Art Shelter celebrates 30 years

Shayne Mazur

The Art Shelter Studio and Gallery east of Shell will host an art exhibition Saturday, July 22 as part of a summer-long celebration to commemorate the art shelter’s 30th anniversary.

“In 30 years of providing similar summer events for the community, this is my pleasure,” said Karyne Dunbar, artist and owner of the space.

The event is free and open to the public. Food will be provided by the Shell Valley Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, alongside a wine and soft drinks bar. 

Brett Savage of The Rewinders is set to provide live music.

Four artists have arranged to exhibit their work at the celebration. Dunbar is joined by nationally acclaimed photographer Rowene Weems, painter Teresa Bain and artist Rachel Wade, who will be showing “visual things meant to capture light.”

Some parking will be available on sight. A shuttle will run for those who park on the highway.

Dunbar first conceived of the art shelter in 1993 after having a dream about converting her little barn into an art gallery.

“I was still teaching in Greybull,” she recalled. “I dreamed the name, the logo, all of that. And when I went to class the next day and shared my dream with my class, one of my students said, ‘Well, why don’t you do that?’”

After talking the idea over with family, Dunbar kicked out her horses and cleaned up the barn. She’d barely finished when she received a call from a Laramie-based artist interested in exhibiting that summer.

“I thought it was a little odd,” Dunbar chuckled. “But we ended up with 50 people there, and as we were drinking champagne and eating carrot cake, standing out in a dirt corral, I thought maybe there’s a little bit of a need here.”

Dunbar called the art shelter “a work in process” that “grew little by little over the years.” The second year saw the addition of a deck and sitting area to the barn. She later tore down a chicken coop and “called in Merlin to magically elevate those stones into walls” to erect in the current building.

While the art shelter played host to three summer shows for its first 20 years, Dunbar later shifted to displaying several artists at once. The community preferred the variety, she said, and the artists themselves had more fun interacting with each other.

According to her numbers and guestbooks, Dunbar estimated the art shelter has seen approximately 5,800 visitors since she first opened its doors.

Looking to the future, she’s excited about the formation and direction of the Big Horn Country Arts Guild.

“I feel like there’s a real transition taking place from when I was the only show in town, but now the interest in Greybull is growing again, and I think because of my advancing years that it’s time to pass the torch.

“I’ll be keeping my gallery open, but I’m happy to see young people and new people getting involved in arts in the community. The arts are vital in Big Horn County.”