In Jackson, a Western Design Exhibit

Originally posted on Architects and Artisans

From Sept. 5-8, 5,000 lovers of functional, one-of-a-kind Western art will deliver the buying power of 50,000 to Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Private jets from both coasts will slip down from the Wyoming skies. Fashions from New York designers will grace the runway at Thursday’s opening night. And locals will revel in it all.

“Jackson may be a small town of 10,000, but it has a really elite crowd that attends this event,” says Allison Merritt, executive director of the Western Design Conference Exhibit and Sale. “Some have been collecting for a while now.”

The exhibit got its start in Cody 27 years ago, and moved to Jackson 13 years back. Now, between 100 and 115 artists and artisans show and sell their work over the four-day weekend. This year, 105 will be on hand.

“We start accepting applications starting in January, and in April there’s a cut-off date, with work from Florida to California, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming,” she says. “There’s a big draw from the West, and there’s an Adirondack influence and Native American work, and some that’s really contemporary.”

For the collector, the exhibit and sale is an opportunity to burnish their holdings. For exhibitors, it can be a lucrative proposition, with about $1.5 million in sales annually. “One supplier last year said he had a million dollar sale – but that was not included in our figures,” she says. “Another artist got 200 commissions for one individual lot, but that’s not everyone’s story.”

Merritt views the exhibit as an opportunity to align the artists with the public, the buyers and the showrooms and galleries in Jackson. “There are 31 here, but for four days we’re the largest.”

It’s held at the 28,000-square-foot Snow King Center in Jackson, so it’s big, all right. But then there’s the $20,000 in awards given out to the artists and artisans every year.

All in all, it’s a winner for everyone involved.