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Madeline Dillner
Allied Arts


Have you heard of Allied Arts? 


They’re a nonprofit organization in Oklahoma City that funds arts organizations across the state. Specifically, their resources reach more than 1 million Oklahomans through 48 arts and cultural organizations, and create nearly 495,000 experiences for school-age children each year.


One of the ways they raise the funds to do all this is through fundraising campaigns, such as the Employee Giving Campaign.


Since 2017, Allied Arts’ has commissioned a local artist to create a Step Up Gift – a piece of art given to people who donate at least $200 during the Employee Giving Campaign. 


The Step Up Artist roster is as follows: Benjamin Harjo, Jr. (2024), Lauren Florence (2023), Denise Duong (2022), Joe Slack (2021), Kris Kanaly (2020), Carl Shortt (2019), Rick and Tracey Bewley (2018), Joy Richardson (2017), and Collin Rosebrook (2016).


And now, for 2025 – me.


This year, the Step Up Program will be 10 years old, and to celebrate, I am doing something VERY extra:


Each person who donates $200 or more as part of the Employee Giving Campaign will receive an ORIGINAL, hand-painted, 8x8 acrylic painting of “White Sands Oasis” – a smaller version of the painting you see before you.


Last year, the donors numbered over 1,300. I can’t wait to get to work!


To get a “White Sands Oasis” painting, your company must sign up to host an employee giving campaign for Allied Arts during our 2025 Annual Campaign.  The 2025 Annual Campaign officially runs from February until June 2025. Last year, donations helped to fund 48 local arts and cultural nonprofit organizations! Learn more about the Employee Giving Campaign at

Do you see your piece?

“White Sands Oasis”

Artist Statement


On April 23, 2016, I turned 26, and I was lost. I don’t think about that place and time much because it was sad, but I can remember it well if I focus on it. In that place of being 26 and lost, I had no hobbies. I rarely saw friends. I didn’t paint. After college, through no fault of the ones who loved me, and no matter what I did, an ever-present loneliness gnawed at my ribcage like a brick of dry ice. I longed for something, but I had no idea what.


Fortunately, moms are good at knowing exactly how to nudge a derailed train back onto the tracks, and I have a great mom.  She was living in Norman at the time, just like me. When I was in that place of being 26 and lost, she saw the breadcrumbs I’d left behind. She remembered the humpback whale drawing I did when I was 3, and all the class projects I brought home where I’d been the designated artist. She remembered the joy radiating from me when I revealed finished murals for my high school, and when I called my Grandaddy (an artist in Wynnewood) to tell him I was also officially an artist. She saw the tracks leading toward today, and she had a plan. On May 13, 2016, my mom pulled me out of the house and took me to the Norman Art Walk. I had a few glasses of wine, so my memory of the evening is mostly a warm, colorful blur, with one exception: I clearly remember standing with my right side to the window in Gallery 123, hypnotized by a rainbow piece of dichroic glass. It sparkled in the setting sun as I turned it over in my hand.  Through the wine haze, I thought to myself, “I should do this.” Although, I must have said it out loud because my mom answered with a seriousness that’s stuck with me 8 years, “Yes, you should.” 


And so, I did. On May 16, 2016, I finished 9 small watercolors:


One was a pen-and-ink representation of my Myers-Briggs personality type.


One was a colorful acrylic representation of the same.


One was a hot pink post-apocalyptic landscape, inspired by all my favorite sci-fi shows and books.


One was a window in Balboa Park in San Diego, a beautiful place that I visited on a magical vacation in 2014.


One was a depiction of Monument Valley at noon. I took the reference photo on a stop on a 28-hour road trip out to Las Vegas in July 2014 to see Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden.  I still remember the awe I felt staring out at the purples and yellows and oranges of the giant oven mitts in the desert.


One was of the desert at dusk, from that same trip. The soft pastel sky, stark white moon, and dark mountains stuck in my brain, and came out on paper.


One was a minimalist Oklahoma City skyline, a view I saw every morning driving to work.


One was a happy accident – an abstract mess I created by spritzing glittery fabric paint onto a wet watercolor. I thought the watercolor was ruined, but I stopped myself from throwing it away in a fit of shame, and instead left it overnight to dry. In the morning, there was a little sparkly pastel piece that reminded me of bubblegum sky.


And finally, one was of a tree. An important tree. A giant Rio Grande Cottonwood standing alone in the cool, beautiful dunes at White Sands National Park in Las Cruces, New Mexico. This tree was a giant waypoint for how my life would go, although I didn’t know it at the time. I was in Las Cruces in 2012 because I had just found the Environmental Sustainability department at OU – my people – and they carted us out the desert for the Southwest Association of American Geographers Conference. I fell in love. Being from Illinois, I always assumed the desert was hot and boring -- nothing to write home about. But, the contagious excitement and energy of the conference and the vast silent solitude of the desert filled my brain with neverending fireworks. Today, I’m a regular attendee and speaker at many conferences, and I’ve made it back to New Mexico a few times – most recently to get married in beautiful Taos in 2022.


These 9 paintings started my art career on June 10, 2016, when I set up a table on Main and Porter at the 2nd Friday Art Walk. I sold many, many prints of these 9 paintings to friends, family, and strangers. I am eternally grateful to every single person who encouraged me in the beginning, and to everyone who has shown up since then. And to my parents, for always encouraging me.


Since then, I’ve kept painting, going to shows, and connecting with others other the colorful things I made. The lump of dry ice in my gut is long gone. I’ve found a place in a beautiful, kind community of people who have carried loneliness but still seek color. I’m not lost, and I’m so glad Shannon found me at the Paseo Festival in 2023, because now...


7 years and 362 days after my first art show ever…


I am so excited to begin work on the Step Up gifts for 2025:


Individual, original 8x8 acrylic paintings of a solitary giant, its gnarled roots plunging into silken sands in search of life-giving water, its halo of golden leaves playing peek-a-boo with the only-in-New-Mexico blue, blue sky.


I can’t wait to paint “White Sands Oasis” a thousand times.


(Or more!)


Thank you very much for this honor. I’m excited to get to work.

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