Thursday, August 16, 2012

What is your favorite Wyoming arts town?

NPR has put out an open call for nominations, asking North Americans to describe their favorite arts town:
This summer, NPR’s Destination Art series is going off the beaten path to visit small to mid-sized North American cities that have cultivated lively arts scenes. And we want to hear from you! Where’s your favorite art hot spot? What makes it unique?
NPR’s form is simple and easy to fill out, and this is a great opportunity to get one of Wyoming’s great art towns on the national map!

For some background on the series, the first town to be featured was Marfa, Texas (population: 1,966), which rocketed onto the art world’s radar with the arrival of sculptor Donald Judd in the 1970s. Also featured: Columbus, Indiana and Stratford, Ontario. Go to

What is my favorite Wyoming arts town? 

I love Jackson for all of the obvious reasons. The Center for the Arts for its downtown location and for housing an eclectic mix of Teton County arts orgs. The National Museum of Wildlife Art for its eco-friendly design and for its new sculpture walk. The Jackson Hole Writers Conference, one of the best of its kind in the U.S., all organized by a coterie of Jackson writers, led by Tim Sandlin. The conference would have disappeared long ago without the thousands of hours put in by Teton County and Wyoming-based writers.

I like Sheridan for its public art on almost every downtown corner, for its commitment to homegrown art forms such as the saddle makers showcased at Kings Ropes and Saddlery. There is a ton of great artists and writers in Sheridan County, as well as two of the country's foremost artists' residencies: Ucross and Jentel. And one of my favorite mystery writers, Craig Johnson, actually lives in the tiny town of Ucross.

I like Casper because the Casper College English Department and the CC Foundation had the moxie to step up and sponsor the state's first statewide book festival in 2006. We hold our fourth bookfest Sept. 14-15 with a great line-up of writers, both domestic and out-of-state. I love the Nicolaysen Art Museum, housed in a former power plant, for its dazzling array of contemporary art exhibits and for having the vision to make downtown a regional arts destination with its new public art exhibit and its NIC Fest and its outreach to all sorts of entities in Natrona County. BTW, Casper College now has its own on-campus arts district. How many community colleges anywhere can say that?

I like Laramie for Works of Wyoming and the Laramie Plains Civic Center Theatre and its cool downtown and the dedicated arts faculty at the University of Wyoming, the state's only four-year public university. So many fantastic writers teach at UW (Brad Watson, Alyson Hagy, Jeff Lockwood) and have been visiting writers -- a great new crew will be there during the fall semester. Two indie bookstores liven up downtown, which has plenty of good restaurants with great beer. And did I mention -- the trains run through it! 

I like Lander for the Lander Art Center. I like Rock Springs for its renovated downtown theatre. I like Gillette for its public art program and its engaged citizenry. I like my city of Cheyenne for our great library with its many programs, and for its community theatre, one of the few in the region to actually own two performance venues.  

What is your favorite Wyoming arts town? Don't be shy -- speak up!

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