorrie Parrott, Edwin Oneth and held the offices of President, President Elect, Secretary, and Treasurer respectively. Codie Finnigan, Connie Hodges, Betty Johnston, Ann Schulte and Pat Eischen also served on the board during the beginning years.  Others served on the board during the following years as the Council brought art into the schools and hosted an Arts Festival for a number of years.

In 2022 the El Reno Area Arts Council was reestablished bringing on a new slate of officers. The Council is excited to begin introducing programs and events to the El Reno area that promote and support the arts. The Council recognizes the power art has to improve our lives emotionally, financially, psychologically, intellectually, spiritually and beyond. We have an amazing team of local talent collaborating to bring El Reno an abundance of art experiences.

Meet the Board

Sue Johnson, Council President
Sue Johnson aka "Sue Bear" is an El Reno artist dba Murals by Sue. Sue has several publicly viewable large-scale murals scattered around El Reno and the Shawnee area. With 15 years working as a registered nurse, and the added work-related stressors the pandemic brought to her line of work, she decided to explore career options related to her lifetime love of the arts. She says from as early as she can remember the arts were a therapeutic refuge for her. From ceramics to cross stitch, poetry, to dance, singing, songwriting, drawing, she had a strong passion for anything creative. In 2020 she developed the plan for what is now known as El Reno Walls and presented it to the city with overwhelming interest from the city, within a few months they began phase one of the project.



Sarah Ward, Vice President
Sarah was instrumental in helping to reestablish the El Reno Arts Council. After 10 years of no activity, putting all the pieces back together in order to move forward as an active council took some leg work, and thanks to Sarah we are now back in action! Sarah is the proud mother of three, a long-time resident of El Reno, having attended El Reno Public Schools and later establishing the very successful local business, Vices Bar and Venue, with her husband Justin Ward. Vices offers a platform for performing artists of all kinds. Vices has always been a huge supporter of the arts, offering numerous live music events throughout the year, hosting many nationally famous performers, such as Grammy award nominee Afroman. In addition to a professionally equipped inside stage, Vices also offers an outdoor stage in a beautiful garden setting. Sarah was an art major in college before deciding to focus on starting a family and pursuing her dreams of owning her own music venue which is currently in its fifth year of successful growth.


Janet Raines, Treasurer/Secretary and Chairman of Finance Committee
Janet has called El Reno home for ten years. She brings to the table a multitude of experience having retired two years ago after 22 years in the printing industry, 17 years in the motor-coach industry, and 9 years with the American Banjo Museum. She is a natural creative who has always appreciated the arts. She is currently experimenting and teaching herself to work with wool roving doing wet and needle felting projects.






Ashton Handley, Council Member and Chairman of the Community Liaison Committee and Public Relations Committee
Ashton is a local attorney with Handley Law Center in El Reno and a longtime resident of El Reno and recalls fond memories of the art councils past work in presenting the annual art festival. He says he is “excited to see the council regain activity” and is happy to offer his legal expertise in aiding the council.






Marci Underwood, Council Member and Chairman of the Youth Program Committee
Marci is currently a teacher at the El Reno High School offering art instruction. She is also the EHS sculpture teacher and EHS Art Club. She says she is beyond excited to be included in the council and cannot wait to start introducing new art experiences to our community’s youth.





Gary Elledge, Council Member
Gary taught Art 1 and 2 at El Reno High School during the 22-23 school year. That is when he first realized how much he really enjoys art. Gary said, "I saw so much talent in the younger generation of El Reno that needs to be displayed. I decided to join the Arts Council to help in any way that I can to encourage the youth of El Reno to keep pursuing art." Gary also volunteers at the Centre Theatre teaching a kids theatre camp. Gary will graduate this year from SWOSU with an elementary education degree and currently works at Roblyer's after school program.