Beth Remington's office is a white 2002 Ford Econoline van. The steering wheel is her desk. The speedometer her computer.
As curator of the Ann Simpson Artmobile, Remington travels here, there and everywhere across Wyoming's 97,818 square miles, transporting museum-quality artwork to schools, libraries, community and senior centers and other locations in the state's 23 far-flung counties.
"I was in Casper last week, now I'm here, and next week I'll be in Rawlins for three days," Remington says as she shows off the Artmobile exhibition inside the library at Saratoga Elementary School. "Then, I'm going to four small towns near Cheyenne: Albin, Burns, Pine Bluffs and ..."
She stops, and a quizzical expression covers her face as she racks her brain for the name of the fourth community. A few moments later, Remington's eyes light up and she announces, "Carpenter!"
While Remington is helping schoolchildren in Laramie County to better understand and appreciate art, Larry Hensel will be leading another Opera in a Gym performance for youngsters in Goshen County, the Singing Statesmen will be practicing for their next statewide tour and patrons at the Carbon County Museum will be admiring pieces from the Touring Exhibition Service.
In the University of Wyoming's quest to share the fine and performing arts across the Cowboy State, no road is too long, no community too distant.
"We have a great responsibility, especially as the only four-year university, to the communities and schools across Wyoming," says Nicole Lamartine, conductor for the Singing Statesmen and Collegiate Chorale and faculty adviser for the Happy Jacks. "The state is so big, geographically, and I think that just makes it even more important for us to go out and put a human face to the University of Wyoming and its programs. There are so many people in Wyoming who wouldn't have the opportunity to know what we're all about unless we go out and show them."
To enhance its long-standing commitment to cultural outreach, UW in 2010 unveiled its Fine Arts Bus, a 58-seat motor coach that eases travel for large performing groups while providing a safer touring experience for students and faculty. The bus, adorned with the school's colors and graphic art, also helps raise the university's visibility.
"The Fine Arts Bus is critical to the university, because we see our mission as being a statewide mission. And, in Wyoming, that means you travel," says Katrina McGee, UW Foundation major gift officer for the fine arts.
The university's border-to-border efforts don't go unappreciated-particularly in the state's more remote areas, where, sometimes, even a Wal-Mart is a half day's drive.
To this day, Sarah Hale calls a January 2010 visit by the Singing Statesmen "the best PR in 15 years for UW" in the scenic Star Valley, which includes Afton, Thayne, Alpine and several other smaller communities. The editor of the local newspaper says she still hears people raving about the all-male choir.
The folks in Star Valley are waiting for an encore performance by the UW Symphony Orchestra, too. "We've had a few people ask when they'll be back," says Lisa Turner, executive director of the Star Valley Arts Council, which seeks opportunities to provide diverse cultural experiences to area residents.
"We look forward to having them as many times as they'll come back."
In Baggs, Linda Fleming says UW fills a tremendous void in a community that boasts one of the state's most dominant prep football teams-the Rattlers have won consecutive Class 1A six-man championships-but little in the way of culture.
Located deep in Carbon County, scant miles from the Colorado border, Baggs has three times hosted the Touring Exhibition Service at the Little Snake River Valley Museum.
"The outreach program is invaluable to remote places in Wyoming-like us-that don't have easy or immediate access to humanities and the arts," says Fleming, a member of the museum's district board.