Thursday, September 29, 2011

Convergence WY asks: "Wyoming culture is unique but are we leveraging this culture to help build prosperous communities?"

Jackson Farmers' Market - Creative Bakeries from Indie Media: The New Journalism on Vimeo.

This vid comes from a series filmed by Cheyenne videographer Alan O'Hashi as he tours the state (with Wyoming Arts Council staffer Randy Oestman) in search of details about Wyoming's Creative Vitality Index (CVI). Teton County's CVI is off the charts, making it one of the best arts towns in the West. And that's not all high rollers buying big bronzes and Teton landscapes. It's also young artists finding ways to transfer their skills to the kitchen, and then selling those handcrafted pies at the farmers' market, with money going into their pockets and the community. The Circle of Life!

I'll share more of these CVI vids as they become available... They'll cover other areas of the state, including Sheridan and Rock Springs and Cheyenne and others. This creativity is no surprise to Wyomingites who know that there is an incredible amount of arts and crafts happening quietly in farms and ranches and small towns and in cities (we have a few) and even resort towns all around the state. The video series is an attempt to put a face on that activity.

So interesting that this surge of creativity happens in such a conservative state. After all, Wyoming has the most Republican legislature in the U.S. -- and the least diverse. The new Tea Party Repubs fell all over themselves during the 2011 session trying to propose the most absurdly regressive laws. Anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-wolf, anti-environmental protections. You name it, they were agin' it. Except for guns -- very pro-gun. Fetuses now have their own concealed carry laws.

Our gun culture is part of the creative economy. There are many artisans making and decorating their own firearms. Cody is home to the Buffalo Hill Historical Center and its fantastic firearms museum. In Cody, don't miss the eclectic Dug Up Gun Museum. Cody artist Paul Clymer turns old shotguns into colorful works of art. Pinedale artist JB Bond is in the process of transforming a junked vehicle into a nine-foot-long machine gun that will be part of the town's public art initiative.

But let's face it -- Wyoming's population is aging rapidly. Its infrastructure is crumbling. The education system is not getting the results warranted by the investment of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, or so say the Repubs..

Most importantly, its young people aren't hanging around to watch it crumble. Sure, some of these youngsters are featured in these videos. But unless we can boost the entire state's CVI, those youngsters won't stick around.

I ask my fellow parents this question: how many of your children departed Wyoming to go to college or the military and never moved back? Go ahead, tell me your stories.

The Rocky Mountain West is filled with livable towns and cities that also are artsy outdoor sports meccas. Need I name them? Fort Collins, Boulder, Durango, Denver, Steamboat Springs, Park City, Salt Lake City, Moab, Aspen, Sun Valley, Bend, Missoula, Bozeman, Livingston, Moscow, Pullman, Boise, Taos, Tucson, Flagstaff and so on.

These are the cities that Cheyenne, Casper, Rock Springs, Gillete and Riverton are competing against. Here is the question posed by Convergence Wyoming: "Wyoming culture is unique but are we leveraging this culture to help build prosperous communities?"

Well, are we?

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