Art Gala puts on the Ritz

Lisa Kunkel

The bolo ties were shined, ball gowns and cocktail dresses glittering, and the cummerbunds of a handful of tuxedos were fitted just right, at last Friday night’s Inaugural Winter Art Gala at the Basin City Arts Center. 

“This was by far the most wonderful, fine soiree I have ever attended in the 20 years I’ve lived here. Big Horn County was ready for something like this,” said Linda Cooper of Greybull. 

Hosted by the Big Horn County Arts Guild, the event had more than one purpose: to challenge artists to create new works of art, give the community a reason to dress-up, and host the premier of a documentary film. 

The ambitious gala met those expectations and then some. It was a sold-out event, with only 120 tickets available for purchase due to the occupancy of the upstairs ballroom of the center which was decorated to the hilt. 

Art Guild President and participating artist Deanna Skillman said, “Most smaller communities don’t do fancy soirees like this, but we did it!”

With 26 artists participating from Big Horn, Sheridan, and Washakie counties, the night was full of artistic expression and creative ideas. There was a poet from Worland, four musicians, and one filmmaker to round out the group of painters, sculptors, photographers, and multimedia artists. 

What made the art show different was the act of the “reveal.” Each piece of artwork was covered with a cloth and cascading throughout the event artists unveiled their masterpieces. The suspense was palpable and added to the aura of the Gala. 

“I have been a professional artist for 33 years now and I have been to hundreds of art events. The unveiling of artworks was a pleasant surprise. I liked that tease and anticipation,” said gala attendee Barrie Lynn Bryant, of Kirby. 

Musicians took turns playing their reveal pieces, songs they wrote to showcase at the Gala. “The event was quite well balanced, with not only paintings, but very talented musicians,” said Washakie County artist Belinda Daugherty. 

Art Guild historian and participating artist Roxanna Harwood, of Greybull, said, “I loved seeing the community come together and enjoy an evening supporting the arts. The art was beautiful and the music was fabulous.”

Another stand-out of the night was the food. A butcher board 10 feet long and two feet wide was draped with delicacies arranged in a picture-perfect manner. “My middle son, Ayden Skillman, put together the graze table (a really big charcuterie board) for 120 people. He loves cooking and making food his art. If you saw the table you would have to agree it was a great eye-catcher,” said Robert Skillman. 

 “What a food spread! It was great, especially the smoked salmon and chocolates,” said Bryant.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and the First Lady even sent flowers for the event since they couldn't come in person. 

Attendees and artists offered their impressions of the evening: 

Gala attendee Clarissa Brown, Basin: “I never realized we had so many local artists and I was blown away with the level of talent and different styles our local artists have. Great food, great people, great event, the Gala was a slam dunk.”

Artist Tera Sanchez, Greybull: “The highlight of the event for me was the reveal pieces. Nobody was allowed to show off their art until that night and it made it that special. You could see the hard work, hours, and time they put in for that moment of showing it to all guests. As someone who is learning a variety of different perspectives, from painting to photography, it was phenomenal. To have the opportunity to show off your hard work and have it noticed was a blessing.”

Gala attendee Barrie Lynn Bryant, Kirby: “I got the call from Jade Smith of Shell on Thursday afternoon inviting me to the "black tie" advertised event happening the very next day. I asked her if she was certain about the dress code and wondered if I still had the wardrobe to dress the part. I did, and I was pretty excited to be able to use my winter wool tux again! I was surprised that the event organizers stated "black tie" in the first place. Energy was high and everyone seemed to be having a great time. The Artist's Guild should be very proud of the turnout.” 

Artist Brianna Laird, Greybull: “Having the opportunity to participate in an event like the gala was huge for me. I still struggle to see myself as an artist, and never thought I'd be able to not only participate, let alone sell my creations. The turnout and community support was absolutely amazing to see. Really makes me happy to be a part of it. The guild members really put a lot of work into the event, and it really wonderful to see it all come together. The decorations, food, everything was just perfect.”

Artist Marian West, Greybull: “The unveiling, for me, was so much fun. The folks who came with the unified love of art, proved to be uplifting and encouraging. The evening gave me renewed enthusiasm with my art and most importantly, the desire to forge relationships with so many charming and unique people from our community.”

Gala attendee Laurie Stoelk, Shell: “It was a great event and I am thrilled to have seen so many people, young and old, supporting the arts in Big Horn County. It is exciting to watch the younger generation become involved and bring new ideas, talent and energy to the community. The venue was great with the Black-Tie Theme and the food was fabulous.”

Artist Linda Jolley, Greybull: “The highlight of the evening was seeing how much the community came together. It was fun to do the reveal, something different and I think it went over well with the crowd. There is so much talent in this area, so much diversity, something for everyone. Hopefully the first of many.”

Artist Belinda Daugherty, Washakie County: “It was great to participate, as an artist, in the first ever Winter Art Gala. The support shown to the artists by the community was inspiring. We artists tend to be independent, not good at promoting ourselves. The Big Horn County Arts Guild has provided us an opportunity to get our art ‘out there’. I am grateful for that. The amazing variety of art displayed was astounding, for such a small community. The event was quite well balanced, with not only paintings, but very talented musicians and even a poet. Cody better watch out!”

Artist and Guild president Deanna Skillman, Greybull: “It felt so good helping put on an event like this for local artists. A few of the artists personally told me how special it made them feel to be invited to this Gala, an event that typically known-artists are only invited to. I really feel that the Big Horn County Arts Guild shined like a star. We are already planning next year’s Gala, and I am so excited to work alongside these visionary artists as we continue to revive the arts in Big Horn County.”