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Hedge Against Inflation? Alternative Currency “Goldbacks” Catching On In Wyoming

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Hedge Against Inflation? Alternative Currency “Goldbacks” Catching On In Wyoming


T-Joe’s Steakhouse and Saloon owner Sherry Lyle collects about $1,000 a month in a type of currency that at first looks like it must come from a foreign country or a board game.

The flashy golden bills capture attention around the dining room whenever they come out, but were actually designed and developed specifically around Wyoming.

They’re called Wyoming goldbacks, and they are offered in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 online at wyominggoldbacks.com. Each denomination is decorated with art that showcases the Cowboy State while also highlighting a different virtue — liberty, loyalty, respect, and so on.

But what’s really unique about these bills is that they’re made of pure gold that has been laid down inside a protective polymer using the latest, cutting-edge technology.

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The smallest denomination — a 1 — is 1/1000th of a troy ounce of gold. That bill has Devils Tower as a backdrop, with a buffalo, an eagle and sunflowers framing a Shoshone woman named Reverentia (Latin for “respect”).

The caption below her translates that idea to “revere what is sacred.”

The Art Of Business

It’s a work of art, and the beauty is part of the reason Lyle started accepting goldbacks at her restaurant. She likes collecting different kinds of currency.

She also likes that these bills were designed specifically for Wyoming.

“They’re unique to Wyoming and a couple of other states,” she said. “And it kind of shows our independent spirit.”

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Lyle estimates that she has a party wanting to pay a check or tip a server in goldbacks about every other week.

Sometimes, the transaction confuses those who are watching.

“One of our servers was like, ‘Oh, we can tip our bussers in pesos?” Lyle recalled, laughing. “That was kind of funny, but like, ‘No, you can’t.’”

Because the currency contains real gold, the bills can gain or lose value over time with the value of gold. And like the commodity, gold mostly goes up in value.

Over time, Lyle has watched the value of her goldbacks rise, and now she actually has some from every state with a series — Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah, the latter being where the series first began.

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“It doesn’t go up a ton,” she said. “But it’s just been a neat thing, and it’s nice to support the businesses that sell these. We will use them eventually, but we’ll always keep a couple just for, you know, the collector value.”

A waitress counts goldbacks at T-Joe’s Steakhouse and Saloon while Dan Walter checks an app that relays that day’s exchange rates. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Apocalypse Not

T-Joes isn’t the only Wyoming business accepting goldbacks.

Adam Mathes, owner of A-1 Tire in Casper, started taking them about a month ago after one of his customers showed him a few of the bills.

He wasn’t looking at it from any sort of apocalyptic perspective. He just sees goldbacks as another option to differentiate his store from corporate chains.

“It looks like we’re the only tire store that will accept something like that around here,” Mathes told Cowboy State Daily. “Being a locally owned small business, I don’t know if some of the corporations would even consider that. So, it’s another way for people to see our business and to be able to have a different form of payment.”

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Tyler McCann, owner of Cowboy Cuts in Pavillion, thinks goldbacks might serve as a great hedge against inflation, in case there are any more price surges.

“I think gold is more stable,” he said. “Even though it’s going up and down, I just see so much inflation that I would like to have that available for our customers.”

So far, neither of them have had any takers, but McCann was particularly keen.

“I think they are fascinating,” he said. “You can feel the difference in the weight between different denominations. You can almost immediately tell the difference when you hold them in your hand.”

In all, about 160 Wyoming businesses now accept goldbacks in an incredible range — pet stores, restaurants, barber shops, carpenters, auto parts and more.

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It Came From A dream

Goldbacks arose from a dream that the company’s founder, Jeremy Cordon, had about some sort of an apocalypse or emergency.

“There was some sort of national emergency,” Goldback Chief Operating Officer Kevan Mills told Cowboy State Daily. “He didn’t know what it was, whether it was a war, or an earthquake, or what. But he was at a grocery store trying to buy groceries and everyone in the store was trying to pay with credit cards and dollars.”

The store owner wasn’t having it.

“We don’t take that here, it’s no good anymore,” the dream grocery store owner said.

Someone else came up to the owner with an impossibly thin, rectangular piece of gold, and offered that to the owner instead.

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“Would you take this?” the customer asked.

“Gold?” the owner replied. “Absolutely I’ll take gold.”

It was then Cordon woke up and immediately called his business partner to tell him about the dream.

“We have to do this,” Cordon told him. “It’s incredibly important.”

  • Jaquie Georgio, a waitress at T-Joe's Steakhouse and Saloon, looks at a collection of goldbacks from various states. She has yet to receive a tip in them, but said they are cool looking and she would love to get one.
    Jaquie Georgio, a waitress at T-Joe’s Steakhouse and Saloon, looks at a collection of goldbacks from various states. She has yet to receive a tip in them, but said they are cool looking and she would love to get one. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Laura Hoch, from left, watches as her husband Chris sorts through their goldbacks while across the table, Caroline Walter watches and her husband, Dan Walter, checks exchange rates using the Goldback Company's app.
    Laura Hoch, from left, watches as her husband Chris sorts through their goldbacks while across the table, Caroline Walter watches and her husband, Dan Walter, checks exchange rates using the Goldback Company’s app. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Jason "Junior" Lyle holds up a collection of goldbacks traded at T-Joe's Steakhouse and Saloon for meals. The restaurant is one of 160 stores in Wyoming that are willing to accept goldbacks in exchange for services.
    Jason “Junior” Lyle holds up a collection of goldbacks traded at T-Joe’s Steakhouse and Saloon for meals. The restaurant is one of 160 stores in Wyoming that are willing to accept goldbacks in exchange for services. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Making Gold More Practical

While the idea for goldbacks may have come from a dream, the bills do solve a practical, real-world problem for those who’d like to use gold for transactions.

A single gold coin weighing an ounce is worth just over $2,000 — a bit hard for most grocery stores, restaurants, beauty shops and the like to break down.

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But a single goldback with a thousandth of an ounce of gold — worth about $4.66, according to Tuesday’s exchange rate — is a much easier denomination to work with.

“For perspective, a thousandth of an ounce, if you took a BB from a BB gun and cut it into 12 pieces, one of the pieces of that BB would be 1,000th of an ounce,” Mills told cowboy State Daily. “So how do you carry that around? If you’re going to carry that little teeny — I mean it’s not much bigger than few grains of sand.”

But gold is highly malleable, so a small amount of it can be spread very thinly.

“A 50-cent piece of gold, hammered to as thin as you can possibly make it would cover an entire football field,” Mills said. “That’s how thin you can make gold.”

Then, it’s just a matter of something to protect the integrity of such a thin sheet of gold, keeping it all intact so that every bill has exactly what it says it has regardless of trades.

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That’s where the polymer comes into play. It both protects the thin layer of gold and makes it easy to carry around.

“Now you can put it in your wallet and carry it safely,” Mills said.

Goldbacks are also what’s called “fungible,” which means they are available in readily interchangeable denominations. Five 1s, for example, can be traded for a 5 goldback, which is 1/200th of a troy ounce, or 10 ones could be traded for a 10 goldback, which is 1/100th of a troy ounce. Denominations of 25 and 50 are also available, which are 1/40th and 1/20th of a troy ounce respectively.

At First Utah Was It

Although goldbacks can be used anywhere that a business is willing to trade in gold, the bills started out initially as strictly a Utah series. There was never any intention of doing goldbacks that highlighted other states, Mills told Cowboy State Daily.

But once the Utah goldback series started circulating, they almost instantly attracted interest from investors who wanted to see their states highlighted with a goldback series.

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Soon, there were even sponsors willing to help front the cost of that.

Wyoming was actually the fourth state to get its own series, and the sponsor was Natrona County state Sen. Bob Ide, R-Casper.

Ide was not a state senator at the time he sponsored the development of the Wyoming goldback, just someone who Mills said was interested in seeing it happen.

Wyoming may have been the fourth state to get its own series, but it’s been tops when it comes to embracing goldbacks, according to investor Abram Taylor.

“Whenever I check Google trend reports, Wyoming is usually the top one or two every day of people looking them up,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “And whenever we have gone up to Jackson Hole to, you know, have lunch and get out of town, I always tip with goldbacks and they’re always very well received. The waitresses are always like, ‘Oh my, what is this? This is cool.’”

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Taylor even recalls buying his wife an expensive fur coat in Wyoming, and was pleasantly surprised when the shop’s owner was willing to take goldbacks for the purchase.

Not only that, the shop owner seemed really eager to get them.

  • A range of goldbacks from different states in the collection of bills T-Joe's Steakhouse and Saloon in Cheyenne has collected so far.
    A range of goldbacks from different states in the collection of bills T-Joe’s Steakhouse and Saloon in Cheyenne has collected so far. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Wyoming goldbacks fan 9 26 22
  • A 1 Wyoming goldback contains 1/1000th of a troy ounce of gold laid down in a polymer that protects the gold and the artistic design.
    A 1 Wyoming goldback contains 1/1000th of a troy ounce of gold laid down in a polymer that protects the gold and the artistic design. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

The Midas touch

Goldbacks have had something of a Midas touch so far, trading in all 50 states and on every continent in the world except Antarctica.

Everyone who touches them seems to fall in love with them.

“So, our first year in business we did $250,000 in goldbacks,” Mills told Cowboy State Daily. “Our second year, we did $1 million dollars in goldbacks. Our third year, we did $6 million and our fourth year, we did $12 million. Last year, we did $34 million.”

Mills credits the exponential growth in part to the way gold can work as a hedge against inflation.

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“In the two years since we released the Wyoming goldback in September 2022, the value of goldbacks has gone up by 28%,” Mills said. “So, if someone bought gold two years ago and then sold them to Alpine Gold for 5% under the daily rate today, they would have made 23%.”

Inflation rates from October 2021 to October 2022, by comparison, were 7.7%, according to the Consumer Price Index, making Goldbacks a clear winner for that particular time frame.

Mills said one important distinction to make with goldback bills is that they’re not meant to replace the U.S. dollar. They are what is called a local currency, of which there are about 3,000 in the United States.

“The federal government issues all the currency and there’s actually in the Constitution it’s written that states cannot produce their own currency and that nothing shall be used as money unless it be gold or silver,” he said. “So that’s what we do. We’re just giving people an alternative currency.”

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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Wyoming

In Wyoming, a Tribe and a City Pursue Clean Energy Funds Spurned by the Governor – Inside Climate News

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In Wyoming, a Tribe and a City Pursue Clean Energy Funds Spurned by the Governor – Inside Climate News


When Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon told the Environmental Protection Agency in 2023 that the state would not be applying for federal grant money to reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, he left most communities in the state without access to potentially transformative funds to upgrade infrastructure, reduce pollution and bring down costs for local governments.

But in the nation’s most sparsely populated state, only two cities and the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes could qualify on their own for Climate Pollution Reduction Grants (CPRG) from the $4.6 billion made available to states, cities, tribes and territories under the Inflation Reduction Act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. On April 1, Cheyenne, Wyoming’s capital, submitted its application for more than $99 million to cover most of the costs of building two solar farms and making upgrades to both of its wastewater treatment plants. 

The Northern Arapaho, which is qualified to apply for the $4.6 billion in general funding, met the EPA’s deadline to do so earlier this month. The tribe is also eligible for $300 million in EPA tribal funding, for which it is finalizing an application ahead of a May 1 deadline. The tribe hopes federal money will fund a solar-powered micro-grid on its reservation, enable weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades to residents’ homes and help convert the tribe’s vehicle fleet to electric and hybrid cars.

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Officials from the Northern Arapaho Tribe and city of Cheyenne called the grant money potentially transformational.

“This money would really, truly help big time,” said Dean Goggles, environmental director for the Northern Arapaho Natural Resources Office.

Wyoming faces a series of climate change-related threats to its environment, people, plants and animals. Temperatures in the state have already risen 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit since the onset of the 20th century, according to Emily Bertram, an environmental protection specialist at the EPA. As temperatures rise, the rate and severity of droughts and wildfires are projected to increase and the severity of storms across the state is expected to rise, too. With “unprecedented warming” expected to continue, “communities in Wyoming will continue to experience higher average temperatures, warmer winters, decreased snowfall, stronger storm precipitation events and increased risk of drought and wildfires,” Bertram said.

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The Northern Arapaho will likely prioritize projects that will increase the tribe’s energy independence and the community’s resilience to severe weather events. Tribal planners began working on the community’s application last fall, and identified the building and transportation sectors as the largest sources of climate-warming emissions the tribe could address.

“There’s a lot of interest in solar here,” said Steve Babits, an environmental scientist with the Northern Arapaho Natural Resource Office. “People are pretty interested in being more self-sufficient with the utilities.”

In its Priority Climate Action Plan (PCAP), a planning document the Northern Arapaho submitted to the EPA last month in order to qualify for general funding, the tribe laid out plans to apply for funds to build a community‐scale solar farm with battery storage on the Wind River Reservation. Such a project could reduce the tribe’s emissions and “provide affordable, reliable power” to the community, the tribe wrote. As Goggles and Babits met with tribal government groups about the PCAP, they said the idea proved popular. “Everyone is faced with high utility bills,” Babits said. “What we’re looking at is something that would be off the grid and generate its own power.”

Weatherizing housing on the reservation is another of the tribe’s top priorities. By constructing high-efficiency buildings using electrical heating systems, putting them close together and retrofitting current buildings with better insulation, the tribe can minimize driving and create homes that “more easily ‘ride out’ power failures during inclement weather by minimizing heat energy losses to the exterior,” it said. This would help solve “major public health issues on the reservation” during Wyoming’s biting winters.

The Northern Arapaho also signaled they might seek funds to replace the tribe’s fleet of diesel and gas-powered vehicles with electric and hybrid ones.

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Babits said funding for any of these plans would help the community create jobs. “The reservation is an underserved community, it could really benefit from that,” he said.

About 300 miles to the southeast of the Wind River reservation, Renee Smith had been working diligently on Cheyenne’s PCAP and CPRG. “We’ve been working toward this for a year. We just weren’t anticipating being the lead,” she said, referencing Gordon’s decision to remove the state from funding consideration.

Like the Northern Arapaho, Smith sees these funds as an opportunity to expand Cheyenne’s renewable energy portfolio. The city is working with Black Hills Energy, a local utility company, to install solar panels on city-owned cattle grazing lands, the municipality’s closed landfill and both its wastewater treatment plants. (In Wyoming, cities cannot own and provide their own energy.) Together, these projects could add more than 96,000 megawatts to Cheyenne’s grid annually, helping the city meet its growing energy demand as more data center companies flock to the area, Smith said.

Pairing solar panels with cattle grazing, a burgeoning practice known as agrivoltaics, could be particularly transformative for the city. Cheyenne makes money by leasing land for grazing, and leasing that same land for solar development to a utility like Black Hills Energy is a way for the city to do some “double dipping,” Smith said.

“Cheyenne would become a national leader” if the city received money for this idea, Smith said. “No project in America would come close to the size and scale of this proposed project.”

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Reusing the city’s old landfill as a solar farm would help power low-income residents’ homes, Smith said, and the goal would be to one day create a community solar site run by Black Hills. Installing solar panels at its Crow Creek and Dry Creek wastewater treatment plants would allow Cheyenne to power municipal infrastructure with cheaper energy, which would free up tax dollars “to fund quality of life projects” like outdoor and indoor recreation facilities Smith said. “We feel like this is just a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

In its CPRG application, the city also included plans to capture and sell methane collected from Dry Creek wastewater treatment plant to local utilities that can burn it as natural gas.

Any of these projects would develop employment opportunities in Cheyenne. Solar installation creates jobs “on the front end,” Smith said. As the panels are being set up, Cheyenne would train a workforce to “make sure we have enough qualified people to manage these [panels] and maintain them,” she said.

Absent federal funding, Cheyenne would be hard pressed to find ways to get these projects off the ground. Wyoming offers Energy Matching Funds, money from state coffers awarded by the Wyoming Energy Authority to projects that meet an array of energy criteria—most of which are focused on preserving the extraction and use of fossil fuels in a clean energy economy.

Cheyenne’s goal is to win as much grant money as it can from the federal competition, but “it would be great if the state could support this. Even in this small way,” Smith said. 

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States and cities that have applied for CPRG funds will compete against one another based on grant proposal size. It is not yet clear how many other states or cities joined Cheyenne in applying for CPRG funding between $50 million to $99 million, but the EPA plans to award anywhere from six to 12 grants in that range, according to an EPA announcement in January.

If both the Northern Arapaho’s applications are deemed suitable for funding, the EPA would award the tribe only one grant.

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With only two applicants from Wyoming, and Gordon electing to keep the state on the sidelines, grant planners from the Northern Arapaho and Cheyenne said they are aware that the rest of the state may be keeping tabs on how their applications turn out should the two communities receive funding.

“Hopefully we can be a leader on this in the state and be a good example for everyone,” Babits said. 

“It’s really exciting that we get to apply for these funds—and it’s even more exciting if we can move ahead,” Goggles added. “I’m anxious for it.”



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Wyoming High School Softball Standings: April 21, 2024

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Wyoming High School Softball Standings: April 21, 2024


Prep softball teams have completed six weeks of the Wyoming High School softball season. Some teams played last week, while others didn’t due to the weather. The West Conference standings changed more compared to the East Conference. The standings update includes all games played through April 20, 2024.

WYOMING HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL STANDINGS WEEK 6 2024

WyoPreps Week 6 Softball Scoreboard 2024

Teams are listed by their conference record first, and then their overall record. If a tie exists, teams are listed alphabetically unless a head-to-head result can break the tie.

WEST: (Overall Record, followed by Conference Record)

Rock Springs 12-6, 6-1

Cody 8-6, 4-1

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Natrona County 13-4-2, 4-3

Green River 4-13, 2-4

Kelly Walsh 5-13-1, 2-5

Worland 2-11, 0-4

EAST: (Overall Record, followed by Conference Record)

Thunder Basin 13-2, 6-1

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Campbell County 11-4, 5-1

Cheyenne East 14-3, 5-2

Wheatland 6-7-1, 4-3

Cheyenne Central 6-11, 2-6

Laramie 5-6, 1-3

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Cheyenne South 0-12, 0-7

WyoPreps Previous Standings Update 4-15-24

Cheyenne Softball Tournament

Cheyenne Softball Tournament

Gallery Credit: Frank Gambino





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Major Artists Make Creative Breakthroughs At Remote Ucross, Wyoming, Retreat

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Major Artists Make Creative Breakthroughs At Remote Ucross, Wyoming, Retreat


The creative paradise of Ucross, Wyoming, just got a little more spring in its step. In partnership with the Houston Ballet, the Ucross Foundation has made choreographer Jack Wolff the inaugural recipient of its Lauren Anderson Dance Residency.

Wolff is set to work in the state-of-the-art Lauren Anderson Dance Studio in the Koehler Performing Arts Center on Ucross’s 20,000-acre ranch in Sheridan County. The studio, named for the Houston Ballet’s first Black principal ballerina, opened in December 2022 as part of Ucross’s 40th anniversary.

Ucross Foundation Director of External Relations Caitlin Addlesperger said Wolff will spend a full month in Wyoming. During that time, his creative process will be “completely undisturbed and uninhibited.”

“The way our residencies work, what makes them so special and renowned across the world is that when we say uninterrupted time, we mean that,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “There are signs on all the studios that say, ‘Do Not Interrupt.’ We don’t want artists to have any distractions, and we take that seriously.”

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Creative Freedom

Ucross offers residencies to “mature and emerging” visual artists, writers, composers, choreographers, interdisciplinary artists, performance artists and collaborative teams. The Lauren Anderson Dance Residency is a monthlong window open to performers and choreographers working with the Houston Ballet.

A Ucross residency is more than a state-of-the-art space with a gorgeous view of the Cowboy State. Addlesperger said every artist at Ucross, a maximum of 10 people at a time for two to six weeks, has their every need covered so they can focus on exploring their creativity.

“Somebody said that they feel like there are 40 hours in a day when you’re out at Ucross,” she said. “We’ll deliver sack lunches to their studio door. All of the housekeeping, individual living accommodations and dinners together in our beautiful dining room — all of that, all of that time.”

A professional chef cooks meals, each artist has personal attendants, and there’s unlimited access to the ranch’s studios. With all distractions removed, the artists have all the time and resources they need to explore their creative instincts.

Since its founding in 1983, Ucross’s goal has been to create the most conducive environment for the creative process to flourish — and the results speak for themselves, Addlesperger said.

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“Dancers complete these beautiful pieces,” she said. “Writers will finish the first or final drafts of their novels. Symphonies and Broadway musicals have been written here.”

For a recent testament, filmmaker Damien Chazelle’s residency led to the script for the 2016 film “La La Land.” The film was nominated for 14 Oscars and won six, including Best Director for Chazelle.

Addlesperger also said that much of the script and music for the 2017 film “The Greatest Showman” were developed during a Ucross residency.

“It’s really special how much of the nation’s arts and culture has been impacted by work that started here,” she said. “All we do is support the artists and give them what they need to bring out their inner creativity and creative genius.”

Choreographic Project

The Houston Ballet is the fifth-largest company in the United States. In 2022, it partnered with the Ucross Foundation to create the studio.

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Jack Wolff, who’s been working with the Houston Ballet since 2018, made his professional debut in Bulgaria and received training and accolades in New York City and elsewhere. Lauren Anderson and Ucross President William Belcher praised him highly.

“Excited doesn’t begin to describe it. I am thrilled to announce Jack Wolff as the first fellow in residence at Ucross,” Anderson said. “His creativity and commitment to having art reflect life promises an inspiring fusion of movement and emotion. This residency marks a significant milestone in fostering artistic expression and collaboration between Ucross and Houston Ballet, and I am honored to have my name on this residency.”

During his two-week residency, Wolff plans to develop the choreographic project he submitted to Ucross.

He said he hopes to “create and explore movement inspired by events from my own life: modern-day issues within family dynamics, such as infidelity and divorce.

“I will be using Rachmaninoff Piano Suites, which have such drama and have augmented my inspiration for the work. I will be working with one male dancer and one female dancer, who will be asked to explore classical ballet language, gritty contemporary movement and more.”

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Artists are welcome and encouraged to bring any collaborators they’d like to work with. Houston Ballet dancers Aoi Fujiwara and Eric Best will work with Wolff during his time in Wyoming.

“I’m excited to find the relationship between the dancers, the music and ideas of familial issues,” Wolff said. “These modern conflicts have become more common in society, and I find it important to bring representation of such events to the ballet stage.”

The Special Recipe

A Ucross residency might sound like paradise for artists, but it’s highly competitive. Applicants “must exhibit professional standing in their field,” so applications from students are not accepted.

But even mature and emerging artists have to stand out in their field. Amid hundreds of applications, Addlesperger said that only 6% are offered a Ucross residency.

“It’s a very competitive application process,” she said. “Most of our artists come through this open application process twice a year. We wish we could have more, but we only want 10 artists in residence at once.”

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And getting a residency isn’t a vacation. These artists do nothing but work at their craft while at the center.

That’s one of many reasons Addlesperger said artists across the globe are clamoring for a few weeks on a ranch in Sheridan County. During their brief stay at Ucross, artists have everything they need to reach their highest potential and share it with the world.

“There is just some special recipe at Ucross,” she said. “Our guiding principle is offering this excellent experience to artists, and we all care about artists, their work, and their creative process.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.



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