Wyoming Artists Supply Eclipse Lovers With Unique Souvenirs

Aug 18, 2017

A display of Hope Abeyta's beadwork
Credit Darrah Perez

Today in Riverton, a class full of Native American jewelry makers are learning how to screen print. Eastern Shoshone member Hope Abeyta wants to screen print her logo on a child-size tepee. The Central Wyoming College course was created specifically for the eclipse since Riverton and much of the reservation falls inside the eclipse’s shadow. The goal is to get these artists the business skills they need to be ready for the event. Abeyta says she found the class on Facebook and signed up.

“I needed help marketing my stuff,” she says. “I needed help finding out how to run a business. I never really actually have done that.”

Willy Cunningham's drum won a prize in the show
Credit Darrah Perez

For Northern Cheyenne member Krystena Scott, the class is an especially important opportunity. She’s a single mom with three small children, and to pay her bills, she relies entirely on the money she makes selling her jewelry at powwows and on Native American art websites. As intricate as her beaded earrings are, she’s selling them all for under $20. But the class is teaching her how to better price her work.

“I’m going to higher my prices once the eclipse gets here. I’m going to boost them up.”

“You know, we’re seeing their prices come up and they’re starting to value their work and feel good about that,” says her instructor, CWC’s Dean of Business Lynne McAuliffe. “I keep encouraging them that the eclipse is this financial opportunity to kind of have a windfall with the idea that we’ve opened up these other distribution channels and these places to market their wares long term.”

To do that, she’s helping them design business cards, learn to tally revenue and cost of goods, make sure they can take credit cards, even contact art galleries. These are all skills they can use in the future to grow their careers.

McAuliffe says she started the class because she sees the eclipse as a real chance to put Wyoming’s Native American beadwork on the map.

“It pains me to think that the concessionaires in Yellowstone Park are selling Chinese beadwork when we have such beautiful authentic beadwork produced right here in Wyoming.”

She says the class plans to sell their work on campus during the peak days of the event. Over in neighboring Lander, the art center also saw the eclipse as a chance to get local work in front of hundreds, if not thousands, of eyes. Because of its prime location near the shadow, this city of 7,000 people is expecting 10,000 visitors for the eclipse. So they’re hosting the Great American Eclipse Art Exhibition.

A painting by Luke Anderson
Credit Lander Art's Center