Tag Archives: Travis Walker

Walker Cake; Mountain Trails; Artists in the Environment

"Cruise" by Travis Walker

“Cruise” by Travis Walker

“Stability is something we all seek. That’s why we’ve built things up. You can find amazing classes to take, but carving out your own space is another story. We don’t have a central place for that, and that’s the demand.” ~ Travis Walker

Now for that cake. This interview reflects Travis Walker’s views developed from years of working independently and otherwise in Jackson’s art scene.

“The way we’ve built our arts scene, it hasn’t been community based,” says Jackson Hole artist and newest NEA grant reviewer Travis Walker. “We have a great commodity. Galleries are lined with paintings and artwork. But when we built the Center, we forgot about the cake. The cake is artists. Without them, nothing works. If you don’t have people in classes, if you can’t afford to live here, you’re not invested, and you have to move. We’re finite, and we deal with the same people.”

(Insertion: The Center for the Arts and the Art Association are two different entities. As you’ll see, Walker realizes that the expense of real estate is a heavy mantle for arts groups here. Classes represent grass roots efforts, touch countless lives, create indelible memories, and are highly formative for Jackson’s young people, as well as adults. The point is there are many currents at work; every class listing represents vast numbers of people of all ages either making, observing or leading a class.)

studioPeople of means who can afford studio space or industrious, hard-working people like John Frechette, whose business is expanding, are doing well. But real estate is a big problem, says Walker. We need to make space affordable—it’s difficult, yet very desireable to be here. The only way to attract people is to create affordable space, and now we’re back in a situation where decent space is hard to find.

Walker believes the way to start anything is to create work space.

The Factory was a place for artists to work, the rent was cheap, and people —kids, too—could come in and see how art was made. We did have to shut down, but for reasons unrelated to this core need. We all had a common goal,” he says. “At this stage in my career I don’t need classes. But now what? Artists who know their craft like classes, but not every month. The demand for affordable studio space, though—that’s something artists pay for every month. It’s steady income for the building occupied.”

Walker is giving away his plan. Is he ok with that? Yes.


“You have to know how to approach all sorts of people, and I’m not sure that is something you can learn in school. Things change. Our Latino citizens are, as of the 2010 census, almost 30% of our population. Those kids are in my classes. It’s organic; we have to change. I’ve changed. People have not known what the hell I was doing; we were all fluctuating violently in reaction to our crashing local economy. We’re still seeing the fallout.”

Maybe THAT will change. The desire is present. Arts work together.


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Travis Walker’s Keys to Art’s Kingdom


Jackson Hole artist, entrepreneur and mover-shaker Travis Walker spends as much time searching out opportunities to house artists as he does creating his own art. It’s a driving mission, and now Walker may have been handed, as he says, “the keys to the kingdom.”

Walker is one of only five artists in the country chosen by the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) “ARTIST COMMUNITIES: Art Work” program to review, score and make in-depth comments on 56 projects submitted for NEA grant money. He has three weeks.

shot_1313720245080-300x300Walker is the “new kid on the block,” reviewing requests that could receive as much as $250,000 from the NEA, the largest arts funding group in the country.  An incredible opportunity says Walker; these projects are the best applications from the best development teams in the country. It’s a gift to review, understand and learn from them, as well as a starting point for Walker to submit his own requests. If he were ever chosen to receive such a grant, the NEA needs to know, down to the tiniest detail, what Walker’s project would be.

“After we score all the applicants there will be a review panel held in Washington DC in June,” Walker explains. “I’ll be with senior panelists and two NEA specialists work with us. They contacted me; I did not request to be considered. The NEA must have found me on line; they were looking for someone from Wyoming, which is validating, and the NEA picks panelists they want to encourage to apply for grants themselves at a later date. Going through this process will teach me the process, I’ll learn so much about how national organizations like this one work.  If I were successful, it would be an awesome cornerstone to start building something—for the Art Lab to build something.”


It’s also important, says Walker, that NEA panelists don’t have a whiff of conflict of interest when reviewing projects, ruling out many major artist communities. (There are federal laws about that for non-profits, and you can read them—just click on that link up there.) Walker took part in a conference call with the other panelists so they could introduce themselves to one another. The call gave Walker a chance to ask questions about the system. And away they go!

Walker’s excitement is understandable.

“I have a waiting list of artists that’s so long I can barely keep track of it; and no space to give them. Right now we pay our landlord rent. We have to raise about $20K every year to balance out our rent budget,” says Walker. “Five years ago I didn’t think I’d see people pay $800 to rent studio space, let alone $300; but people are doing better jobs of trying to make their businesses work. I don’t know yet where we’d build a new space, but I know I could raise the money.

"Snow King" - Travis Walker

“Snow King” – Travis Walker

I think what this kind of grant does, it gives people living where studio space is difficult to afford a place to work. That takes significant public funding. Every year I have to go out and ask for grant money to subsidize these projects. What I should be doing is getting money to build something that is rent controlled; we own it. It’s an asset, we’re not paying into it every month.

cherry-birthday-cake-300x450If something cost, say, only a $1,000,000, a plan could go forward. I wouldn’t have to wait for a ton of public approval and appropriations. I’ll start with the cake. I notice that even with the concerts and things we’ve been doing, momentum isn’t building because we still don’t have the cake. We don’t have it built correctly yet. What’s missing is a real artists community. A place that’s only about artists studios, where they work and interact with each other, do the work they want, have time and space to do it.”

The cake. More about Walker’s take on cake soon.  www.nea.gov










Travis Walker Paints “En Plein Air” in GTNP

“Everywhere I’ve ever been, my art has been about that place,” says Walker. “I remember most powerfully the places I’ve painted and drawn. The act of recording them makes me remember.” ~ Travis Walker

Hip, happening Jackson Hole artist and entrepreneur Travis Walker will give a free plein air painting demonstration on Saturday, July 14th, 2012, 9:00 am – Noon, at Grand Teton National Park’s Willow Flats Turnout, overlooking Mt. Moran and the Oxbow Bend vista. Get up early and catch Walker where we rarely get to see him: painting those glowing, transluscent landscapes. Here in Jackson, the arts community has come to know Walker’s work so well. His paintings are unmistakable, and his profile as an artist continues to grow.  For his demonstration Walker has chosen one of the Park’s most scenic spots—the vista overlooking Mount Moran is recognized around the world. Moran’s peak is reflected in the Snake River, winding through the area. Oxbow Bend is also a very good place to view wildlife~~the earlier you arrive, the more likely you are to see blue herons, bears, moose, eagles, ospreys….you get the picture. In fact, take LOTS of pictures.

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Jackson Needs a United Arts Nation

Shattering news for the Art Association that its most recent executive director, Nick Van Hevelingen, has walked. When an organization of the size and complexity of the Art Association—still the Center for the Arts’ most significant tenant in terms of square footage—loses two new executive directors in such short order, it’s safe to assume internal conflict exists. Unfortunately, the Art Association isn’t the only local non-profit grappling with leadership and staffing issues.

My first impression of Van Hevelingen was that he was a natty dresser. Pressed and sharp, his business experience and pedigrees surely impressed board members. I was impressed. My first conversation with Van Hevelingen was surprising, because he openly discussed his frustrations. Pacing the room, he fiddled with connections and hook-ups on his computer. He produced a folder thick as a New York City phone book; that folder was full of research and plans to restore Glenwood Street’s Western Motel. The idea was to renovate the hotel’s single floor annex, clean up the hotel rooms and facilities and turn the building into artists studios. I and a friend had come to talk about the Art Association becoming the anchor group for a public-art-in-store-windows initiative. He liked the idea, and said that insuring such a project would be relatively easy, but that he and staff would not be able to do the footwork of canvassing Town Square commercial real estate owners. Fair enough.

Travis Walker compiled the research in that folder. The Western Hotel project never happened, for the reason most projects-in-waiting don’t happen. No money. It seems Van Hevelingen hoped funding would come from a source other than the Art Association; the emperor had no clothes. Walker’s group backed off. Too bad, because reviving that space and bringing artists back downtown would help connect the Center for the Arts to Jackson’s Town Center. Visitors would be able to see artists as they worked. And those visitors would walk across the street to the Center and experience the Art Association’s superb gallery space and exhibitions.

It’s curious that despite strong suggestions from Jackson’s most prominent industry consultants that local non-profits consider consolidating, almost nobody has done it. Why?

The answer can only be ego. And it’s so past time to get over that.

Until our economy improves, non-profits should actively look for ways to hook up to solve common issues. Walker’s Factory Studios now provides affordable space for a large number of Jackson’s contemporary artists. But there is high demand for more space. Wouldn’t the ideal be to have those artists back downtown, making art that could be displayed in town? We should think of Jackson’s cultural health as a whole, not as individual entities fighting for dominance. The Art Association has traditionally been Jackson’s power contemporary arts hub. Many young artists got their start there. That’s changing, much as the world’s economic balance has changed.

Let’s think globally, locally. Our non-profits are countries whose fortunes are changing; creative groups barely on the map a few years ago now provide sustainable solutions and venues. Until recently, Germany‘s economy was troubled. Now the country is an economic model and much of the world would love to use its credit cards.

At September’s United Nations General Assembly, driven by national political agendas, the United States attempted to block a Palestine bid to gain U.N. membership. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, an underdog on the world stage, forcefully broke with the Obama administration and proposed a compromise: enhance Palestine’s status to that of an observer state.

“This would be an important step forward,” Sarkozy said. “Most important, it would mean emerging from a state of immobility that favors only the extremists.”

It’s not the size of your sign anymore; it’s innovation that counts. You may be an activist non-profit; you may be a “get it on the ground” organization. If you share a “big picture” cause with other groups, don’t isolate; seek strength by finding ways to come together.



Boomerang Back to Jackson for Teton Art Lab

The information below was written last Wednesday—but I was subsequently asked to push back the release of the post;  hence all the references to events last week. Bottom line:  Teton Art Lab is back in Jackson Town.


Briefly:  You might have seen Travis Walker walking around, and he’s walking around because Teton Art Lab will end up moving into a studio space at Jackson Hole Center for the Arts.  This happens soon.   No details yet.

Walker plans to attend Rocky Vertone’s Friday night opening of his new gallery space, located at Full Circle Frameworks, North Glenwood.  5:30 start time.    Come and get your scoop!   Rocky has not responded to my fears that the Associated Press may come raid the party; the news service ‘retained’ a certain HOPE artist behind bars, just yesterday.

More publicity!  All publicity is good.  It all makes for  good chat material tomorrow evening, and beyond.  Welcome back, Travis!   Kudos to the Center for incorporating new tenants, and strengthening  our arts community resources.  One for all!