By Western Hands 2022: A Year in Review
Written by Caleb Nelson on January 24, 2023
By Western Hands’ mission is to sustain Western functional art and 2022 marks the 30th Anniversary of the Western Design Conference, organized today as a tax-exempt charitable organization.
The history of the organization and body of work of master artisans are being published in a beautifully written reference book by Chase Reynolds Ewald and designed by Scott Morrison. The publication presented in highest quality photography will be available for purchase on their website and at the Center downtown Cody after Thanksgiving and 100% of the sales proceeds will be used to support the mission of By Western Hands.
According to the Chairmen of the Board of Directors, Harris Haston and Carlene Lebous, “It was a year of evaluation, planning, and execution.”
The board engaged a third-party consultant to study how best to advance educational programming and raise awareness about their mission. They established a partnership with Cody High School Media Department, headed by educational director Betsy Ryzewicz. The charge was to interview and video the artisans about their training and careers, and to how-to-demonstrations of their work. BWH said they appreciate the time and effort that Betsy and her students devoted to us and how much they accomplished in just a few short months. Three students were actively engaged throughout the summer. The next step will be to stream these videos on an exclusive BWH You-Tube channel as well as links provided on our website. The videos will be permanently housed in the BWH Archival Library.
BWH celebrated the completion of significant initiatives and projects. Many of these achievements have been completed and are on-going with financial and volunteer support from the community. BWH writes, “we hope you are pleased with how we are using your financial and volunteer resources.”
They are approaching their fifth year in their permanent home located in downtown Cody. BWH says, “We again thank two patron supporters who have pledged matching gifts in the form of a challenge match allowing us to receive an additional $1 for every $1 we raise, up to $50,000. This matching gift expires June 30, 2023. Please consider gifting before our match expires so we can double the value of your gift.”
- Regional Shows and Exhibits: expanded outreach to Big Sky Art Auction, Big Sky Montana • Western Design Conference, Jackson, Wyoming • Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale, Cody, Wyoming. Regional expansion allows staff and artisans to meet and interact with new patrons, regional designers and architects so that professionals can be educated about the many different skills and talents of the By Western Hands master artisans.
- Educational Programming: an outside consultant was engaged to help the board evaluate how best to advance and improve BWH educational strategies. The conclusion was to develop added classifications and categories: they are proposed to include programs for beginning interns, mid-level apprentices, on-line video instruction, intermediate skilled and advanced artisans. Some programming may be a certified program, while the beginning to mid-level programming may be in partnership with a broader accredited associates degree. Northwest College, Powell, WY, and BWH continue to offer a program in which student interns can earn credits with in-shop training while being taught by master artisans.
- Partnerships: Partnerships with other community colleges, universities and high schools through vocational classes may expand offerings. A new partnership was initiated with the Cody High School Media to develop a video library to feature the artisans and their work product.
- Artist-in-Residence Instruction and Demonstration: John Gallis, BWH master artisan, worked in the Grainger Demonstration Shop for six-weeks this summer, showing BWH Center visitors how-to make a rocking-horse and a more complicated burled-wood tabletop. Leathercrafts woman, Chris Chapman, BWH master artisan, complimented Gallis, in exhibiting and showing how her unique relief leather techniques are executed. Coppersmith Ben Caldwell, BWH master artisan, held two sold-out instructional classes during Rendezvous Royal week.
- 2022 Invitational Exhibition: To commemorate the 30th anniversary, approximately 22 artisans and invitees participated in the first invitational to show artisan’s new work product exemplifying their skills in their specific medium. Best-in-Show: Furniture was awarded to Brad Greenwood for his beautifully executed piece, and Supaya Gray Wolfe was awarded Best in Show: Decorative Objects of Art.
- Growing Master Artisan Participation: The board and jury committee recruited and admitted eight new master artisans, increasing the number of master artisans to over 50. Exclusive affiliation, by invitation only to By Western Hands, continues to attract the finest artisans in America.
Support and Fundraising: To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the formation of the original western design conference, artisan members offered their interpretation using their work medium to enhance a collectible wooden box. There sales were highly successful, and we thank our artisans for their contribution to this effort. There remain a few beautiful boxes for purchase. See our website or visit our showroom. John Gallis’s wooden rocking horse and Chris Chapman’s leather mirror and coat rack were offered in our annual raffle. 100% of the sales proceeds from the commemorative boxes and raffle helps to support BWH and its programming.