Tucked up against the Wind River Mountains, Lander is one of Wyoming’s most picturesque towns, drawing visitors year-round for outdoor recreation opportunities.
But a small group of artists and entrepreneurs wanted Lander’s historic downtown district to reflect the rich culture of the region through public art.
It’s difficult for public art to be more visible than the scattering of large murals being created throughout the area.
On the side of the bakery building, hidden on an alley wall, and prominently displayed on the side of Eagle Uniform & Supply are three examples of how Lander residents are celebrating local artists while also enhancing the look and feel of their downtown.
“It just adds to the experience of enjoying a place and spaces,” said Owen Sweeney of the Lander Chamber of Commerce about the large murals. “And so, the more that a community can provide those kinds of spaces that provide comfort and enjoyment, then it's going to make people maybe get out of their cars more, stroll up and down Main Street more, and spend more money and more time in our businesses and restaurants.”
Public Art Projects in Lander
There are three primary works of art displayed downtown.
One is a mural on the side of Eagle Uniform & Supply, and another is hidden in the alley behind the Lander Bread Share/White Bark Café at 135 N. 2nd St. The black-and-white painting by artist Adrienne Vetter commemorates the achievement of a notable Lander resident.
“Helen Higby was the first woman to summit Grand Teton in the winter,” said Stacy Stebner, former director of the Lander Arts Center. “And she's still alive and lives in Lander. That was (painted) last summer.”
The third and most recent piece of public art is displayed on the side of Lander Bake Shop, also known as the Bossert Building, at 259 Main St. and owned by Mick and Jen Pryor.
The large mural there was created last summer and was a collaboration between local philanthropists and Native American artists.
Titled “Power, Life, Healing,” the two-story mural was created in the right location to celebrate the diversity of the Lander community, said Jen Pryor.
“The mural promotes equity in Lander's most central public place,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Visibility breeds empathy, and we believe that through public art we can develop a more compassionate community.”
The Bossert Collective
Jen Pryor, Sophie Barksdale and Stacy Stebner co-founded The Bossert Collective in 2021, named for the Pryors’ downtown building.
“The Bossert Collective was created to fund and project manage the mural ‘Power, Life, Healing’ on the Bossert Building,” Pryor told Cowboy State Daily. “I wanted to use the side of our building as a canvas to make an impact on our community, and I knew I needed a team to make the project happen.”
The Bossert project involved a collaboration of three Native American artists — Colleen Friday, Talisa Abeyta and primary assistant Adrienne Vetter, along with a number of other assistants.
“Notably, Colleen Friday is Northern Arapaho, and Talissa Abeyta is Shoshone,” said Pryor. “It was important to the artists that both nations be represented in the creation and imagery of the mural.”
Pryor explained that the artists created one cohesive work using a popular form of Native American art called “ledger art,” where contemporary images are rendered on top of historic ledger paper.
“The imagery draws from traditional iconography and contemporary motifs from both tribes, including buffalo, geometric symbols and Fireweed,” said Pryor.
Stebner is the project coordinator for the Bossert Collective. She said the bakery building project took several months to complete, beginning with the projection of the concept art on the side of the building.
“They projected it several nights in a row so that they could outline it, and they traced it from the projection,” Stebner said. “The work started in June or July of last summer, and then the reception was Aug. 19.”
Pryor explained that the cost to create a piece of public art depends on a number of factors, mainly square footage.
“For reference, the Helen Higby mural cost $3,600, and ‘Power, Life, Healing’ cost $40,000,” said Pryor.
The price tag for the two-story mural included costs for a public celebration of the completion of the project.
“We paid three artists basically full time for a month and a half,” she said. “We had to use huge lifts brought in from Riverton to get them up there, and then paint — there was also gold leaf on the wall.”
Honoring Native Culture
The celebration of the completion of the Bossert Building mural also honored the artists and culture, which inspired the work. The event included Native dancers and drum groups, along with free food catered by Native Americans from the Wind River Indian Reservation.
“So, all the money went straight into the reservation,” said Stebner.
Pryor said that the founders of the collective determined that their mission would be to inspire community connectedness and promote cultural understanding and appreciation through public art.
“This mural aims to bring visibility and to breed respect for the people of the Wind River Reservation,” said Pryor. “Folks in the Native community have expressed that the representation on a Main Street building is significant to them, that it helps them feel seen, and that it makes Lander a more inviting place for Native people.”
Lander has been a destination for outdoor recreation enthusiasts for decades, but the popularity of activities such as hiking, mountain biking and cross-country skiing is growing, which draws visitors to the region. And Sweeney said tourism is a large driver of the community’s economy.
“We do not benefit from the oil and gas industry the way that most of Wyoming does,” he said, “and so we rely heavily on tourism. We are on one of the most traveled routes from an interstate to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, and so Lander is hopping all summer long.”
Sweeney said the addition of public art, such as the murals and various statues in the downtown area, only enhances the appeal of the central Wyoming community.
“People like beautiful things,” he said. “They like to drive downtown, see the artwork around, and it just sort of adds to the experience.”
Pryor said the mural has already been an economic boost for Lander’s downtown.
“Business owners have reported increased foot traffic,” she said. “Folks spend time and money on Main Street because of the mural.”