Artist group paints bright future for local cultural scene

Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community hosts interactive show Friday


A young participant works on her creation during the youth art workshop put on by the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community during Stagecoach Days in September. About 130 children took part in what will become an annual event. (Photo submitted)
A young participant works on her creation during the youth art workshop put on by the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community during Stagecoach Days in September. About 130 children took part in what will become an annual event. (Photo submitted)

Clint Riese
News Editor

They are small in number, but they think big. And if the members of the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community get their way, the entire region will reap the benefits.

The young organization is holding one of its first public events Friday night: an interactive concert featuring a member and his band. Greg Stein and the Wyoming Wanderers will entertain from 6-9 p.m. at The Nesting Grounds, 26395 Forest Blvd. in Wyoming. Audience members are invited to bring instruments and join in the performance.

The group’s immediate goal is to increase membership from the 20-odd artists, musicians and writers currently paying dues. Ambitious, long-term goals are also in place, such as opening a community arts venue and building a band shell in town.

“It’s bringing the arts into the lives of people, letting them experience things that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise experience,” said Eric Peterson, chair of the group’s board and mayor of Wyoming.

Group’s history

Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community stems from discussion between Peterson and Wendy Hazzard, the board’s vice chair.

While campaigning for mayor, Peterson was welcomed into home after home. As someone who studied painting and majored in art, he noticed a pattern he did not expect.

“When you’re an artist and you go to a house, you can tell another artist,” he said. “I ended up meeting a lot of them.”

Peterson began thinking about options for organizing local artists, and when Hazzard inquired about local writing groups, the idea for WACAC was born. The first meeting took place nearly two years ago at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, and it was well attended.

“I couldn’t believe how many people showed up,” Peterson said.

Membership varies from a man who joined to put his digital art degree to use for the first time to a high school art teacher whose studio is filled with hundreds of paintings. There are three published authors and a member whose art is used on calendars sold around the world.

The interest was there at the start, but the group faced a long road to relevance in the community. In time, members elected a board, adopted a mission and took steps to incorporate. Now, paperwork has been submitted and WACAC officials are awaiting approval of their application for 501(c)(3) status.

Meanwhile, business-natured meetings have been replaced by inspiring discussions centered on the arts. Now held at The Nesting Grounds, the meetings highlight a different member each month.

At first, Peterson said, featured members tend to be overly humble and shun the spotlight. It never fails, though, that the sessions get rolling and time runs out.

“It gets everybody’s creative elements percolating at the meeting, and people want to go do more,” Peterson said. “Everybody’s kind of fired up afterward.”

Such collaboration and encouragement are key benefits to members, who pay $25 in dues for one year or $40 for two years. Artists also get their own galleries on the WACAC website.

“Really, artists are loners,” Peterson said. “They do whatever artwork they like to do, but they do it in their house and it never gets out anywhere.”

The group aims to change that by holding performances and running community programs like youth art workshops. Its first effort, held during the Stagecoach Days celebration in September, attracted about 130 kids, who painted on canvases or threw ceramic pots on a wheel with WACAC members. Local businesses contributed supplies and prize money, and the resulting artwork was displayed for festival-goers to enjoy.

The board is also keeping an eye out for property to purchase and transform into a community arts center that could house a gallery and hold performances. Also, WACAC has secured an architect who will donate his services to design a band shell. Peterson said the group would like to find land for it near Highway 61.

Friday’s show

The first order of business, though, is to continue to grow membership. Anyone interested, as well as the general public, is invited to Friday’s free show. Stein’s band will cover a wide range of music, from bluegrass and gospel to classic rock and country.

“I hope this opportunity to play with our band will give people a chance to tap into their own creativity and to be inspired to keep growing their musical abilities,” Stein said.

See for more information on WACAC.