Ucross Announces $5 Million Capital Campaign, 40th Anniversary Celebration

On Saturday, June 4, during a speech delivered at its inaugural Founder’s Day, Ucross announced the public launch of a $5 million capital campaign timed to coincide with the 40th Anniversary of the famed artist residency program, which first welcomed artists in 1983.

“For nearly 40 years, Ucross has provided artists with the rare and remarkable gift of time and space in an unparalleled landscape,” said William Belcher, President of Ucross. “This campaign will prepare us for the next 40. It will help us preserve the Ucross experience, which is rooted in our location on a working ranch here in northern Wyoming. The funds we raise during this period will strengthen our ability to serve as a vital and relevant resource for artists, and it will deepen our role as a cultural resource for our community.”

According to Belcher, the quiet phase of the 40th Anniversary Campaign began at the start of 2021. To date, Ucross has raised $2.8 million in gifts and pledges, led by a $1.175 million gift by Deborah and Edward Koehler of the Raymond Plank Philanthropy Fund.

Ucross has attained 100 percent participation from its Board of Trustees. To raise the remaining $2.2 million, the nonprofit organization will ask individuals and grant-makers to contribute to the campaign over the next 18 to 20 months. All gifts to Ucross made between now and the end of 2023 will count toward the goal.

Artist rendering of the new Art Gallery

“We are all invested in Ucross’s future and its continued success,” said Jim Nelson, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “For many years, our financial underpinning was supported by our founder, so this is the first official capital campaign without his presence. I’m heartened by the generosity of the trustees and lead donors, but we have a lot of work to do. I hope others will join us by supporting the campaign and celebrating Ucross’s past, present, and future.”

Ucross has embarked upon two major construction projects that are at the center of the campaign: a renovation of the Ucross Art Gallery and the construction of a dance studio and multi-purpose performance space. Ucross is working with Arete Design Group, a Sheridan-based architecture firm, and O’Dell Construction as contractor for both construction projects.

Ucross Art Gallery – The Ucross Art Gallery, which is housed in the Big Red Barn in the center of Ucross’s campus, is dedicated to enhancing, supporting, and amplifying the creative work of Ucross’s visual and collaborative artists.

Once complete, the renovated interior will feature a two-story central room to allow for large-scale works of art, such as sculpture and installations. The reconfigured space will also include a digital media room; a program office; a kitchen for event support; art receiving and storage space; and a collaborative meeting room for artists, staff, and trustees.

An important public extension of the organization’s mission, the Ucross Art Gallery will present two to three exhibitions each year, focused on alumni, including the recipients of the Ucross Fellowship for Native American Visual Artists. Each exhibition offers new opportunities for educational programming, artist talks, public workshops, and exhibition brochures. Entry will be free and open to the public.

The new dance space at the Gallery

Dance Studio and Performance SpaceTo enhance its offerings for dancers, choreographers, and performers, Ucross is constructing a state-of-the-art dance studio and multi-purpose performance space. This building will connect to the Ucross Art Gallery through a glass vestibule.

The exterior of the new building is designed to reflect the iconic profile of the Big Red Barn, but it will offer several unique features. In addition to the vestibule, a set of large accordion-style glass doors will open onto a concrete patio, allowing artists to cross between the studio and the open air. The patio, which provides a stunning view of the Bighorn Mountains to the west, will also double as an outdoor viewing area for public performances.

“We envision the space as a state-of-the-art studio for dancers and performers,” Belcher noted. “But it is also a flexible performance space that connects the indoor and outdoor, which provides a whole new set of opportunities for our artists-in-residence, as well as the public.”

Ucross is known for its writing studios, its visual arts studios, and its composer studios. The addition of a stunning new dance studio will further set Ucross apart and attract more world-class dancers, choreographers, and groups to Ucross, Wyoming.

Support for Artists, Residency Program – In addition to the gallery and dance studio, campaign funds will directly support artists through investments in the residency program and artist stipends.

Each year, the 100 artists who are selected for a residency at Ucross are provided with a private studio, accommodations, meals by a professional chef, and staff support, as well as the cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary discussion that occurs with their peers. In 2021, Ucross began a pilot program to present each artist with a stipend to offset a portion of their travel and lost income during their two-, four-, or six-week residency. Funds raised during the 40th Anniversary Campaign will allow Ucross to sustain the artist stipends while simultaneously investing in much-needed program enhancements, such as updated studio equipment and furnishings in resident rooms.

Community Engagement – Ucross’s role as a cultural resource for the community is a prominent component of the campaign. Belcher noted that the renovated Ucross Art Gallery will provide new opportunities for exhibitions, artist talks, and events. In addition, a refurnished Raymond Plank Center will serve as a resource for groups looking to meet at Ucross, as well as the site for a future archive.

With this campaign, Ucross aims to expand its art programming for the community with events such as the Ucross Arts Festival, which will feature alumni Jalan Crossland and Brandon Hobson in August. The organization will also continue the tradition of hosting the Ucross Community Christmas Celebration, which includes caroling by a local children’s choir, art activities, and a special reading by bestselling author and Ucross neighbor Craig Johnson.

During the Founder’s Day speech, Belcher announced that Ucross is bringing United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo to Sheridan in February 2023 for a series of events, including a craft discussion at Sheridan College and an evening of poetry and music at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. Harjo, a Ucross alumna, is serving an unprecedented third term as the nation’s Poet Laureate, and she is the first Native American to serve in this role.

Joy Harjo

“The weekend with Joy Harjo will kick off a series of celebratory events connected to our 40th anniversary,” said Belcher. “Like Founder’s Day, it is also an example of what Ucross can do to better connect what happens here at Ucross with our community in Sheridan and Johnson Counties, in Wyoming, and throughout the Mountain West.”

Learn more about the 40th Anniversary Campaign at ucross.org.

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