Kristin Fong

Executive director

After teasing the public with an attention-grabbing, wood-engraved front facade earlier this year, the By Western Hands member gallery and museum will host its design center grand opening celebration Saturday.

The opening is as much about rolling out a permanent space as it is ushering in a new era for the nonprofit organization that seeks to engage and educate the public on western art.

“It’s a huge privilege not only to get to know these artists and their work intimately but also to be ushering the organization in,” executive director Kristin Fong said. “Creating that sense of community all the time.”

Fong took over as director in January and comes to Cody from the American Museum of Western Art – Anschutz Collection in Denver and before that, worked with architecture, graphics and designs for the Denver Art Museum. 

“My previous experiences have all kind of culminated in this role in particular,” Fong said. “This role is the marriage of my two previous experiences in western art and in functional art.”

She now will oversee the new space on 1007 12th St. that will combine a member gallery, museum and workshop for western art, all under one roof. Fong said the new space will represent everything that BWH stands for, providing a year-round living and breathing environment for western art to breathe and flourish in.

“The traditional arts are still such an integral part of this community,” she said. “We can foster growth among the artists that are members, but also foster understanding for a wider public to appreciate these traditional crafts.”

Pieces of furniture for sale and on display in the BWH Artists’ Guild include a wood and stained glass bar, a massive hammered and cast iron chandelier, tooled leather and bone, beaded textiles, lamps, pillows and chairs.

“There’s lots of traditional works but also some edgy components,” Fong said.

A veneer writing desk with oyster-shaped tree cores lining its surface is one piece a little more unorthodox.

“It’s pretty wild,” Fong said.

In a separate part of the collection, a museum aspect will show historic pieces of furniture from the western genre with works from local and national artists. All of the art in the museum portion was donated by the Buffalo Bill Center of the West.

Fong said works were collected by that museum over the years now will get a return to the light of day.

“They will all be on view together for the first time,” she said. “They’ve never been exhibited all together.”

Fong said the archive curated by past deputy director Wally Reber, is designed to show western art’s importance in the world. 

“Making sure that the rest of the nation and the rest of the world can see how important this craft is and why it needs preservation,” she said.

A wood-engraved foosball table made by local artist Kendall Siggins adds a playful touch to the collection. Above the piece a large-scale photo shows Siggins adding final touches to the project.

Fong said the museum collection will stay constant for about a year but she hopes to host rotating exhibits along with works from Cody western art pioneer Thomas Molesworth.

The newest chapter in the By Western Hands saga will kick off with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday, shortly followed by artist demonstrations and curated tours. 

The show-and-tell-style workshops will range from how to assemble a walnut loveseat to a demonstration on hand engraving silver. Colorado artist Dan Rieple will also show off a 1950’s era western camper and will give a safety talk “on what not to do” in the workshop, Fong said.

“So that you don’t accidentally start fires in your own at-home wood shop,” she said.

There will also be youth coloring activities, live music, 307 Pizza, philly cheese steak station and cash bar provided by the Chamberlin Inn, running through 8 p.m., with no cost to attend.

Over the course of the summer BWH will also host a series of educational events, classes and artists in residency that will work out of a workshop facility in the back of the building. The gallery will also facilitate an internship program with students from Northwest College in the autumn, in which Fong said at least three students are participating. 

The design center gallery is now open daily from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m.

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