Small businesses are a great way to take a look into the heart of a state, and local art is just one example. When I visit towns, I always look forward to walking into galleries, meeting artists and seeing their pieces. Some artists feature their work at a shop while some run their own independent gallery. Art is a great way to see how innovative Wyoming really is. It does not just have to be painting, but it can be wood carving, writing, music and much more. Folks do not have to look far to see Wyoming’s creative side because art comes from all corners of our state.
One Wyoming artist was recently highlighted on a national stage for becoming a 2019 National Heritage Fellow with the National Endowment for the Arts. Jim Jackson of Sheridan is an example of someone who has dedicated his career to mastering the trade of leather carving. The National Endowment for the Arts annually recognizes impressive artists from all across the country who have contributed to our nation’s heritage. I had the honor of presenting an award to Jackson, who was one of nine throughout the country, in September and I was proud to see a talented Wyomingite chosen for his hard work and unique expertise. While he contributed to King’s Saddlery for years in Sheridan, you can see Jackson’s leatherwork for yourself at the Brinton Museum outside Big Horn.
Similar to any business, local art is an important piece of the puzzle in our Wyoming economy. The vibrant art scene consists of unique craftsmanship of all kinds. If you would like to see impressive metal work, check out Hugh Jennings’ pieces in Buffalo or Diverse Metals in Gillette. You can also find jewelry and bags, like the ones made by Alexis Drake in Cheyenne, and intricate wood carvings, like those from Jonathan the Bearman in Afton. These Wyomingites made professions of their passions. Even your local high school theater is a great example of how the impact of art spans all ages. All of these put together showcase our cowboy culture from the angle of art.
The art industry offers about 11,000 jobs in Wyoming and makes up nearly 3% of the state’s economy. You can show your support for local art by collaborating with artists, spreading the word about their products or even attending one of their events. As small business owners know, shopping local means the piece you bought from a fellow neighbor now holds a greater story behind it.
Next time you are running errands or going to your town’s fall festival, remember to stop at your local gallery, as you might just find your next favorite treasure. Handcrafted art is a great example of what hardworking Wyoming folks can create. These artists help make our beautiful state even more beautiful.