Amber Sharples is executive director for the Oklahoma Arts Council, the state agency that leads in the support and development of the arts. Sharples has been with the Council for more than a decade. She has been in her current position for four years. Sharples lives in Oklahoma City with her son, Asher.
6:00 a.m. Alarms go off on both my watch and my phone. I am a deep sleeper, always have been, and I am definitely not a morning person. So, it’s imperative that I have multiple alarms set at 15-minute intervals. By the second alarm (okay, maybe the third) I am up and around. I check my phone for news and updates involving matters at the State Capitol.
6:30 a.m. I wake my 6-year-old son Asher and head to the kitchen to make breakfast. First things first, I immediately boil water for my French press coffee. I hate to admit it but I drink a lot of coffee in the morning.
6:45 a.m. Asher and I eat breakfast and then he heads upstairs to get dressed. I think about our evening activities. He will have soccer, piano and/or Boy Scouts and I may have a work-related event or a flamenco dance class. Whatever the evening activities include, morning is the time to prepare for clothing changes and snacks.
7:00 a.m. I turn on “CBS This Morning.” I am a huge fan of Nora O’Donnell, Gayle King and Charlie Rose. I try to catch 15 minutes of national news while sipping my coffee.
7:15 a.m. Time to check on Asher and make sure he is getting dressed. Then, it is time for me to hit the shower and run through a mental checklist of the day’s activities for the two of us. If it is legislative session, my wardrobe is a suit. That tends to be my go-to uniform, although I enjoy accessorizing with splashes of color and handmade, artisan jewelry. I’m a big fan of Erin Merryweather’s jewelry right now. She is a close friend and fellow Oklahoman.
7:45 a.m. I leave the house to drop off Asher at school. Asher’s school (Wilson Arts Integration Elementary School) is an exemplary public elementary arts integration school. Not only are the arts integrated into all areas of instruction to enhance learning of all subjects, stand-alone and core arts education classes ranging from dance, drama, visual arts and music are offered. I strive and work each day so that every Oklahoma student has this same depth of arts integration and arts education as part of their formation.
8:00 a.m. I make it home from dropping off my son, and regroup and finish getting ready, then head to the office.
8:30 a.m. I make it to the office and join our fabulous team. I consider it an honor to work with such dedicated, purpose-driven experts in the arts. We are a small but mighty team that is passionate about supporting and developing our state’s arts industry. Our grant-making is a public good, so we strive to ensure that all Oklahomans have access to the many benefits of the arts and arts education.
9:00 a.m. I meet with my assistant, Connie Taylor. Connie used to live in Durant where she worked in the arts in a rural part of our state. She understands our agency’s impact in those areas. She plays an indispensable role, keeping both the office and my schedule organized. She gives me a short overview of any major meetings or pressing issues that need to be addressed.
9:15 a.m. Off to the Capitol to meet with several legislators who are sponsoring the recognition of veterans who participated in our recent pilot arts program at the Norman Veterans Center. The program is part of our agency’s Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative. We are really proud that the veterans’ artwork— creative writing, visual arts and photography—is being exhibited in the Governor’s Gallery on the second floor of the Capitol. It is a special opportunity to give back to these men and women who served our nation. Through the program, the arts are used as transformative tools for improving the health, well-being and quality of life of our veterans.
11:00 a.m. Back to the office for one of our grant panels. Residents from across the state and nation provide their expertise in reviewing hundreds of grant applications that we receive each year. Panelist insight is vital to a transparent and rigorous process for how our funding is invested. Time to listen to panel comments and feedback before heading to lunch. Our agency’s grants ensure individuals statewide have access to the arts. A majority of the agency’s budget is invested directly in to Oklahoma communities in the form of grants and more than 40 percent of the agency’s grant funding supports arts and arts education programming in rural areas.
12:30 p.m. Meeting with Sandy Kent, executive director of Oklahoma A+ Schools, over lunch to talk about how we can work together to strengthen arts integration and arts education policy in our state. It is great to have such wonderful colleagues in Oklahoma working to strengthen education and the arts in schools across our state.
2:00 p.m. Time to head to the Capitol again to meet with architects, construction teams, designers and other partners on the Capitol restoration project. The Oklahoma Arts Council serves as collections manager for the Capitol, so I join our director of visual arts and Capitol collections, Alan Atkinson, as we discuss how to protect the artwork. Preserving the priceless works of art at the Capitol, art that belongs to the people of Oklahoma, requires expertise, especially in the harsh environment created by ongoing renovation and construction.
4:00 p.m. Time to catch up on email and voicemail at the office. I meet with my leadership team and/or staff on any projects or issues that arise.
5:30 p.m. It is time to head out for any evening arts events, and I swing by and pick up Asher. If we don’t have an activity or event, we head home and start to tackle dinner and homework.
6:00 p.m. I make dinner most nights during the week. Asher plays outside or with our two dogs, Maya and Walter, while I prepare dinner. Sometimes, Asher wants to help me out in the kitchen as well. We are bold and adventurous eaters and we try all kinds of food. I am thankful that Asher is not afraid to try new things!
7:00 p.m. After dinner, we tackle homework and prepare for weekly spelling tests.
8:30 p.m. This is when Asher and I start the bedtime routine. Our routine is simple: change into pajamas, brush our teeth and snuggle into bed. Then, I ask Asher every night what he is grateful for and we give thanks for the day and for our blessings. We read books for 15-20 minutes until Asher is out.
9:00 p.m. Tidy up the kitchen, start the dishwasher, and either try to read a book or I try to squeeze in a little of whatever series I am watching on Netflix. I’m about an 80 percent Spanish speaker from living in Spain and Mexico so I like a mix of Spanish and English shows. Some of my favorites are “House of Cards,” “Velvet,” “El tiempo entre costuras” (The Time in Between) and “Mar de plástico” (Plastic Sea).
11:00 p.m. This is when I make it to bed, say my own thanks for the day and try to get some rest.