Guest Column: Wyo. Arts Council, new focus

The Wyoming Arts Council’s national partner, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), is in the process of celebrating its 50th anniversary. Now 48 years old and counting, the Wyoming Arts Council celebrates its long partnership with the NEA. Our budget includes NEA funding, funding from the State Legislature, and a small amount of money from private sources. Every dollar we provide is matched locally with $18 plus $3 in in-kind donations. Add all of this together and you come up with a flourishing arts scene in this vast state.

In 1965, a small NEA study grant and $25,000 in matching funds launched Wyoming’s bid for a state arts agency. A statewide survey, enthusiastic support form Governor Stan and First Lady Bobby Hathaway, and many meetings later, a bill was introduced in the 39th Wyoming Legislature in 1967 to create an independent arts council. During the following two years, a committee of arts-oriented citizens convened to parcel out $51,000 in grant funding provided by the NEA. In the mid-1970s, staff was hired and the state began providing funds for the Arts Council, which became an agency within the Wyoming Department of Commerce in 1989. Now part of the Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, the Arts Council provides approximately $1 million in state and federal funding, as well as numerous services and programs, to hundreds of organizations and artists in all of our 23 counties.

The Arts Council has experienced some significant changes in 2015. The agency moved out of the Cheyenne’s historic Kendrick Building into the Barrett Building in January, joining our colleagues in State Parks and Cultural Resources for the first time. As successful long-time staffers retire or move on to other opportunities, new hires take their places.

With a new space, new staff, and new input from Wyoming artists and arts supporters, we are coming up with inventive ways to best serve the state. We can feel the renewed energy of the Arts Council staff and board. This is wonderful and timely as we adopt our next five-year strategic plan which is mandated by the NEA.

It will bring changes to the programs and services we provide. Change can be difficult, but is also good for a forward-thinking organization, which we at the WAC strive to be.

Our new plan includes nine goals:

•Generate capacity building opportunities for arts organizations

• Implement a new grant structure

• Implement health and wellness initiatives through the arts

• Increase outreach to geographically rural and underserved communities

• Strengthen arts education

• Grow and support independent music

• Diversify funding sources for the arts in Wyoming

• Grow and support folk and traditional arts

• Expand communications and marketing

You can read the entire plan at

All of these goals are important to the Arts Council and the state’s quality of life. The first major change for our constituents will be a new e-granting system. We will launch it on Feb. 1, 2016, for all Fiscal Year 2017 grant applications that begin on July 1, 2016. Part of this process involves a change in grant categories.

We will keep constituents informed as we start to implement new strategies, services, and programs. Our website will serve as our main clearinghouse for information. As always, we are here to answer your questions and address your concerns. Give us a call, send an email, or swing by when you are in Cheyenne or meet with us during our travels around the state. We want to hear from you!

We at the Arts Council look forward to serving the state’s vigorous creative community as we move toward our 50thanniversary in 2017.

Michael Lange is the executive director of the Wyoming Arts Council. Responses can be sent to him at


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