Love of Art Adds to I ‘HEART’ TULSA Appeal

Every artist seems to find a niche.
Michelangelo worked well with stone. Salvador Dali painted dreams. Andy Warhol found beauty in Campbell’s soup and Leonardo da Vinci is famed for a painting of a browless Italian with a curious smile.
Steve Cluck might have found his place in the art, and business, world in a Tulsa T-shirt.
It began with the creation of a going- away present for a friend who was leaving the area after studying art alongside Cluck at the University of Tulsa.
“It all started about 2 years ago, when a friend from TU graduated. She was going to India, and I wanted to get her a present to help her remember her Tulsa experience. I made an “I HEART Tulsa” T-shirt. It wasn’t even an idea, really. I just made it.”
“But people loved the shirts and everybody started asking for them. I started making them for friends, and then had some for sale at the Blue Dome Arts Festival, where I had a stack of about 20 of them.”
“Then I realized I was on to something and needed to capitalize on it.”
Now, a fine arts degree and almost 1,000 shirt sales later, Cluck has realized that his “art” appeals to much more than just a small segment of the T-shirt buying public.
“I thought the appeal for the shirts would be limited to Tulsa, but I am getting so much response from all over the country. Tourists are a group that are buying a lot of them.”
“So I have started marketing the shirts outside of Tulsa.”
Not by traditional means, however.
The main marketing tool employed by Cluck is found in a forum familiar to the 20-somethings who are buying the shirts en masse –
“Everyone who has a shirt of mine on their myspace page gets put in my top friends on the Louis and Cluck myspace page.”
Cluck, who teams with Zuri Louis to form “Louis and Cluck,” print the T-shirts by hand, fully aware that the shortage of manpower could mean a shortage of revenue. He prints on what he considers to be a quality canvas, an American made shirt that is purchased directly from the California factory.
The shirts are purchased from the factory for just under $4 and retail for $20 each. They can be purchased at two carefully selected Tulsa stores – Dwelling Spaces, Second Street and Detroit Avenue, and Under the Mooch CD and Vinyl, 1423 S. Harvard Ave.
The ideas of selective sales locations, small scale production, and low-cost marketing shapes the company. According to Cluck, when the item is mass-produced, it ceases to be art.
“The quality really matters to us. We go for quality over quantity. I know that I could get the shirts cheaper, but when I think about the Tulsa concept, I want to put it on an American product.” ?

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