Category Archives: Politics

Rural Arts Realities: An Interview with NASAA’s Jonathan Katz

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This year Jackson Hole, Wyoming was the setting for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies’ (NASAA) 2013 Leadership Institute. Top level executives and leaders from all 56 state and juristictional arts agencies attended. NASAA CEO Jonathan Katz, PhD, noted that this year’s meeting focused on optimizing state arts agency public value; to that end, agency leaders must keep abreast of societal trends and sentiments.

For the second time in a week author-activist Terry Tempest Williams presented a keynote speech to arts advocates and representatives here in Jackson, and Wyoming’s Alan K. Simpson delivered a passionate talk at an evening celebration highlighting Wyoming’s arts at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. For several days Jackson received a diverse cultural injections and multiple opportunities to widen our scope of knowledge with regard to strategies and mission.

In an interview, Katz noted that despite Jackson’s geographical isolation, choosing it as this year’s meeting destination wasn’t an extravagant decision. As the organization is an arm of state government, it’s mindful of expense; per-diem costs matter. Jackson’s season had wound down, group rates were attractive and coming to such a beautiful place proved an excellent return on investment.

Jonathan Katz and Terry Tempest Williams at NASAA's Leadership Institute

Jonathan Katz and Terry Tempest Williams at NASAA’s Leadership Institute

We tend to think of Wyoming as a stand-apart state when it comes to a low percentage of people residing in urban areas; but a quick look at 2010’s government census urbanized population map reveals that a massive portion of our county has NO urbanized population. States, with a few exceptions, are primarily rural. I spoke to Katz about the theory that when urban hubs become especially creatively revitalized, rural communities can be emptied out, making it difficult for rural communities to create their own “vibrancy.”

Tammy Christel: One the topics for this year’s conference is “Rural Myths, Realities and Opportunities,” a conversation about rural America’s being shaped by “numerous social, demographic, economic and technological forces, many of which affect the success of state arts agency programs and policies.” When larger cities become especially revitalized, with a lot of great city planning going on, a lot of public art installed, all kinds of initiatives—what happens to rural communities? Are they sucked into an economic black hole?

Jonathan Katz: I directed the Kansas Art Commission for several years, and mine was a rural state. The challenges of rural life are that there are plenty of things to do to take up your time, but there’s not a lot of diversity of resources because there aren’t that many people in any one concentrated area. There aren’t that many industries in the area, so it’s fragile.

But there are offsetting values. Because when something happens in a rural community, you can get a group of people involved—and it can be a small number—who can really make a difference. It’s not uncommon to have an arts event with more people attending than live in the community. They come from other places. They’ll drive. So they think of their community as a wider space.

UA2010_UA_Pop_MapPart of the challenge of rural living is when kids go away to college and immerse themselves in a learning and cultural experience, and their expectations change. They expect that where they’re going to live will be the kind of place with the plentiful resources they’ve now become familiar with. So as they often do, they go to the theater, opera, the symphony, they see foreign movies with independent presses and they get involved themselves in these creative activities, and they want to live in a place and have a career, raise a family and be in business with these amenities.

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Couture and Textile Art; U.W.’s Art Museum Lets Good Times Roll

Elizabeth Galindo - Handmade fabric with leaves, berries and natural colors.

Elizabeth Galindo – Handmade silk jersey with leaves, berries and natural dyes.

Walking with her through high-end Berkeley and Sacramento galleries and shops, I watched my friend Elizabeth Galindo Roberts, PhD, size up designs, the cut of a fabric, color and details of exquisitely made clothing. Elizabeth, who I’ve known since childhood, creates couture. She has a right to world fame, so rare and extensive are her gifts. Even if she’s not internationally known yet, she is a highly respected artist and academic expert in her field. Sophia Loren has worn her designs. Elizabeth crafts an extraordinary line of textiles that are true products of the earth, her Botanical Peace Textiles. Constructed using flora colors, 100% natural fabrics, dyes and ingredients—such as indigenous berries and leaves—her Botanical Peace Textiles are extraordinary, romantic interpretations of nature.

Galindo Couture - Detail

Galindo Couture – Detail

A film costume researcher, Elizabeth’s credits include 2006’s “The Good Shepard,” 2007’s “There Will Be Blood,” with Daniel Day Lewis and 2006’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” starring Brad Pitt. Perhaps her proudest work, though, is her styling for her son’s music video—Gustavo Galindo was a 2011 Grammy nominee for Best Latin Pop, Rock, or Urban Album for his debut album “Entre La Ciudad Y El Mar.” 

Elizabeth Galindo - Silk & Wool Wall Hanging (detail)

Elizabeth Galindo – Silk & Wool Wall Hanging (detail)

Elizabeth is as busy and focused as anyone I’ve known; somewhere between our childhood and our current lives she developed an intense creativity and discerning eye. Perhaps it was always there—she had a lot to say about Barbie’s wardrobe back in the day!  Fashion is risk, and risks she took. Years living in Mexico informed her aesthetic, as did early years in Southern California. At the summer camp we attended together, Elizabeth received a coveted plaque: “Camper of the Week.” I didn’t. I came in third at the summer’s end “Activity Contest”; Elizabeth took second. She understands what it means to build a profile and get your work out into the world. Still, when I saw her creations “in the flesh” this summer, I was stunned by their exquisite beauty and passionate dedication evident in every piece.

Last year Elizabeth earned her Masters of Fine Arts and a PhD in Performance Studies with an emphasis in Film and Fashion at the University of California, Davis. She travels extensively to lecture, and she has “studied and earned several proficiency degrees in silk screening, hand blocking and embroidery work on fabrics at the Fuji Institute in Florence, Italy.” On top of it all, Elizabeth is an adjunct professor at two universities, conducting her courses on line.

Elizabeth Galindo Botanical Fabric

Elizabeth Galindo Botanical Fabric

Elizabeth has fun with fashion; she regularly posts her favorite trends and designs to social media, and her followers delight in her sense of style. Elizabeth’s ability to move back and forth between designing the finest quality, custom-fitted garments, marked by distinct detail—very time consuming to create—to melding rich, loose colors with natural elements is quite unusual and the sign of a high artist.

While visiting Elizabeth in California we spotted a sweater she advised me to buy. If I’m smart, I’ll take her advice.

Elizabeth Galindo - Bias Cut Burnt Velvet Gown

Elizabeth Galindo – Bias Cut Burnt Velvet Gown

gala.logowebLet the Good Times Roll!

A wonderful opportunity to bridge the distance between Jackson’s art scene and the University of Wyoming’s and Wyoming Arts ever-evolving, visionary arts culture is to get yourself down to U.W.’s Art Museum’s fundraising black tie Gala “Laizzes les Bons Temps Rouler!”  The event takes place Saturday, October 26th, 2013 in the Yellowstone Ballroom Wyoming Union, at U.W.  The evening’s rollicking tone will be set by the hippest band in the state, “Jackson 6.”  

All proceeds benefit the exhibition, education and collection programs at the U.W. Art Museum–a spectacular museum; its galleries remind me of San Francisco’s De Young. Sponsorship levels vary—individual tickets are $175, and there are multiple “table” opportunities.

“The Art Museum and its outreach programs not only impact the quality of life around Wyoming; the preschool through college education programs strengthen student problem-solving and critical thinking skills — a great benefit to our future workforce,” say this year’s gala chairs Chris and Kathryn Boswell.

The party starts at 6:00 pm!  Fine hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and silent auction are all part of the fun…which promises to be memorable. I would love to be there!  For information, phone 307.766.3477. Read a little bit more about the evening’s events here.


Art Applications; Soul Spot; Christensen Workshops

Layout 1Tuesday, May 14th, I attended the Town and County funding appeals session at the Teton County Commissioners chamber. Civic process is fascinating. That day the Cultural Council of Jackson Hole defended its appeal to both bodies for greater arts funding. I think it went well!  With our ever-changing leadership, it’s difficult for new civic leaders to be up to speed on the Arts Council’s function. On Tuesday that role was clarified, I hope to the group’s benefit.

Many grant applicants receive funding from other sources. For the Arts Council, that’s not so. Town and County funding is their sole support. Cynthia Huyffer and Lisa Samford made oral presentations to the panel, making several points: Funding for the Arts Council has sunk 40% in recent years; “Americans for the Arts” comprehensive study of the economic impact of the arts here in Teton County stresses art’s key role in our community’s health; tourism is bolstered by a strong arts presence (true in EVERY city!); arts are not “icing on the cake”–they foster new ideas, keep cities exciting and dynamic, reflect history and new arts initiatives, are language tools, build self-esteem, create memorable high-impact experiences; and that the Cultural Council is a “re-granting” group. They use monies provided by Town and County to fund grant requests.


The Arts Council had, by far, the greatest number of supporters in the room. That sends a strong message in itself, doesn’t it? In addition to the speakers named above, these individuals were present: Cathy Wikoff, Alissa Davies, Emy diGrappa, Gary Silberberg, Carrie Geraci, Amanda Flosbach, Pontier Sackrey, Rachel Pettingill and Mary Lee White. Apologies if I’ve left any names out.

The Arts Council requested $50,000 from the County and $20,000 from the Town. Last year, total funding was approximately $34,000. As the group pointed out, that money has to be distributed, most often, to 20-25 arts groups approved for funding by the Arts Council.

Now that the Arts Council has made its appeal, it’s time for Jackson’s artists to send in their applications. These grants are available to arts and culture organizations as well as individual artists. Your project should be creative, dynamic and beneficial to a broad portion of the community. Ask yourself this: Would I feel confident presenting my request directly to the Town Council or Teton County Commissioners? How would they respond? 


This is a two-way street, so read your application out loud to yourself. How does it sound? It’s a gift to have the Council go to bat for artists that may not wish to be in chambers; and our civic leaders, overwhelmed with agendas, recognize that the Cultural Council does a huge service by working with arts organizations directly.

alissa-davies-pods-02Grants are now available on the Cultural Council of Jackson Hole website. Here are guidelines: The program distributes social service tax dollars from the Town of Jackson and Teton County for arts education, producing and presenting opportunities, and public projects by individual artists that have strong community benefit. Requests may be up to $6,000, and must be cash-matched at least 1:1 by each applicant. Applications are due June 1, 2013.  No support will be provided to any entity already receiving public support from Town or County funds. 

You can find Arts for All application forms, guidelines and budget at Contact Alissa Davies at And Alissa: Thank you for your years of balanced, constant, thoughtful and energetic work on behalf of “Arts for All!”  You are one of Jackson’s finest arts representatives. 

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“Arts for All” Appeal; Artistic Celebration of Boredom; Voces Latinas


“I asked the earth. I asked the sea and the deeps, among the living animals, the things that creep. I asked the winds that blow. I asked the heavens, the sun, the moon, the stars, and to all things that stand at the doors of my flesh…My question was the gaze I turned to them. Their answer was their beauty.” ~ St. Augustine


Public Art is thriving here in Jackson Hole. Installations spring up all over town. But what about non-public arts initiatives?  To an extent all art is public; people can go see it or hear it.  True public art is free for us to enjoy—by definition a public service. But other art projects and exhibitions, theatrical plays, music experiences, children’s art projects and even arts curriculum rely in part — sometimes fully—on turnstile dollars and funding. Art access is not always free, and arts groups need money to make projects happen: to create costumes, rent space, purchase materials, advertise, provide refreshments, update websites, create curriculum, pay talent, staff and travel costs….the list goes on.

The Jackson Hole Cultural Council’s “Arts for All” program has received limited funding dollars from the Town and County. How the amount is arrived at is unclear. I assume the amount would be part of a budget request from the Town and County, available in pubic records. Given the number of non-profit arts groups and individuals requesting grants, it stands to reason that amounts the Cultural Council receives from a limited fund would leave arts organizations a bit hog-tied.

WSAnyone requesting grant money from any source must be aware grants are evaluated in multiple ways. Usually there are clear rules about submission processes. Hence, all requests should be submitted only when they are as polished and thorough as possible. We do have an astounding number of arts organizations for a town our size. The message of how much the Town of Jackson’s arts scene means to its profile is clearer each year.

The Cultural Council of Jackson Hole plans to go before Town and County officials on Tuesday, May 14, at 9:40 am, to defend this year’s “Arts for All” funding application.  Whatever amount the Council is requesting (I don’t have that number) your voice (here is mine!) matters. Attend the meeting that day and help the Council get their message across. The meeting takes place at County Commissioner Chambers on Simpson Street. For information contact Alissa Davies at    

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Musings: Jackson Hole’s Creative Journeys

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Beginning with the end in mind is about examining why life is worth living and being true to your own values and dreams,” says Acton’s MBA Entrepreneurship. “If you have trouble uncovering these fundamental goals and values, it is time to go back to your basic foundations. Query people you trust and admire. Read great literary works and books on philosophy. Spend time alone in a quiet place. If you are religious, reexamine the fundamentals of your religion. Question, examine assumptions, reflect, and question again.”

In recent weeks I’ve listened as artists and non-artists spoke on the subject of embracing failure as it relates to success; the conversation began at last month’s Culture Front forum. It’s so in the air!  How do we stay afloat? It’s so easy, even comfortable, to allow our values and true wishes to take a back seat to daily demands. We want the public to invest in us, yet we often avoid digging in to the very problems we must solve in order for that to happen. It’s a conscious effort every day, and it’s a tough go. I’m reading a wonderful book that says the typical mindset of “success” is about “getting.” And “getting” is a fight.

A friend recently said that Jackson is full of wonderful people, and she’s right. We’re a persistent, well-meaning, cause-driven population. In all things creative, we’re on the hunt for that “groove,” and the unknowns are…unknown.

A positive development: Vertical Harvest was unanimously supported by Jackson’s Town Council!  The next step is sending that proposal to Teton County’s Wyoming Business Council Representative Roger Bower, Wyoming’s West Central Region Representative. Bower’s office is in Riverton, Wyoming. Word is, he does not like the project. However, he’s the man who will approve appropriations. I’ve emailed Mr. Bower a question or two; if he responds, you’ll see it here. If not, assume “no comment” by post time.

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