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West brings opera rehearsal to Cody High School

in arts and culture
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Music students at Cody High School got a glimpse into the world of professional music in November when Kanye West brought the cast of his new opera to Cody for rehearsal.

West’s opera, “Nebuchadnezzar,” was performed Nov. 24 at the Hollywood Bowl after rehearsals by dancers and musicians at Cody High School on Nov. 21.

“They had about 50-plus dancers in there, plus over 100 in the choir and then they had the soloists,” said Wade French, Cody High School’s band teacher. “They were just writing the opera as they were performing it, as they were rehearsing it.”

West, who this year bought a ranch near Cody and has moved the headquarters for his clothing and shoe business to the city, contacted the high school when he needed rehearsal space, French said.

One of French’s students who got the chance to play saxophone with West’s group said the experience has convinced her to pursue music in her future.

“They know what it’s all about,” said senior Kate Beardall. “They know what the music industry is about. And they really just opened my eyes to what I want to do.”

The opera, according to a news release, tells the story of an ancient Babylonian king and his “transition from wicked, imperious, self-declared ruler to a true believer who finds salvation in his faith.”

French said the experience of watching professional musicians practice and put their own spin on the material was interesting.

“It was the music that was very impressive,” he said. “We got to see that first-hand. We got to see those artists and those musicians creating it and really just tweaking it. Making it their own.”

Wandering Weavers works to keep weaving alive

in arts and culture
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A group of women in northwestern Wyoming are working to keep the art of weaving alive.

Members of The Wandering Weavers work with hand-operated looms to create beautiful works of textile art.

Recently, the group took part in a workshop led by Carolyn Wostenberg, a master weaver from Worland.

Wostenberg said she began weaving after growing tired of other forms of fabric art such as knitting, quilting and sewing.

“And so once I got started in weaving, it was just something that there’s always new things to learn,” she said.

Wostenberg said she enjoys teaching weaving because it is constantly evolving.

“With the technology that’s there, it’s just amazing how much they’ve incorporated that,” she said. “It isn’t just an ancient craft.”

The workshop was held at Cody’s By Western Hands, a non-profit  organization dedicated to preserving the legacy of western design.

Kristin Fong, director of By Western Hands, said it made sense for the group to host the workshop because of its dedication to preserving traditional crafts.

“Part of that includes weaving, but it also includes furniture design, saddle making, beadwork,” she said. “I think a wider net can be cast to include a wider variety of craft.”

“Wyoming through The Lens” Facebook group displays Wyoming’s glory

in arts and culture/Community
Wyoming Through the Lens
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Ever since Lorri Lang came to northeast Wyoming more than 30 years ago, she’s been in awe of the state’s natural beauty. 

There are the obvious choices to check out beautiful scenery, like heading to Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park or trekking to Devil’s Tower. While Lang loves those sites, she also wanted people to understand how absolutely gorgeous other areas of the state are. 

“My family lives here up near the Big Horns, so we travel a lot in that area,” Lang said. “But I haven’t been able to travel the rest of the state as much. So this group was a chance for me and other people to get a different glimpse of Wyoming.” 

Around five years ago, Lang was inspired by a Facebook page she followed, “Nebraska through the Lens,” to create a similar page. As a Nebraska native, she loved seeing photographers from all over the state, whether amateur or professional, take images that captured what life was like in her home state. 

She thought a similar page focusing on Wyoming would provide a great chance to show current and former Wyoming residents, people who had come through the state to vacation and people who love gorgeous photography, a chance to see a unique side of the state. 

She didn’t think it would be a big group. Maybe some friends would join it. They could even possibly get some of their friends added to it. 

Quickly, Lang saw that she had more member requests than she could have ever expected. More and more people wanted to check out “Wyoming through The Lens.” 

Since its inception, the group has garnered more than 111,000 members, trailing not too far behind the Nebraska page that inspired it, which boasts around 188,000 users. 

“I think people have this idea of Wyoming that’s centered around coal and oil,” Lang said. “But there is so much more to it than that. I love Wyoming and I think this page is important because they can see what it’s really like.”

The group is technically private, requiring a Facebook user to answer a few questions (such as why they want to join) to gain entry. Being a Wyoming resident (either current or former) isn’t a requirement, because Lang hopes people all over the country will come to the group to see the glory of Wyoming. 

The cover photo of “Wyoming through The Lens” features a herd of bison lightly covered in snow. It has generated around 1,000 likes or reactions, three dozen comments and more than 60 shares. All of the comments praise the image for how perfectly it defines Wyoming, with some people even inquiring on how to purchase the photo. 

The next post a member will see when scrolling through the page is arguably its most important: the rules. These include staying drama-free, telling members to not use the page to sell photography equipment, letting members know that all photos submitted should be taken in Wyoming and a number of other restrictions. Mainly, Lang reiterates that people in the group should be kind to each other and that political or religious intolerance won’t be tolerated. 

Since the group’s inception, Lang discovered that running a popular Facebook page will show people not getting along. The political posts and comments have become more and more frequent, causing some stress for Lang and even other members. She’s not alone in running the page anymore, though, bringing on another administrator and a few moderators a couple years into the page’s life. 

“At first, there weren’t a lot of political posts,” she said. “But in the last few years, they really gained traction. I don’t like when name-calling occurs, and it definitely has happened.” 

She cited examples such as photos of the Trump family plane landing in Cheyenne and images of dead animals from hunting expeditions as pictures that brought in numerous political comments. But sometimes, people just bring up politics when a photo has nothing to do with anything in the political realm. 

Sometimes comments on posts get turned off if members break the rules, such as a man who posted an image of his living room, trying to subtly show off his custom-made log furniture. One of the moderators called him out, saying “You can’t advertise your business here, even though you gave it a shot of disguising it.” 

Mostly though, people show off just glimpses of their lives. From a woman showing that she was sweeping snow off of her porch in a pair of shorts to a man taking a picture of his Christmas light display. And these are the people who keep Lang running the page. 

Even if the political comments can be a headache, Lang will run “Wyoming through The Lens” as long as people keep wanting to see Wyoming photography. 

“I just want people to get along and not nitpick each other,” she said. “This page is totally worth it to me because I love Wyoming and so many other people do too.”

Wyoming rodeo stock company named PRCA’s top stock contractor

in Agriculture/arts and culture/Community
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A rodeo stock company based near Riverton has been recognized by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for providing consistently high quality bucking stock.

Powder River Rodeo recently won the PRCA’s Polaris Ranger Remuda Awards.

“It’s our ninth time for being nominated for stock contractor of the year,” said Lori Franzen, who founded the business with her husband Hank 35 years ago. “Which to me is one of the nicest honors you can get because you’re going against about 90 other contractors across the nation and to have the people vote you as one of the top five contractors is a huge honor.”

Powder River Rodeo has grown into a family operation from a two-person company.

“It was just us working from the beginning,” Franzen said. “We’d go out and round up pastures and haul in the cattle and the horses and the livestock to the rodeo (with) me timing and helping secretary and Hank running all ends of it. It’s just come to a culmination of now it is a huge family operation. We’re very proud of the fact that after 35 years, we have what we have.”

Powder River Rodeo is taking nine bucking horses and five bulls to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December.

Buffalo Bill Center exhibition celebrates Wyoming women

in arts and culture/Community
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An exhibition designed to celebrate the women in Wyoming and the barriers they break will be on display at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West for the several months.

The “Women in Wyoming” exhibit, timed to coincide with the anniversary of women winning the right to vote in both Wyoming and the United States, features photographs by exhibit creator Lindsay Linton Buk, a noted portrait photographer.

The exhibit features the photographs of Buk, originally a Powell resident who now has a studio in Jackson and worked for a time in New York.

The exhibit is a little different from traditional displays, said Rebecca West, head of the Plains Indian Museum and director of curatorial education and museum services at the Buffalo Bill Center.

“When we think of arts, photography exhibitions, a lot of time it provides an escape,” West said. “this one is somewhere between an escape and a challenge. When you look at all the women in here, what they’re doing is they’re taking on these challenges and trying to fix things, trying to find solutions.”

Women visiting the exhibition will also have an opportunity to tell their own stories through special “leave a message” telephones at the exhibit or by visiting Buk’s website, West said.

The exhibition opened this year to celebrate the 150th anniversary of women winning the right to vote in Wyoming and will remain up into 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage nationally, said Karen McWhorter, the Scarlett curator of Western art for the Whitney Museum of Western Art.

“So it was critical that we had a longer tenure of this exhibition,” said McWhorter, who worked with West and Buk to design the display.

The exhibit may change how people view Wyoming, West said.

“We’re the Cowboy State and this exhibition shows we’re a lot deeper than just being known as the Cowboy State,” she said.

Midwest rancher recognized for years of rodeo

in Agriculture/arts and culture/Community
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A Midwest rancher and longtime rodeo cowboy has been inducted into the Rodeo Historical Society’s Hall of Fame.

Frank Shepperson, who capped his years in the rodeo with a world championship steer wrestling title in 1975, was inducted in ceremonies held Nov. 8 and 9 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

Shepperson said he got involved in the rodeo while working on his family’s ranch.

“When you live on a ranch and you break horses for a living and you’re trying to get a little extra money, it just is natural,” he said. “My father also rodeoed.”

In his school years, Shepperson claimed the national high school title for bronc riding and went on to be a member of the University of Wyoming rodeo team in 1961, when the team won the national college championship.

Shepperson said it was his mother who encouraged him to compete in as many rodeo events as possible.

“When I was a freshman in high school, I filled out my (rodeo) entry form and showed it to my mother,” he said. “The high school rodeo was in Gillette, 90 miles away. She said ‘If we’re driving 90 miles for a damn rodeo, you better get in the bullriding, too.’ That’s the only thing I hadn’t entered.”

Shepperson said he was flattered to have been selected for induction into the Hall of Fame.

“I’m humbled and honored to join a lot of my friends and family and heroes that are already in this,” he said.

Art important to the world, says NEA chair

in arts and culture/Community/News
2344

Making art a part of people’s daily lives is very important to the future, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts said during a visit to Cheyenne.

Mary Anne Carter visited Cheyenne on Friday for the Wyoming Arts Summit, hosted by the Wyoming Arts Council.

During her appearance, Carter said the arts unite people by bringing members of different cultures and political beliefs together.

“What we’re finding more and more is arts are a big part of healing and health and well being,” she said. “So for the future of the nation and the world, making sure arts are integrated into our everyday lives is really important.”

Art is also a good tool for economic development, said Brian Harrington, an artist and member of Laramie’s city council.

Harrington pointed as an example to Laramie’s Mural Project, a space where artists can join forces to create large-scale murals.

“When you see these things start to build community spaces, you see them strengthen communities and provide a space where we can all get together and sort of move on from there,” he said. “We can gather and collaborate and do things we weren’t necessarily anticipating doing before.”

Carter said the arts played a major role in the women’s suffrage movement in Wyoming. To commemorate that fact, the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra has commissioned a female composer to write a piece in honor of the 150th anniversary of Wyoming giving women the right to vote.

“I think that just goes to show how critical women are to Wyoming, economic development, the arts, just in general and making sure they are well represented is very important,” said Ryan McConnaughey, president of the orchestra’s executive committee.

Dia de los Muertos at the Wyoming State Museum

in arts and culture/Community
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In Cheyenne, at the Wyoming State Museum families came to celebrate Dia de los Muertos this weekend. There was sugar skull cookie decorating, dancers, music and preparations for the all important ofrenda.

Many parents expressed the importance of connecting their children to the traditions of Mexico and exposing kids to the rich customs of other cultures.

Our Mike McCrimmon was there to capture the sights and sounds of the day. Step inside the event with his video report.

Giant bronze horses created in Cowboy State, headed for Sicily

in arts and culture/Bill Sniffin/Column
Bronze horses
Eagle Bronze Foundry workers are dwarfed by the size of these bronze horses created in Lander by the Italian-American artist Arturo Di Modica. They were recently shipped to Sicily. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)
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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

In a state where the cowboy culture of horses is almost a religion, it was fitting that two of the largest horses in the world were created here.

Artist Arturo Di Modica, one of the world’s greatest living sculptors, has been using the Eagle Bronze Foundry in Lander for many of his gigantic works.

The first efforts on this project started 13 years ago. In terms of all the projects undertaken by Eagle Bronze, this one might have set the record for its long time in their shop.

But first a person is impressed by the gigantic size of these horses. They are 26 feet tall. They dwarf the workmen who have been putting the finishing touches to the huge bronze work of art.

It is not certain how the horses will be placed in Di Modica’s native Sicily, but they will sure create a stir when installed.

Monte and Bev Paddleford founded Eagle Bronze in 1985 when Bev wanted to return to her hometown to sculpt and to create a small foundry to cast bronzes made by her late father, artist Bud Boller.

Bev Paddleford, one of the owners and founders of Eagle Bronze, shows the relative size of the horses by standing next to a hoof.
Bev Paddleford, one of the owners and founders of Eagle Bronze, shows the relative size of the horses by standing next to a hoof. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

They formed the business with the vision of being a Christian company. In the next decades it exploded into the largest bronze foundry in the country specializing in huge bronze monuments.

Work from the foundry can be found all over the world. Some of the more famous include the huge black panthers at the Carolina Panthers football stadium in Charlotte, N. C.

The largest bronze monument in Texas was created in Lander – it shows a bronze cattle drive through Pioneer Park in downtown Dallas. It features 40 cows and three cowboys.

The Paddlefords worked with a local committee in Lander to use three of those steers plus a cowboy to create what is called The Bronze Roundup – which might be the largest bronze monument in all of Wyoming. It was the millennium project for the Lander community.

For years, Lander has been known as the City of Bronze because of all the bronze monuments that line the town’s Main Street. Most of this effort was spearheaded by the Paddlefords. The first bronze sculpture on Main Street was by Bev’s father, Bud Boller, sponsored by the local Ambassador’s Club in the 1980s.

In recent years, both Casper and Sheridan have placed tremendous numbers of beautiful bronze statues in their cities. But no small Wyoming town has put as many statues on public display as Lander, although Buffalo and Thermopolis have lots of bronzes, too.

Monte tells their story on their web page: “We decided to move back to our hometown so that we could start a small foundry and for me to pastor a Vineyard Church. I guess the Lord had slightly other plans. Having redesigned the way we build and engineer monuments, we have been told that we are the largest producer of monuments in the world, and can do them quicker than most, keeping the integrity that the artist had originally produced.

“Beverly also started sculpting along the way and is a very gifted and talented artist. Her ability to create softness and life in everything she sculpts is truly a gift from the Lord. Her work has kept our vision of ministry going. I may not be the pastor I thought I was called to be, but I have been able to see the impact Bev’s art has had and been able to use this as a tool to minister to people along the way. God was calling me to ministry, just not how I had seen it!

“Along the way, we added some additional help to our facility. In 1999, our oldest daughter Heather and her husband Matt decided to help run our business. Heather studied accounting in college and is now our Controller. Matt, having studied Structural and Mechanical Engineering in college, is now our Vice President. With the addition of these two, we now have the ability to expand our operations and move in directions we never would have if they were not present.

“We have rebranded Eagle Bronze to move in a direction that has made us more than just a fine art foundry. We have become an art marketing group that can take conception to completion, help our artists find and place projects, and much more. We have become a facility that can do more than just recreate and manufacture art.

“Above all, it has always been about the relationships we have made over the years. It is about our everlasting friendships we have built and hope to continue to build.”

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Cody has plenty of ghost stories

in arts and culture/Community
2292

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s no surprise that Cody, with its history rooted deeply in the Wild West, might have some ghost stories.

Several can be found at the historic Irma Hotel, according to hotel co-owner Mike Darby.

“I’ve heard stories that housekeeping (staff members) actually saw the bottom half of a soldier walking through the room and all they saw were his faded blue pants with a gold stripe and a saber,” said Darby, whose family has owned the hotel built by western showman “Buffalo Bill” Cody for 30 years. “And he just journeyed across the room and went out (into the hallway) through the door, which was closed.”

Some ghosts, apparently not satisfied with being seen, make their presence known in other ways, Darby said. He recounted the story of two travel writers who were staying at the hotel and had gone to bed for the night.

“And pretty soon the sink starts going off and on, three or four times, and they’re really worried, so they turn the lights on,” he said. “Somehow they go back to sleep, they wake up in the morning and here their clothes are piled up in a pyramid at the foot of the bed.”

Darby said he regularly hears ghost stories from guests at the Irma.

“I’ll hear about them say, once a week, once every 10 days,” he said. “Somebody will see something, somebody will come in and all their cell phones will go dead, their computer will go dead. And as soon as they walk out the door, everything comes back to life.

Jeannie Cook, a retired Park County historian, also knows plenty of stories about hauntings, such as the one reported at a business inside what was once the furniture store of J.H. Vogel.

“I talked to some of the ladies who worked there and they told me there was a young boy that would appear from time to time,” she said. “Come to find out, (Vogel) had a furniture store and was also the undertaker. They had the coffins. So apparently, this little boy must somehow be connected to that.”

Cook, whose grandfather settled in Cody in the early 1900s, said spirits are also often seen in the yard of what used to be Cody’s Lane-Bradbury Hospital and have been reported in what was once a cemetery for the community.

The bodies from the cemetery were moved to another location in the 1960s, but some may have been missed.

“They probably didn’t get all the bodies because in the early days, when they buried somebody, they may have only had a wooden cross or something and it just went away,” she said.

Interest in such paranormal sightings appears to be growing as people hear more stories about them, Cook said.

“I think in modern times, people are beginning to recognize there really is something with paranormal activity,” she said. “And I think there’s really been a lot of it in this town.”

Darby agreed.

“Different things have happened that weren’t explainable,” he said. “People have passed away and in their rooms I’d find things, I’d hear things. It’s not that I believe, I was shown.”

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