Green River Star -

Showing support for the Wyo. ENDOW initiative


October 24, 2018

By Shannon Smith

Executive Director of the Wyoming Humanities Council

Michael Lange

Executive Director of the Wyoming Arts Council

Like all parents, we want our kids and grandkids to thrive at whatever they desire to do in life. As Wyomingites we believe their lives would be even better if their success can take shape right here in the Cowboy State. The hard truth is, of the jobs that will be available to them in about twenty years, one in every three do not exist yet and it’s expected they’ll have more than seven different careers by the time they retire. Is there a better statistic to show the value of teaching our kids to be creative lifelong learners?

To build a promising future, one in which all children will have a plethora of opportunities to call Wyoming home, we must start investing in building a diverse economic ecosystem that encourages innovation and creativity. We must enhance our current narrative. We both love Wyoming for that which it is currently imagined: a beautiful, rugged, vast landscape where citizens build their own lives shaped by tenacity and perseverance. But as the world changes, so do the needs of the next generations. To remain relevant, we must act with the same tenacity and rugged spirit that has guided Wyoming all these years as we write Wyoming’s next chapter. We will not lose our identity by expanding our story, we will only strengthen it.

For many decades, our state’s leaders have sought solutions to the boom-and-bust economic cycles and youth out-migration that have defined our state narrative. Proposed ideas either didn’t come to fruition or were tabled when the economy rebounded. When our current downturn hit, many Wyomingites thought it felt different. Therefore, in November 2016, Governor Mead created the Economically Needed Diversification of Wyoming (ENDOW) initiative proposing economic action spanning the next 20 years—efforts that go beyond one or two election cycles.

Since then, the ENDOW Council held dozens of public meetings and heard from over 140,000 residents to create a 20-year vision for our state. The ENDOW report was submitted to the governor and the Wyoming Legislature last month. Its vision makes clear that the cultural arts and creative economy are vital to our future—both in terms of creating a quality of life that will attract and keep new residents, and in pure economic development terms. We not only attract industries and people to move here, we are an economic driver. Proportionately, involvement in the arts and cultural sector in Wyoming is 30 percent above the national average and second only to New York. We have one of the nation’s strongest arts and cultural sectors. Indeed, arts, culture, and the humanities play a pivotal role in our state. Because of our importance to Wyoming’s current and future economy, and the ambitious goals proposed in the ENDOW report, this is a very exciting time for those of us who work in the humanities and arts.

Ours is an industry that cannot be fully supported by the private sector, nor should it be exclusively supported by the public sector. As the legislation that created the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities states: “The arts and the humanities belong to all the people of the United States and while they are primarily a matter for private and local initiative, they are also appropriate matters of concern for our government.” The cultural arts should be brought to society through a carefully arranged marriage of public and private resources.

With all this in mind, and as we celebrate October as National Arts & Humanities Month, we want to express our support for the ideas espoused in the ENDOW initiative to enhance the cultural network of Wyoming. We plan to collaborate with the many individuals and organizations that comprise our creative/cultural ecosystem to ensure all 23 counties and 99 towns have opportunities to build communities in which people want to live and work. We suggest that everybody read the full ENDOW report and specifically look at the sections related to actions suggested by the ENDOW ENGAGE (ages 18-35) subcommittee, building an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and becoming a top tier state for investment in arts and cultural infrastructure.

Wyoming can change its narrative from “boom and bust” to “bloom and grow” by explicitly cultivating our arts and cultural infrastructure—including encouraging a deep love and appreciation for art and culture in our kids so they can lead long, promising, engaged lives right here in Wyoming. Please join us for National Arts and Humanities month by letting your leaders know about the importance of the creative economy.


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