Cody’s Art Scene Named One of the Top 10 in the Country – Cowboy State Daily | Candle Made Easy

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Cody’s “vibrant art scene” was named one of the top ten small-town art scenes in the country last week.

Voted by USA Today readers, the list ranked Cody alongside cities such as Tubac, Arizona; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and Taos, New Mexico.

“Buffalo Bill’s former home is now home to a vibrant arts community thanks to the Cody Country Art League, Big Horn Galleries, Simpson Gallagher Gallery and Mountain Valley Artistry,” the article reads. “Visit during the annual Buffalo Bill Art Show & Sale to find pieces that celebrate the American West.”

Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale

“The art show is really about the beauty and grandeur of where we live, right here out west,” said Kathy Thompson, director of the Buffalo Bill Art Show and Sale. “They just love to come and get samples to paint and sculpt. And everything is fine here in this beautiful little piece of earth.”

The sale is the key event for the city’s annual “Rendezvous Royale,” a week-long celebration of arts and crafts that takes place during the third week of September. Western artists such as Chris Navarro, D. Michael Thomas, Ezra Tucker and Vic Payne have sold their paintings and sculptures at the annual auction, which raised almost $1.5 million for artists and the community last year.

Thompson, who has coordinated the show for the past 15 years, pointed out that many of the artists whose work has taken them to Cody have found their home in the town founded by one of the greatest showmen of all time.

“Not only do we have artists from here, right out of Park County, but we also have artists who moved from Australia and are moving to Cody,” she told Cowboy State Daily.

She said that along with the inspirational environment and high dollar payouts, it’s the people of Cody that draw artists to the area each year.

“We’ve attracted some very big names and people who do very well in all art shows,” Thompson said. “But of course the other thing that really attracts all these big names and great artworks is that Cody just takes care of her people when they come. They have a wonderful time here and Cody rolls out a red carpet every time.”

There are 104 artists featured in this year’s art show and sale, Thompson said, and each offers a different take on the American West.

“There are over 100 ways to see the West,” she said. “You could have five different pieces of buffalo – sculptures and paintings – and it’s a different look at this animal every time.”


One of the reasons Cody made the USA Today list is the surprising number of art galleries for a small town of around 10,000 people. In fact, there are at least nine, with mediums ranging from handcrafted steel wall art, custom-made furniture, photography, bronzes, ceramics — and, of course, paintings.

One of the galleries mentioned in the USA Today article is the Simpson Gallagher Gallery, which was founded in 1994 by Sue Simpson Gallagher and her husband John, who inherited a love of art from an early age.

“My parents raised us with a great appreciation for art,” Gallagher told Cowboy State Daily. “They are trained art historians themselves. We never went to a city where we didn’t go to a museum, and if there wasn’t an art museum, we went to history museums and we went to concerts. It was essential to our education and upbringing in my family and it really took me away.”

Gallagher was the original curator of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson and also spent time in the New York City art scene before she and her husband decided to return to their hometown of Wyoming.

Gallagher said she’s not an artist herself, but is an integral part of the creative process — an “appreciator.”

“Without the person to appreciate, it kind of falls flat,” she said. “It’s hard to get excited. And so I feel like my creative outlet is to support people who are.”

Buffalo Bill Center of the West

The cornerstone of the arts scene in Cody is the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, founded in 1917 by Buffalo Bill’s niece, Mary Jester Allen. The center is home to the Whitney Gallery of Western Art, named after a famous New York City sculptor, Gertrude Whitney, whose massive “Scout” bronze anchors Cody’s Main Street at its west end.

“The museum was the inspiration for my life and my calling,” said Simpson. “As a kid, I used to go to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (as it was called back then) all the time. I would take myself there if no one would take me. And I found that art could take me to different places. Art could pull me out of myself. Art could take my imagination, could enrich my own story with someone else’s story.”

The museum is the main partner of the Art Show and Sale and hosts the auction and other events. It is also the main attraction in the community otherwise known primarily as the gateway to Yellowstone National Park.

“We’re a tourist town with a wonderful year-round community of people who care and look out for one another,” Gallagher said. “And I have a feeling that when people come by here, they see it too. you feel it. And they love that Buffalo Bill wanted it to be in our community.”

Cody’s art community

Gallagher said the community of artists and art gallery owners really comes together within Cody’s larger community during the annual Rendezvous Royale. She referred to the “Creative Guide to Cody and Powell” created and distributed by Brian Timmer of Timmer Gallery Downtown.

“They made it for all of us and distributed it to all of us,” Gallagher said, referring to the other gallerists. “There is some information about each gallery in the communities.”

The building next to Gallagher’s shop is another prominent gallery, the Big Horn Gallery, owned by Bob and Nancy Brown. Gallagher said the two potential competitors often team up and host events.

Gallagher pointed out that the Cody Country Art League, located in the Chamber of Commerce building across from the museum, was the very first sales gallery in the community. Founded in 1964, the Art League is a space for promoting local artists, many of whom have not quite reached professional status.

“[The Art League]supported amateur artists, including my grandmother,” Gallagher said. “The Art League is kind of a foundation that we’ve all built on and hopefully improved on by bringing artists together from across the country.”

Take a piece of the West home with you

Thompson pointed out that visitors to the art show return year after year because they want to take home a little piece of this unique part of the country.

“Our best patrons bring new people every year because they’re so passionate about the art here and meeting the artists themselves,” Thompson said. “They want to support the arts, and they want to support the artists.”

And though many who visit Cody don’t buy art while they’re in town, only the presence of so many galleries and organizations that support artists — like the non-profit “By Western Hands” museum and gallery just around the corner from the Simpson Gallagher and Big Horn Galleries – enhance the culture of the community.

“There are a lot of people in this community who may not be art buyers but are building us up because they feel like it’s really important for art galleries and artists to be here and contribute to the community,” Gallagher said.

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