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Published January 26, 2024
The new Neltje Center for Excellence in Creativity and the Arts expands offerings for students and residents.
By Micaela Myers
During its first year, the new Neltje Center for Excellence in Creativity and the Arts hit the ground running, hosting events and establishing a strong foundation.
The center is named for Neltje, a renowned painter, art collector and philanthropist who died in 2021, bequeathing a major estate gift to the University of Wyoming. The center includes an expansive facility located 20 minutes southeast of Sheridan near the Bighorn Mountains, where Neltje resided.
Neltje founded the Jentel Artist Residency Program in 2001, and the one-month residencies continue to welcome writers and artists from around the world who share their work with the local community in monthly presentations. Neltje’s former home on the site is filled with art and artifacts. It offers large and small spaces to meet and create. Utilizing these facilities, the center is expanding in a number of areas, led by Executive Director Beth Venn. For example, UW faculty can apply to bring students there for mini residencies on a range of topics.
“I can’t convey how inspiring, creative and generative this space can be for student groups,” Venn says.
In one such mini residency, a music instructor took a group of cellists to learn a new instrument. There, they were inspired to practice for up to 10 hours a day, accomplishing a great deal in just a few days. In a recent cross-disciplinary project, plant science students and creative writers worked together there. The center also partners with Sheridan College and hosts visiting writers, artists and performers, with events open to the public.
Another exciting development — a Wyoming Innovation Partnership grant — kicked off the center’s work to become a resource for entrepreneurs in the creative economy.
“The creative economy can be any way in which people access creative endeavors, like starting a gallery, a record label or a traveling theater company,” Venn says. “Ultimately, the Neltje Center will be a hub for the development of and investment in the creative economy of the state.”
A series of workshops for entrepreneurs are planned at locations throughout the state.
Venn came to UW with an impressive resume as an arts leader, curator and writer. “I am thrilled to lead this new initiative that will expand creative opportunities for students and faculty, build strong partnerships across communities and disciplines, and advance Neltje’s legacy of providing time and space for artists of all types to thrive,” she says. “The potential of the Neltje Center to foster and support a robust creative ecosystem is great, and I look forward to ensuring its success.”