Wyoming Humanities Kicks off New Program Line and Partnership with Insight Cheyenne: Legends

By Jason Burge

Wyoming Humanities is excited to announce Insight in partnership with the University of Wyoming Creative Writing program this year. Insight events are nights of fast-paced, multimedia presentations featuring some of Wyoming’s best storytellers and thinkers. Each night features a theme for presenters to riff on to tell stories that shape us as people. Live music from local songwriters is interspersed throughout the evening and the events feature cash bars. Insights aren’t your typical cultural programs; they are full-on nights out on the town.

The first Insight, in Cheyenne on January 21 at the Atlas Theatre, 7 p.m., will focus on the idea of “Legends” and how they influence our thoughts. From myths and parables to Catholic Saints and some of the not-so-saintly figures of Wyoming’s past, the talks promise to be interesting and engaging.

Featured presenters include:

Samuel Western is an Economist correspondent and the author of Pushed off the Mountain, Sold Down the River: Wyoming’s Search for its Soul, the poetry collection A Random Census of Souls, and most recently the celebrated novel Canyons. Sam will shed insight into the story of Thomas Wardell, an early coal man and infamous strike- buster, who duped the Union Pacific out of millions and founded the now ghost town of Carbon, WY.

Nina McConigley won both the Pen/Open Book award and the High Plains book award for her story collection Cowboys and East Indians. Nina writes about unseen
sides of the American West and is at work on a novel. She teaches at the University of Wyoming and is a sought after speaker at literary events across the nation. She plans on examining Wyoming’s most mythical and elusive creature, the jackalope.

Bob Budd is the Executive Director of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust and Chairman of Cheyenne Frontier Days. The past Director of Land Management for the Wyoming Nature Conservancy and the Wyoming Stock growers Association, Bob has two books of humor, Send Fresh Horses and A Wide Spot in the Road, co-written with famed illustrator Jerry Palen. Bob’s presentation will focus on legendary figures in Wyoming’s history who helped shape him.

Affie Ellis’s parents moved from the Navajo Reservation to Jackson Hole in the 1950s. She is a small business owner from Cheyenne and the first Native American woman elected to serve in the Wyoming Senate where she plans to fight to strengthen Wyoming’s education system and work to seek global solutions to Wyoming’s economic questions. Recognized as a Wyoming Woman of Distinction by the University of Wyoming, Affie is a graduate of UW and the University of Colorado Law School.

Reed Barrett is a mentalist and award-winning speaker from Cheyenne. A self-described “Millennial Maverick” whose slogan is “Your heart’s beating, give it a reason,” Reed often speaks to youth groups and is praised widely for his ability to connect with and for having a “Heart for People.” Having lost his both his father and his dream of becoming an Air Force pilot due to a hereditary heart condition, Reed will be looking at legends of the afterlife.

Bethann Merkle is a native of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and an artist fascinated with communicating science and sustainability. She was named Quebec’s Outstanding Photojournalist of 2012, and her award-winning work has been published across North America, in outlets including American Scientist, Montana Outdoors, and Mother Earth News. She will share images and stories from her recent field research on the Tortoise and Hare, taking a modern look at the characters from the well-known parable.

Charles Fournier graduated from the University of Wyoming with an MA in literature and teaches writing, thinking, reading, being kind, dancing, fire-making, wrestling, and on occasion, dirtbagging to students of all ages and creeds. Charles’ story for Insight is about a family’s burial of saints, traditions, and memories, and what the implications of digging can be. What is gained or lost in the retrieval of histories that compete for priority in our minds?

Lilly Schneider was raised on an island in the Pacific Northwest and earned her BFA in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She is a candidate in the University of Wyoming MFA program in writing. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in numerous print and online publications, including The Huffington Post Blog, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Flash: The International Magazine of Short-Short Stories.

Insight Cheyenne: Legends will be hosted by Wyoming Public Radio’s Cultural Affairs reporter and director of productions such as the much lauded Humanature podcast Micah Schweizer and filmed by University of Wyoming TV’s Ali Grossman. The event is free and open to the public.

We will also be hosting an Insight in Casper on February 25th at the Lyric Theatre in conjunction with the Casper College Humanities Festival and are looking for presentations on “Identity” for that date. Then again on April 12th at the Gryphon Theatre in Laramie where the theme will be “Abominable Snowmen.” If you are in the area and would like to be considered for those events, contact Jason@thinkwy.org to pitch ideas for inclusion.