By Sarah Elmquist Squires

Managing Editor

Joy Jones’ new steampunk collection includes unique ceramics on display at CWC’s new exhibit.

It’s a celebration of sorts – highlighting the many unique kinds of art produced in the region, supporting local artists, and giving the rest of us the chance to support them, too. With a kick-off Saturday, July 15, at 10 a.m., the Summer Scene Functional Art Exhibit will share the beauty of local wares at Central Wyoming College’s (CWC) Robert A. Peck Art Center Gallery.

CWC leaders organize several local art events throughout the year, but noted a bit of a lag during the summer months. “I thought it would be great to have a functional show to showcase all the local artists because we have so many tourists coming through, and there’s not really a large-scale venue that’s ongoing,” said CWC Professor of Arts and Gallery Director Nita Kehoe. 

Nita Kehoe, professor of art and gallery director, worked on exhibit displays on Friday. (photo by Shawn O’Brate)

Along with serving as a platform to connect community members with local arts, the Summer Scene Functional Art Exhibit doesn’t charge artists a fee or commission to sell their work, which means artists are better compensated and the items are less expensive than they might be in a typical gallery exhibit. 

Tresa King, whose hand-thrown, hand-painted, functional pottery is part of the exhibit, first fell in love with pottery in college. When her kids got a bit older, she decided to take a class at CWC, and now utilizes the CWC Art Studio to make her work. She’s new to the world of selling her art, and said the commission-free exhibit is a great opportunity for the community. “We’re all really grateful to the college for the exposure,” she said. A child care licenser for the Department of Family Services by day, King said CWC provides all kinds of opportunities for members of the community to explore their artistic side. “We have a unique opportunity at the art studio at the college, and Nita Kehoe is very open to people wanting to come in and explore all avenues of art,” she shared. “Everything from stained glass to hot glass and bronze sculpture … It’s opportunities for working people to explore the arts, with great, experienced people willing to share and help.” 

Joy Jones teaches art at Lander Valley High School and Pathfinder High, and her pottery is all functional, as well. That means you can put it in the oven or dishwasher, and use the beautifully designed pieces like you would their more boring commercial counterparts. She fell in love with ceramics as a freshman in high school, and went on to attain her Master of Fine Arts in ceramics, and she focuses a bit more on pottery during the summer months. 

Jones is launching a new line of her work at the CWC exhibit – ceramics with a “steampunk” theme. She said she was inspired for the theme while listening to some metal tunes with her husband, and it just grew from there. “They have gears on them, some have little spikes, chains, but they’re still functional,” she noted. “They just are more decorative that way.” 

Jones explained that most galleries and exhibits’ commissions range between 30-50%. “What that does is artists either take a deep cut so they’re basically giving their work away, or they’re raising prices … By not charging a commission we can keep our prices reasonable and then we don’t take a loss when we sell our work,” she said. “It also gives us really good exposure within the community and lets them know what artists are making … Part of the point of functional work is to get it in the hands of people and have them use it, because when they use pieces made by hand they come to appreciate it more and really enjoy it.” 

While setting up the exhibit Friday, Kehoe couldn’t point to a piece of art or artist that was her favorite – that’s a tough one. “There’s so many good pieces here,” she remarked of the variety at the show. 

“There’s just so much work that you don’t see every day, that no one has access to except at this show,” added Jones. “You can just take your time and look at everything here. It’s a really good venue for that.”