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Inspiring, But Isolated: Wyoming Artists Have To Get Creative To Get Work Out There

Last year was the launch of the Wyoming Art Drop, a curated box of six unique pieces from local artists that can be shipped nationwide. Wyoming Public Radio's Megan Feighery spoke to creator Lori Hunter about tourism, upcycling and the unique pressures facing Wyoming artists. She says the first obstacle is location.

Lori Hunter: You're kind of secluded and just getting people to find you in Wyoming can be challenging. Even to travel around the states and be in different towns at different art shows or fairs and things is challenging, especially in the winter. It's just our geographic location.

Megan Feighery: So where did the idea for Wyoming Art Drop come from?

LH: It came from a desire to get Wyoming artists out there, more than as a venture to make money. Get the Wyoming artists and their work out to people who may not see it or know about them. Wyoming has so many great artists, and a lot of them are in more remote locations.

MF: Wyoming seems to attract a lot of artists, but how feasible is it to make a living off of it here?

LH: I think it's possible. I think there's a lot of great artists here who are out there in the world that are known. I just think it is a bigger challenge to get to that point. But I do think being here, we all can do a lot. To support each other, not only inspire each other, but to help each other, get out there into the world and be a known artist from Wyoming and stay in Wyoming.

MF: Considering the unique challenges of being an artist in Wyoming, what kind of environment do you think this creates? Is it competitive or more supportive?

LH: The whole state's kind of the artists' community, right, because we're kind of a small state. Bigger cities, you have more competition, I suppose. And that creates more of a sort of enclosed mindset. I think most artists in the state really support each other, they know each other to try to help out whether it's with ideas or supplies or community spaces to work in. I think that it's definitely a supportive community of artists.

MF: Do you feel there's any pressure for local artists to cater to the kind of art tourists may want to buy instead of the kind of art that they may want to do?

LH: I mean, I definitely think that there is a tourism aspect to it. You know, even with Wyoming Art Drop, we do advertise it as a great way to buy your Wyoming souvenirs. Just purchase this one box. You get six pieces of unique original art. I do think that some artists play on that tourism and that's, you know, a way to sort of pad their coffers so that they can do some of the things that they want to do that don't maybe cater to the tourists.

MF: There's something about all of this that really feels like it taps into that do-it-yourself spirit that so many people associate with Wyoming, but I don't know, am I reaching with that?

LH: No, I definitely think that is the art community here. You know you in general with anything, whether it's art or any profession, or any type of thing you want to do, you just kind of have to do it because nobody else is going to you know. So you just have to pick up the reins, do it yourself and go for it. We can have such a unique lifestyle here and we are kind of free to do things in a way that you may not be able to do in a bigger area or a different, more populated area because we can sort of make these things up as we go and find support in our neighbors. Being an artist in Wyoming kind of feels like freedom.

MF: And you're an artist as well. Where do you tend to draw your inspiration from?

LH: I call myself an artist but I also call myself a maker. And I'm a big proponent of waste not want not. Mainly I make journals from upcycled books. I take old books and make them into journals with new paper in them. I use the covers, bookmarks from the spine to the book, I make jewelry from the pages of the book, I make earrings and necklaces from the book pages. So a lot of my inspiration actually comes from throwing away less, reusing, recycling, upcycling, keeping stuff out of landfill, reusing as much as we can.

MF: So what does the future look like for Wyoming Art Drop?

LH: We want to keep going. We had a lot of positive feedback. A lot of people loved it. We had a lot of people both in town and out of town asked us about it and loved the idea. We had several orders that went out a lot in Wyoming. But then we also had a few that went clear to the east coast and north and all around the United States. So it was really good.

MF: Well, Lori Hunter, I wish you all the best and thank you so much for speaking with me.

LH: Thank you for calling.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Megan Feighery, at mfeigher@uwyo.edu.

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