Our giving habits

Fundraising for social causes is difficult. It is much easier to find donors for the arts, environment and wildlife.

It is a depressing reality. I served on two non-profit boards in the last 15 years. One was an environmental organization, and the other was dealing with people about to fall in the abyss of poverty.

I was curious to see how local donors dispersed their charity. I used the publicly available Form 990 the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole has to file with the IRS. The Community Foundation is the primary conduit used by donors in our county. It was an extensive and painstaking process to undertake with integrity, only using data from nonprofits based in Teton County, Wyoming. I completed the work during the economic meltdown of 2008. Donations for social help were a pitiful 17 percent. I was met with skepticism when I announced my findings.

Unbelievably, during that period the sheriff and police departments increased their budgets while the meager amounts earmarked for social services decreased.

Did they think that economic hardship would produce social unrest and subsequently law enforcement had to be boosted up?

Since then, water has flowed under the bridge and the percentage of contributions for social causes via the Community Foundation has increased around 23 percent. A conscious awareness has taken hold among us.

Attitudes have changed and although social services are still the poor parent, Teton County is aware of the predicament. It is a normal process, in a first step one identifies the problem and in a second phase one tries to resolve it.

This letter does not offer a solution; it just underlines a state of affairs. Action would be better than words.

If we fund in bigger ways nonprofits that deal with hardship and promulgate compassion we would be a fairer Jackson Hole. If we elevate the quality of life it will transpire into our economy, education and health care.

We are still dispersing help as a “band aid” whereas we should be at the point of finding the roots of the problems and act accordingly. But that is a discussion for another day.

Yves Desgouttes


1% for public art

Imagine the Town Square without the antler arches. The antler arches are our town’s most iconic public art. They add character and distinction to our community’s central gathering place.

Our businesses and organizations have benefited greatly because we elect to integrate public art and artists into our public spaces and events. We invest in public art because it sparks memorable first impressions; it can raise awareness about environmental issues and increases pedestrian vitality in our commercial cores. Art that promotes healing and wellness in our health care facilities has tangible patient and staff benefits.

Public art helps brand Jackson Hole as a cultural destination and highlights our creative community. It attracts cultural visitors who support our museums; galleries; and shopping, fine dining and lodging businesses, generating significant tax revenue for our community.

Public art commissions cause an economic ripple, generating paid opportunities for artists, filmmakers, landscape architects, engineers, designers, photographers, cultural organizations and other creative professionals.

We invest in artists because they add meaning and beauty to our daily experience and help us interpret the world around us. Artists respond creatively to design challenges and enhance the design and development process for all parties.

Public artists give back in creative ways by volunteering with nonprofits and teaching in our schools. For students, public art learning empowers young people with the understanding that they have the power to design the world around them, which inspires them to care for and invest in their communities with pride.

The Comprehensive Plan calls for the quality design of public spaces. The town should show leadership in investing in a percent-for-art ordinance. It would apply to only a small percentage of the town’s annual budget; however, over time the cumulative effect would lead to the creation of inspiring public spaces that provide education about community values, instill civic pride and offer access to art for all people regardless of background, age or ability.

Adam Harris, John Goettler,

Jean Lewis, Bronwyn Minton and Sammie Smith

Blunt opinion

In response to your not very informative opinion about public art, I have to say that Jackson Hole Public Art is never arbitrary nor cookie-cutter in their approach to bring art and community experiences to Jackson. Their staff, board, artists and volunteers are thoughtful, pragmatic and committed to a vast creative vision for our community. Every project is approached with research and intention, and they work with teams of people who are experts in their fields.

You negate the option of transforming the Broadway Landslide before even considering any artistic possibilities. You are assuming that art and nature are two separate things, without imagining any other vision. I also appreciate rock walls and natural grasses ... and there are many artists who could work with those very elements in an incredibly creative way.

An artist’s hands and vision could elevate those materials and the natural landscape to grow and form a more powerful message about our relationship with nature. An artist can envision a hillside being oh so much more, when given the opportunity. And JH Public Art creates and supports those opportunities.

That is what we all need, more opportunities to envision and make something more every day — as individuals and as community. There is absolutely nothing about JH Public Art that is hand-tying or cookie-cutter. What they bring is the opposite of that — freedom and support to have more art and imagination in our lives.

I know the editorial board has seen the research and numbers that show the positive impact that art and creative thinking has on our communities, our economy and our selves. Yes, other mountain towns have effectively used this tool of funding for the arts in their communities. So let’s look at those successes and use them to build off of here because we can do it even better!

Your blunt approach in last week’s opinion piece is extremely disappointing and a huge disservice to every artist and person in this community who has ever imagined more.

Carrie Geraci, executive director of JH Public Art, wakes up every single day imagining more for our community and for public art. I am so grateful for her tenacity and vision. I am constantly amazed that we are still fighting this fight about the importance of investing serious time and money into the arts in every way possible. There should be no pushing pause ... it should be fast-forward.

Lyndsay McCandless


Letters to the editor should be limited to 400 words, be signed and include a town of residence and a telephone number for verification. Letters are due by 5 p.m. Monday. No thank yous or political endorsement letters. Guest Shot columns are limited to 800 words. Email editor@jhnewsandguide.com.

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