ROCK SPRINGS – Investment in the arts can benefit the people in many ways, according to Deborah Soule, director of the Community Fine Arts Center and representative of the Sweetwater Arts Partnership. She addressed the Rock Springs City Council on Tuesday, outlining financial and personal opportunities.
Soule said training provided by the Wyoming Arts Alliance encouraged local artists and their supporters to set goals and bring multiple groups together. Soule said the CFAC, Broadway Theater and Rock Springs Main Street/Urban Renewal Agency had a history of hosting events together, and now they are coordinating with more creative groups such as the Sweetwater County Concert Association, Actors’ Mission, Western Wyoming Community College, Board of Cooperative Educational Services and Sweetwater County School District No. 1. This is only the beginning as members hope to expand further.
“We always seem to be separate. Now we’re together,” she said.
Soule said they’ve been learning about the importance of communication. For example, they’re developing a calendar to keep from accidentally overlapping events.
“Standing alone we weren’t getting as much done. Together we’re going to make a real difference,” Soule said.
They are also working to combine their efforts. In the past, Rock Springs would host an Art Week in March. This year they want to expand the celebration throughout the month. This will include a new event – the Mayor’s Art Awards. Soule said it will be similar to the Governor’s Art Awards, just with more of a local focus.
“Why are we doing this?” she asked. “Because the arts really matter.”
She said the arts allow people to better connect, see beauty in the world and reap an economic harvest. Soule said the “creative and cultural industry” in Wyoming is ranked third in size behind oil and gas and tourism.
“That’s a lot of money,” she said.
The CFAC director said more than 11,000 people in Wyoming have jobs in the arts industry, which is 30% higher over most states and only second to New York. Soule said if more people considered the economic impact, they would put a lot more effort into supporting the arts.
She said sales tax from the creative and cultural industry has previously averaged about $17 million to $23 million a year. The Wyoming Arts Council and
Western States Arts Federation said that is based on sales totaling more than $110 million annually.
As part of their expanded outreach, Soule encouraged City Council members to join the "Pledge to Attend” and participate in at least one art-related event a month this year. She said this might involve a concert, art exhibit, or crafts class.
“By making the time to attend these concerts, tour an art exhibit, and maybe even a class, you’re going to make art a part of your life,” she said.
Mayor Tim Kaumo said, “Everybody can use some beauty in their lives.”
Soul added the pure enjoyment of the experience should be enough, but there will be a few prizes for those who participate in the pledge.
-- Councilman Rob Zotti was re-elected council president on Tuesday. While he abstained from the vote, all other council members voted for him to continue in the position he was first elected to in 2019.
“This is why we didn’t move your chair,” Kaumo said to Zotti, who usually sits to the right of the mayor.
Zotti said, “Thank you council. I appreciate the vote of confidence in serving as president again for another year.”
Revised council standing committees were also approved.
-- Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, provided a legislative update. While there will be a one-day virtual session next week, he said additional meetings have not been scheduled.
-- Justin Hilton and Annie Cunningham spoke during the public petitions meeting to question health mandates from the stake such as a requirement to wear masks when around other people.
The council also received correspondence from Dr. Stanislav O’Jack and Helen O’Jack who thanked the city for following the mask mandate and protecting the vulnerable population of the community.
-- Cody Wylie was appointed to his first term on the Rock Springs Planning and Zoning Commission and Breanna Jackman was appointed to her first term on the Rock Springs Historical Museum Board. Both appointments were unanimous.