More than 300 arts supporters from across the state descended on Ardmore this week, and late Thursday evening, many were on their way back home.

But what they left behind was a wake of economic impact and potential for progress in not only Ardmore's cultural centers, but across the state as well.

Thursday's lunch/closing banquet featured the highlights of the 2013 Oklahoma Arts Council Conference, some special performances from Ardmore artist Susan Pfau Yeager, and promise for the future of the arts in Oklahoma.

But the highlight came with the graduation of the sixth Oklahoma Arts Leadership Class of 30 people, which included Ardmore's Nicki Wood.

Molly O'Connor, cultural development director for OAC, said during her presentation that she enjoyed working with this year's class, as the members are exactly what Oklahoma needs when looking for supporters of arts programs.

"We need to find ways to keep the youth in this state instead of going other places, looking for arts programs" O'Connor said. "The young people in this class are a representation of that."

As they graduated, classmates each received a clay-sculpted Oklahoma "momento" made by Wood.

When asked what it was like to have the conference in Ardmore, she said it was "never dull."

"I've never been to a conference in the town I live in," she said. "It was great to have people who support and are active in the arts come to Ardmore and see what this community has to offer.

"For a smaller city, Ardmore offers a lot, and now these people from Oklahoma City, Norman and Tulsa know that and will take that back with them. Not to mention, these conferences are a lot of fun. You have to expect the unexpected with a bunch of artists around."

The "unexpected" certainly came during the luncheon, as a "breaking news report" featured comical plays on events that happened at the conference, a segment of throwing rubber duckies into the crowd and the announcement that next year's conference will be in Norman.

O'Connor, who also put together the conference in Ardmore, said she was very happy to come back.

"The city of Ardmore has provided us with a wonderful place to have this conference and some excellent facilities and venues," she said. "They've treated us well, and it's a pleasure to come back after having the first conference here seven years ago."