Andy Wilkinson’s poem “Mining the Mother Lode” is a lament for the diminishing waters of the once enormous Ogallala Aquifer caused by the forces of “progress.” The poem was made into an animated poem-film with the help of Rebecca Shapiro and Jeremy Boreing as part of the Western Folklife Center’s Moving Rural Verse project, which created collaborations between poets and filmmakers around the subject of water in the West. By artfully fusing poetry and video, the Moving Rural Verse poem-films hope to nurture a deeper understanding of rural America and kindle important conversation about critical issues. Click here to watch the film!
The 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is chock-full of phenomenal performances, captivating stories, and enlightening learning opportunities. With so much going on and so many wonderful shows it is nearly impossible to choose just a few to highlight. We will continue to share the best of the Gathering in this blog so tune in often. We are very excited that Muzzie Braun is returning to Elko with his sons Willy and Cody, of Reckless Kelly. And of course we can't wait to present the wonderful traditions of the Basque culture, including the improvised poetry sparring called bertsolariak.
by Katie Aiken
No doubt you’ve heard by now that there are sheep on the 2018 National Cowboy Poetry Gathering poster. Sheep! On a cowboy event! Is it true???
Well…yes. The poster artwork depicts sheep – creamy shapes amidst a burst of saturated colors and living textures that call up the deep, shifting palette of our big Western skies and the hazy boundaries of what we define as our Western landscape.
We are thrilled to announce the artist line-up for the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 29-February 3, 2018, in Elko, Nevada. Tickets go on sale to Western Folklife Center members beginning September 5, and to the general public on October 5. Members also get tickets to free members-only shows and for the first time this year, members receive a discount on the price of a 3-Day Deluxe Pass, which is $60 during the member pre-sale period and $80 starting October 5. To purchase or renew a membership, click here.
The Western Folklife Center is presenting two new exhibitions in its Wiegand Gallery, including the ceramic artistry of Tuscarora’s Dennis Parks and photographs of ranch life taken during the Farm Security Administration of the 1930s and 40s. Both exhibitions, as well as the Western Folklife Center’s permanent collection of contemporary hand-crafted gear, will be on display through December 9.
All through the year, the Western Folklife Center is an exhibition destination in Elko, Nevada. From the Wiegand Gallery and its inspiring space featuring interactive exhibitions and multimedia presentations to educate and entertain and throughout the building at 501 Railroad Street until you reach the lower level, exhibits can be seen on almost every wall.
Big changes are afoot at the Western Folklife Center! David Roche, current Executive Director, has announced his retirement, effective June 30. As a key part of a planned leadership transition, Western Folklife Center Board Trustee Kristin Windbigler will take over as Executive Director July 1.
by Krys Munzing
I grabbed a camera and stopped by Let's Dance! at the Western Folklife Center on April 27 to check out the night's Jitterbug lesson: a very relaxed and really complete class with returning students and newbies interested in learning the dance. Instructors for the night were Ali Helmig and Stefan Goehring, and they had it down to easy, show-n-tell steps that the dancers followed, including individual tips as the lesson progressed.
By Paul Zarzyski. Photos by Sue Rosoff.
“A poet’s autobiography is his poetry. Anything else can only be a footnote.”
In January 1995, the distinguished Russian poet, Yevgeny Alexandrovich Yevtushenko honored us with his spirited, yet humble, presence at the eleventh annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, thanks in large part to a dear friend of the Gathering, poet-critic Scott Preston, who extended the invitation to Mr. Yevtushenko. My best recollection is that few of us knew much, if anything at all, about the Russian writer’s work or life.
By Kristin Windbigler, Vice Chairman,
Western Folklife Center Board of Trustees
Several trustees and staff members got together last year in Salt Lake City, Utah, to talk about our dreams for the Western Folklife Center. We asked ourselves what could this organization be in five years? How about 10? Who do we want to reach and what are our goals? In my role as vice chairman of the Board of Trustees, I gave a short talk at the annual Stakeholders’ Breakfast at the recent National Cowboy Poetry Gathering to share our progress and plans for the future. We were thrilled by the enthusiastic feedback we received, and thought it would be a good idea to make this information available to the whole community. That’s because we hope you will want to get involved!
By Amy Hale Auker
Behind our barn, in the horse lot, is an oak tree. It is actually three oak trunks that rise from the same base creating a basin above the roots. When it rains or snows, the basin fills with water. It is a smart oak tree.
The first year I went to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 2002 I was amazed to see how many people were living lives similar to my very small wife-of-a-cowboy, remote-cow-camp existence, and yet they were writing poems and songs, creating art and crafts, bringing their lives from the ranches up onto the stage, sharing the work of growing food with a broad audience.
by Darcy Minter
Every year, we look forward to welcoming new poets to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and this year is no exception. One of those poets is Maria Lisa Eastman, who ranches with her husband Skip in Hyattville, Wyoming, on the west side of the Big Horn Mountains. Maria and Skip have a wonderful tradition in their home. When they have dinner guests, they scatter poetry books around the table and ask people to browse through them and read a poem if they are inspired.
By Chris Simon
The Western Folklife Center has been working on a series of four poem-films that powerfully communicate contemporary rural issues, ideas and insight—particularly the subject of water in the West. Titled Moving Rural Verse, these films are produced in collaboration with respected Western poets and experienced video artists, and will premiere at the upcoming National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, January 30-February 4, in Elko. Filmmaker Chris Simon worked with poet Linda Hussa and Reno filmmaker Jerry Dugan to produce a film of Linda’s poem “Homesteaders, Poor and Dry.”
Deon & Trish Reynolds' “WestStops” Photography Exhibition at Western Folklife Center and Throughout Downtown Elko
By David Roche
Driving west down Idaho Street in Elko, Nevada, and entering the central district at 4th Street, the unsuspecting traveler is suddenly confronted with a grazing trio of horses languidly munching in a rustic corral. Not in the flesh, mind you. A large 7 by 17-foot black and white photo mural, plastered on the plywood siding of a boarded up building puts the driver into instant time warp. Further down the street, in an alley behind the Pioneer Hotel, a calf roping cowboy bears down with lariat flying. Out on 4th Street, a steam engine on the wall of the Western Folklife Center peeks out toward Railroad Avenue where the real trains once ran. What’s going on?
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” Phillip Pullman
“Real Stories. Straight Up.” That’s the theme of the upcoming National Cowboy Poetry Gathering—our 33rd! As January turns to February, we will be gathered in Elko, sharing first-hand accounts, narratives passed down and around, and undoubtedly a yarn or two. The Gathering presents stories told in verse and melody and prose. To that mix, we are adding personal narratives, told by real people about real occurrences in their lives, in real time.
by Meg Glaser
Those familiar with the Western Folklife Center know that our small staff wear many hats, donning whatever is needed on any given day. As Artistic Director, one of my “hats” is exhibitions curator, envisioning our beautiful Wiegand Gallery as a multi-sensory entry into the American West and our organizational mission.
Some of my favorite exhibitions are those that bring together diverse types of arts -- folk art intermingled with contemporary paintings, photography, historical imagery, and increasingly, audio-visual installations.
By David Roche
When the Western Folklife Center was awarded an art “placemaking” grant from ArtPlace America in the fall of 2015, it initiated a creative process already stimulated by Elko’s own plan for redevelopment of the downtown corridor. Bordered by Commercial and Railroad streets between 3rd and 9th, this area was the heartbeat of old Elko. The railroad tracks once ran smack down the middle of town. And not only carrying freight and passengers from the West, the trains delivered entertainers to the Commercial Hotel and Stockmen’s—including, famously, a very chilled Xavier Cugat mambo orchestra one frosty winter night in the late 1940’s. Elko was the casino entertainment capital of Nevada for a time.
By Katie Aiken
In October, two musical groups join us at the Western Folklife Center. Both are influenced by American roots music. Both bring an ingenuity and innovation that keeps their sound fresh. And both celebrate the creativity and tradition of making music with family and friends.
On Wednesday, October 26th at 7:00 pm, The Haunted Windchimes play at the G Three Bar Theater – just in time for Halloween.
This upcoming Saturday, October 22nd, Muddy Boots & the Porch Pounders play the Pioneer Saloon at 7:00 pm. Before they take the stage that evening, Matt Downs (of Muddy Boots) hosts his second annual build-your-own cigar-box guitar workshop at the Western Folklife Center. Matt was kind enough to answer a few questions about the peculiar instrument he has chosen and how (and why) he became obsessed with the cigar-box guitar (from here on out, referred to as the CBG). Be warned: the conversation below is paraphrased… Matt talks fast when talking about his love for the CBG!