Ucross, the Sheridan County retreat for creatives, is raising money to renovate its art gallery and build a new dance studio and performance space.
The group began accepting private donations for the projects in 2021. It’s already pulled in $2.8 million of its $5 million goal, according to a Saturday news release. Ucross expects to spend the next year-and-a-half fundraising the next $2.2 million.
Ucross sits on 20,000 acres near Buffalo, at the base of the Bighorn Mountains. It’s known for its artist residency program, which attracts creatives looking for a peaceful place to work and brainstorm with peers.
It can accommodate 10 residents at a time — usually four writers, four visual artists and two musical composers. About 100 artists are selected for the program week each year.
The new performing arts building would be built in the middle of Ucross’s campus, right next to its art gallery. The organization plans to connect the two structures with a glass hallway, according to the release. The new building would feature a dance studio, as well as a patio and outdoor performance space.
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The retreat is hoping the addition will draw more dancers and performers to its campus.
Ucross is also planning to remodel the inside of its art gallery, called the “Big Red Barn.” That includes a two-story open space in its center, which will be able to fit bigger art pieces like sculptures and installations, the news release said. It’ll also get a digital media room, art storage space, a kitchen, a new office and a place for meetings. The organization expects the gallery to host two or three public exhibitions a year.
Donations to the fundraiser will also help sustain Ucross’ artist residency program.
Last year, Ucross began giving resident artists a stipend to make up for travel costs and income they miss out on during their stay. The organization plans to use the fundraiser to continue that program, as well as pay for related expenses like new studio equipment.
Ucross is raising money to expand its public events, too, the release said. It’s hosting its first arts festival on Aug. 22. The free event will feature an art giveaway and live music.
The retreat celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday.
During the event, Ucross President and Executive Director William Belcher announced U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo would visit the campus in February. She’ll host a number of events during her stay, including a craft talk at Sheridan College and a poetry and music night at the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center. Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Nation, is on her third term as poet laureate. She’s the first Native American to hold the title.
Belcher took over as president and executive director of Ucross in April. Sharon Dynak, who previously held the role for 25 years, announced her retirement earlier this year.
In June 2021, Ucross hosted the first Native American Art Curatorial Convening, bringing together Native American art curators from across the country. According to Ucross’ website, the art group will spend the next two years working to increase Native representation in museums and the visual arts; developing new standards for Indigenous art collections; and promoting the mentorship of Native American arts professionals and curators. The Native American Art Curatorial Convening received a $47,000 grant from the Warhol Foundation in January.