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To promote greater knowledge and appreciation of the fine arts and humanities and educational purposes, and especially to act, to coordinate and to encourage cultural activities.


Two amateur artists, Hazel Dickson and Berenice Hinton had an idea years ago that developed into the Nescatunga Arts and Humanities Council.  In the spring of 1969, Hazel and Berenice held a “County Fair” of art exhibits on the courthouse lawn.  Several weeks preceding the fair, paintings of approximately 50 artists were exhibited in the windows of 58 merchants in Alva. 

The event was repeated in 1970.  This time it was called an “Art Show”. About 50 artists exhibited at this show.  In September 1971, a number of interested local citizens met to discuss the possibility of forming a local humanities council.  About 30 very enthusiastic persons immediately voted to form the organization.  The group chose the name Nescatunga, an Osage Indian word meaning Salt Fork, since Alva was located on the Salt Fork River.  In October 1972 the council became incorporated. 

As its first project, the council chose to familiarize the community with the historical background of the Runnymede Hotel.  The hotel was originally built in Runnymede, Kansas, in 1889 to house English people sent to the United States to learn farming and ranching.  The building was moved across Kansas and Oklahoma prairies and rivers to Alva in 1893 where it served as a hotel for many years.  

After the Council became active,  the members organized a Children’s Art Exhibit and open house at the hotel.


By the mid 1990s the building had become dilapidated from lack of maintenance. After overhearing a conversation telling of a plan to raze the building, a local preservationist, Dale Brown, put into motion a plan to save the building. Her vision for the building was that it could be restored and become a cultural center to the Alva community. Dale was a long time member, and several times president, of the Nescatunga Arts and Humanities Council and saw this group as the appropriate organization to lead the effort to restore the Runnymede to its former glory. The building was purchased by the newly formed Restoration Committee in November 1998. Restoration of the building began in 1999 after receiving a grant from the Morton Share Trust. In July 2004 through 2005 additions to the building were built and a courtyard was added in 2007 along with a mural commissioned by the Alva Mural Society.

The Nescatunga Arts and Humanities Council continues to meet in this historic building on a regular basis and plays host to artistic displays and events for the monthly First Friday Art Walks on the downtown square. The building also is available for rent by contacting Ken Brown at or calling (580) 327-2467.

The Council also continues to play host to the Nescatunga Arts Festival each year since 1969. The Coronavirus Pandemic / COVID-19 forced the organization to cancel the festival for the first time in June 2020. It was then planned for November 2021 but also was postponed. The 51st festival did take place June 4, 2022, but rain forced the event inside. The inaugural Sugar Show of featuring a contest of decorated cakes, cookies and cupcakes was launched this year.


In polling the artists and crafters, it was determined the majority now prefer to show their items indoors, so based on the thought to keep the festival thriving, the committee planned the 52nd Festival for the indoor venue of Percefull Fieldhouse at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. The group also took on the idea of having the event over three days on June 2-4, 2023, where we also had our second Sugar Show

The Council continues to look for ways to bring art and cultural activities to the area including a recent venture - PopUp Art Displays that can be rented for $10 a week and displayed in the storefronts or inside of local merchants. The displays also can be rented and used for small displays at the arts festival. More info at

Various art or Sugar Show-related workshops also are now being planned to be at the Runnymede.

Past Nescatunga presidents:

Some of those women who served as president of the arts council were: Hazel Dickson and Berenice Hinton, 1969-1972; Gerree Smith, 1972-74; Doris Smith, 1974-76; Donna Stover Hodgden, 1976-78; Mary Dale Maxwell, 1978-80; Jo Brandt, 1980- 82; Madeline Arganbright, 1982-83; Ruth Leslie, 1983-84; Madeline Arganbright, 1984-86; Joyce Dixon, 1986-88; Oneta Hannum, 1988-89; Sandra Schubert, 1989-91; Rose Elmore, 1991-93; Paula Bloyd, 1993-95; Dale Brown, 1995-99; Barbara Gordon, 1999-2003; Charla Parker, 2003 to 2019; Covid cancelled the festival for 2020 and 2021; Erin Davis, 2021-2024; Heather Penner and Melanie Blackwood, 2024 - present.

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