The year 2017 marked the Buffalo Bill Center of the West’s Centennial—100 years of research, collecting, exhibitions, and programs. As part of the festivities, the Center’s Whitney Western Art Museum hosted, on Saturday, June 17, a special symposium that brought together top art historians and trailblazing contemporary artists to examine topics related to western American sculpture.
Titled Forged and Founded—Western American Sculpture, a Centennial Symposium, the day-long program took place from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Costs were $25 for students, $55 for Center members, and $65 for non-members; the fee includedlunch.
From the beginning, sculpture has been central to the Whitney’s story. The Museum was founded around a monumental bronze, the iconic Buffalo Bill—The Scout. And today, its collection of sculpture is broad and deep—a defining strength of the Whitney’s holdings.
Sculpture has an important place in local history, too. Sculptors have long been drawn to Cody, situated just an hour beyond the East Entrance to Yellowstone National Park. The region’s scenic beauty, cultural heritage, and relative remoteness have attracted artists of international renown. Today, contemporary sculptors are creating compelling works of art that expand and explode familiar definitions of western American art.
Forged and Founded featured four enlightening lectures in a morning session, a lively Lunch & Lecture, and a menu of optional tours, open houses around the community, and visual arts presentations during an afternoon session. This multifaceted program held appeal for scholars, professionals, students, and art and history enthusiasts with a range of interests. Coordinated with an eye toward interactivity and accessibility, Forged and Founded took an innovative and engaging approach to scholarship on western sculpture.
Attendees of the symposium:
- Learned about the history of bronze casting in America.
- Heard from experts about renowned sculptors Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and Alexander Phimister Proctor, their connections to Cody, and their impact on the national art scene.
- Considered groundbreaking contemporary sculpture in the West.
- Explored the bronze casting process as revealed by industry insiders who provide insight on this complicated—but compelling—art form.
- Interacted with contemporary sculptors, and get the inside scoop on their artistic methods.
The symposium coincided with the publication of The Best of Proctor’s West, the latest book by noted art historian and the Center’s Director Emeritus Peter H. Hassrick. The event also drew on the subjects of two 2017 exhibitions at the Center: Cody to the World! Celebrating 100 Years at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and a special spotlight exhibition in the Whitney’s Proctor Studio including new-to-view sculptures and paintings.
We gratefully acknowledge funding received from the Peters Family Art Foundation, Bill and Robin Weiss, Carlene Lebous and Harris Haston, Hope and Edward Connors, and the Proctor Collection Endowment Fund. Thank you for supporting the Whitney’s mission of advancing scholarship on the art of the American West.
Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. For additional information, visit centerofthewest.org or the Center’s Facebook page.