Center of Wonder

Cardiologist Dr. Ellen Gallant speaks at a TEDxJacksonHole event in 2015. As part of the Wonder Institute, a new initiative that will include a maker space and digital media lab, the Center of Wonder will also be the fiscal umbrella for TEDxJacksonHole.

The Center of Wonder is set to become a little more wondrous.

After agreeing to take over the local programming from Jackson Wild, the Center of Wonder has announced a new initiative: the Wonder Institute, a four-pronged program that will include some of Jackson Wild’s former offerings — TEDxJacksonHole, Wild Fest and Science Fest — as well as a new digital media lab, maker space and masters-in-residency series.

Following the success of the Center of Wonder’s Collaborating for a Creative Community grants program, through which the nonprofit awarded over $1 million to encourage nonprofit collaboration, Gary Silberberg, a Center of Wonder co-founder and board member, said his organization was looking to expand.

“We felt there were gaps in how community programming met the needs of the community,” Silberberg said, “and specifically in the 15- to 25-year-old group that we felt was not as engaged as they could be in the arts.”

When Lisa Samford, executive director of Jackson Wild, approached Silberberg to inform him the former Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival was rebranding and pivoting away from its local programming, he and the Center of Wonder jumped on that opportunity.

They made the decision to “get into programming” and “create a different space” for younger people who had an interest in the arts.

“We don’t have a space in this community for teens to gather in the evenings,” said JuliAnne Thomas, the Center of Wonder’s director of communications and development.

“That was our thought [behind] creating the maker space and the digital media lab: to engage with those people in the evenings.”

All three new initiatives are works in process.

The maker space and digital media lab are in the pilot stage, during which they will operate out of the Dancers’ Workshop’s alternative creative space, The Beast, in South Jackson.

When finalized, both programs are intended to provide people access to mentorship from subject matter experts — filmmakers, photographers and a broad swath of artists — as well as tools of the trade, including 3D printers, laser cutters, photo and video equipment and software.

While getting the Wonder Institute up and running, the Center will also offer two pilot programs for the digital media lab over the summer: A two-week filmmaking program in July for high school students and a filmmaking class with the Doug Coombs Foundation. Thomas said the programs would be free to the students, and the lab would be set up in the next few weeks.

But before fully launching the rest of the Wonder Institute, the Center of Wonder has a few things to figure out.

It is working on obtaining the funds to purchase supplies for the maker space, finalize speakers for its masters-in-residency series and secure a permanent location for the Wonder Institute. Silberberg said the Center of Wonder hopes find 3,000 to 4,000 square feet of space in town, though it is open to spaces ranging from 1,000 to 6,000 square feet.

The Center of Wonder is also finalizing how members of the community will be able to access and pay for the new resources. Membership models and scholarships are being considered (artists can currently rent space in the maker space for $400 a month), as well as partnerships with student groups, youth organizations and other groups interested in learning the skill sets taught in the makerspace and media lab.

“Right now we’re focused on prototyping the spaces,” Silberberg said.

“We’re focused on getting participation.”

While working on all of that, the Center of Wonder is also figuring out the details of its partnership with the Wind River Reservation’s Arapahoe Middle School, a program started by Jackson Wild.

“We’re having those discussions now as to how best to make sure that interaction grows,” Silberberg said.

Thomas said experienced makers interested in testing out the prototypes of the makerspace and digital media lab could reach out to the Center of Wonder.

For more information and to sign up for the July filmmaking program, visit 

Contact Billy Arnold at 732-7062 or

Scene Editor Billy Arnold covers arts and entertainment. He apprenticed as a sound engineer at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio before making his way to Jackson, where he has become a low-key fan of country music.

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