Is Jackson Hole still “the last of the Old West”?
With more skiers here than cattle ranchers, it’s a valid question. Part of Jackson’s charm is its Western heritage: the wide-open spaces, abundant wildlife and historic buildings. The other part is its modern luxury: four-star hotels, sushi restaurants and Tesla charging stations.
Jackson is changing, and if you ask any old-timers they’ll say it’s happening rapidly. Change and growth are inevitable, so the question becomes: How does Jackson evolve and remain a place where people want to live and visit?
That is the crux of the Teton Artlab’s Fall Arts Festival show, “Western Block,” showing at the nonprofit’s newest space, West Weird. It opened in June as an immersive, experimental art residency space. It shares a building with Visions West Contemporary on Broadway.
The show, which ponders the question “What is the ideal Western block?” was inspired by public discussion about the potential rezoning of the Cafe Genevieve block on Broadway, which would have sacrificed some of Jackson’s oldest buildings (and favorite eateries) to build a behemoth hotel.
Artlab founder Travis Walker said that while Cafe Genevieve has received an outpouring of public support (and funds), there’s a lot of development going on under the radar. And he wants to talk about it.
“There’s a bunch of development going on downtown, and I think there’s a lot of questions around what constitutes what’s worth saving and what’s not, why is something worth saving, and what part of our history needs to be preserved at this point and what we’re just going to develop,” he said.
Fittingly, the show will be made up entirely of block prints by local artists: Mike Piggott, Ben Roth, Erick Nelson, Taryn Boals and Walker. In addition to teaming up with their suite mates at Visions West for Palates and Palettes and the Sunday Art Walk Brunch, the artists will make block prints in the studio throughout the week.
Walker is leaving the question “What is the ideal Western block?” to the artists. He imagines some will be historical recordings and others more political.
“I’ve always been interested in development and how towns change, and recording it before it changes,” Walker said.
Walker founded the Teton Artlab in 2007 to subsidize studio spaces for local artists and bring a world of art to Jackson. West Weird, the nonprofit’s newest project, kicked off this summer with a show featuring work by the alumni of the Artlab’s residency project, which ran from 2016 to 2019. From July 22 to Aug. 30, West Weird welcomed its first resident, Joshua Short, who brought an interactive art arcade to the space.
Every six weeks or so you can expect something totally new, and totally weird, in West Weird.
“We’re already getting applications from a variety of artists,” Walker said. “I think it’s going to be really interesting, mysterious and weird. That’s part of discovering yourself as a community and part of discovering new frontiers: trying things out that are experimental and strange.” ￼