Royale Treatment: Wyoming’s Most Prestigious Art Show This Weekend in Cody

The biggest names in western art will be represented at Wyoming's most prestigious art event, the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale this weekend in Cody. Last year, despite the pandemic, it raised more than $1 million and with 104 artists represented this year, organizers are excited about this year's event.

Wendy Corr

September 21, 20224 min read

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Barhaugh. Blessing. Christie. Devenyns. Howell-Sickles. Kelsey. Navarro. Payne.

Some of the biggest names in the modern Western art world are represented in Cody this week at the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale, a tradition going back 41 years.

Western artists and art aficionados are drawn to Wyoming for this annual celebration of all things Western. 

For the last two years, the event, part of Cody’s Rendezvous Royale, has been hampered by health restrictions because of the pandemic.

But this year, director Kathy Thompson told Cowboy State Daily the shebang’s back in full swing.

“I think this year feels more like it did in 2019,” she said, noting that last year the show had just 300 registered guests – a far cry from the packed party tents pre-COVID.

“This year we’re filling our tent back up,” said Thompson. “On any given day of the events, we’ll probably have 600 people in the tent. And that would include our registered guests, plus all of our volunteers that pull this all together.” 

Thompson, who is now in her 15th year directing the art show, said this year’s event showcases some of the most unique Western art ever assembled.

“This year, we have 104 artists,” she said. “And I guess I say it every year, but it’s so true, that there’s 104 ways to see the West. They all look at the West a little bit differently.” 

Rendezvous Royale

The Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale falls under the umbrella of Rendezvous Royale, a weeklong celebration of artists and artisans. It’s co-hosted by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Cody Country Chamber of Commerce. 

Locals and visitors are taking in workshops and exhibits, as well as presentations by world-renowned Western artists. Thursday night’s Art Walk is a popular community event, as is the live art auction Friday, the Quick Draw on Saturday morning, and the Patron’s Ball on Saturday night provides a grand finale to the annual celebration.

Economic Boost

Chamber Director Tina Hoebelheinrich said the week brings a much-needed boost to Cody’s “shoulder season,” when most tourists have gone home and local tourism dollars dry up.

“It’s sales tax revenue, it’s bed tax revenue, it’s heads in beds,” said Hoebelheinrich of the Rendezvous. “It’s all of the things that we want for shoulder season events. It’s people shopping downtown. Our Thursday night ArtWalk has become very popular for local businesses.”

Hoebelheinrich said that because of the nature of the event, it’s not just tourism-related businesses that benefit from the influx of visitors. 

“We work with a tremendous number of local partners for goods and services,” she said. “We try and keep as much of that here local as possible.” 

Last year’s art show netted the artists and community more than $1 million, Hoebelheinrich said, which is split between the artists, the Center of the West and the Chamber of Commerce.

“So, 60% of the net revenue at the end of the year goes to the Center of the West as a fundraiser for them, and the remaining portion pays salaries and helps the Chamber do the work that we do,” she said.

Long-Awaited Celebration

Thompson said that after two years of having a significantly subdued event, this year the staff, artists and volunteers involved in the art show are anxious to celebrate.

“We had training with our volunteers, and it was so exciting for me because I asked them, ‘Has anybody been waiting for this week this year?’” said Thompson. “And they’re all like, ‘Yes, we love this week. We want to help, we want to be involved. We want to see the art, we want to really contribute.’ And they’re all volunteers that just are giving up their nice weekend in Cody to work for us.” 

For Hoebelheinrich, the Rendezvous, featuring the Art Show and Sale, means the summer tourist season is extended just a bit longer each year.

“Shoulder season events really do help keep that flow of visitors to Cody,” she said. “And this is the granddaddy of them all.”

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Wendy Corr

Features Reporter