Friday, February 09, 2018

Remind your legislators that the arts and humanities make Wyoming great

I won't be attending the Governor's Arts Awards Gala tonight in Cheyenne. Not because I don't think it's important -- it is. I'm taking a year off. As a Wyoming Arts Council staffer, I helped put on the event for 20-some years. Now I'm retired, and filling my time with my own artistic pursuits. 

What is the Governor's Arts Awards? Every summer, the WAC opens nominations for individuals, organizations, patrons, and businesses who have helped make the arts a major player in this state. The WAC board chooses some worthy honorees and those are sent over to the Governor who makes the final decisions. This year's honorees are ART 321/Casper Artists' Guild, Susan Moldenhauer of Laramie, Leslie O'Hashi of Cheyenne, and Dr. Patrick Patton of Casper College. I have worked with them all. A deserving group. They will be feted Feb. 9 and receive a huge framed plaque.

We all talk about downtown redevelopment. The Casper Artists' Guild takes it seriously. The group has been around for decades, much of the time in its old location near downtown. When an old Yellowstone District warehouse came up for sale, the guild's Holly Turner and cohorts raised funds to take over half of the building. It's now Art 321 (for its address) and is a great gallery and workshop space for Casper artists. Stop in the next time you're in Casper. View the art. Check out the gift shop. Have lunch in the funky neighboring bistros, such as Racca's Pizzeria Napoletana. Art 321 is just down the street from the new David Street Station where I took in a few concerts during last summer's eclipse festival. A cosmic event brought people to Casper last summer. The arts made it come alive.

Art organizations and businesses often serve as catalysts for further development. That, alone, does not deserve a Governor's Arts Award. But it does demonstrate the importance of the arts. The arts are a necessity and not a luxury if you want a well-rounded populace. That's the key question: what kind of state do you want? Wyoming features lots of outdoors but, as the saying goes, you can't eat the scenery. But you can eat by painting or writing about or singing songs about the scenery. Our open spaces inspire artists in all fields. That takes the form of a a bronze sculpture of running pronghorn by Guadalupe Barajas or a surreal photo of a windy day on the prairie by Moldenhauer, one of this year's honorees. Tim Sandlin, one of last year's honorees, is inspired by both the landscape and the foibles of the people of Teton County. Dr. Patton and his wife Marcia, the first couple to receive the UW Arts and Sciences Outstanding Alumni Award, bring help students in Casper find their voices. O'Hashi teaches her students how to express themselves through movement.

I could go on and on but I won't. Read about the Arts Council at its web site. Check out past issues of its magazine, Wyoming Artscapes, too. In it, you will find scores of examples of the contributions of artists and arts orgs to this state.

When the legislature convenes next week, remind your rep and senator how important the arts are to your family and your state. They need reminders as they face a budget shortfall and atrocious bills that should never see the light of day. Tell them that all people are important, that they find their value through the arts and humanities.

I will write about the legislature's upcoming sessions. There are sure to be some legislative humdingers; there already are. To check out proposed legislation, go here  

It takes funding to make the arts thrive. It is more important that ever to make our politicians accountable. The past year in this country has been a lesson on getting involved and staying involved in the political process. And what happens when you don't.

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