Residents of Sheridan County have always supported the arts, but why?
Ken Schuster, director and chief curator of the Bradford Brinton Memorial & Museum, says Sheridan County has always had a well-to-do, educated population that helps fund the arts.
“Early on, this area was inhabited by British and Scottish ranchers who brought their long-standing appreciation of the arts from the United Kingdom to Sheridan County,” he says. “Our arts appreciation today is just as healthy as it was back then — maybe even healthier.”
Western Art Galore
Schuster oversees the Bradford Brinton Museum — founded in 1961 and named for a J.I. Case plow company executive who bought a huge ranch in 1923 and began collecting Western art. Brinton accumulated works by noted artists such as Frederic Remington, Charles M. Russell, Edward Borein and Elling William Gollings.
“Brinton's house itself is a crown jewel, with 14 of the 26 rooms open to the public to showcase his artworks,” Schuster says. “Brinton was also a fan of Hans Kleiber, a well-known etcher nicknamed the 'Artist of the Big Horns.' A Hans Kleiber Studio Museum exists today in Sheridan County.”
Art and Soul
The community's artistic side can also be found at places like the WYO Theater, which hosts 25 live performances a year. There is also Carriage House Theatre, located at the Trail End State Historic Site to offer performances staged by the Sheridan Civic Theatre Guild.
The county is also home to the Jentel Foundation and the Ucross Foundation, both of which provide residential retreats for artists coming into this community from all over the country. Meanwhile, Sheridan Artists' Guild Et al, or SAGE, promotes visual arts through summer art programs, a holiday art show, exhibits at its Sheridan College Main Street Gallery and individual artist workshops. SAGE is also in the process of planning a Sheridan Community Art Center.
Culture of Sculpture
Meanwhile, a Sheridan Public Arts Committee was established in 1999 by former Sheridan mayor Jim Wilson as a way to showcase sculpture throughout downtown Sheridan.
“The first sculpture was entitled 'Bozeman Scout' and was erected in 2002 in the redeveloped Grinnell Plaza. Now there are 38 sculptures situated within our city,” says Fachon Wilson, Sheridan Public Arts Committee project manager. “The committee today oversees an annual program called Art on Loan that welcomes 20 new pieces downtown each year and are for sale by the artists. Each year, two or more new permanent sculptures have been added by locals who purchase and donate them to the city's collection.”
Cleaned and Waxed
Fachon says new sculptures are unveiled during the second weekend of June in conjunction with a Celebrate the Arts festival.
“We have so much pride in the permanent sculptures — they are even cleaned and waxed for $3,300 a year by a professional painter and specialty cleaner from Loveland, Colorado,” Fachon says. “Locals and tourists alike are delighted by our collection.”