A jewelry artist set his newest creations on a display case, adding bracelets and a small metal box to the arts and crafts already on display in the gallery. Another artist tied ribbon bows on gift baskets and helped another artist arrange small rustic, wooden drawers to fill with gift basket goods.

Between their tasks, the three talked with a group of women browsing the shelves, display cases and walls filled with creations of Wyoming artists and craftspeople last Thursday at Haven Gallery, Home & Gift, home to a new Casper artists co-op.

The gallery in the Old Yellowstone District is filled with paintings, sculptures, woodworks, knitted accessories, photography, jewelry, bath products, taxidermy and other art and handcrafted goods.

The co-op gives artists a chance to promote their art and inspire one another, coordinator Rachel Hawkinson said. The group began in October, and last week they stocked the space with new items in preparation for Thursday’s Casper Art Walk.

The co-op will host a reception with its featured guest artist of the month, Denver artist Cody Kuehl, whose paintings explore “the myth and ethos of the West,” according to his artist statement. The event also features a silent auction to benefit 007 Santa, a charity that provides gift for children in need.

The co-op is run by the artists in the group who volunteer their time to staff the gallery, set up the displays and organize events.

“We’re trying to do here is just bring artists together and give them a forum to be able to display their work and sell their work,” Hawkinson said. “We’re all chipping in and deciding where we want to go with it.”

Hawkinson, a jewelry artist, displayed some of her work in the gallery. She helped start the co-op housed in the gallery space, which is owned by Casper artist Shawn Rivett. His antler sculptures are taking off with clients around the country and handing over management of the gallery allowed him more time to focus on his own art.

But he wanted the space to remain linked to art, he said. 

“I’m so excited that it can continue as a great place to showcase arts and crafts,” Rivett said.

The co-op includes some well-known professional artists, including local ceramic artist Dandee Pattee, Casper folk artist Jim Kopp and ceramicist Byron Seeley of Jeffrey City. 

The co-op is growing as they recruit members, and they plan to select more artists early next year, Hawkinson said. 

Casper pastel artist and children’s book illustrator Karen Henneck learned about the co-op when a friend asked her to join, she said. She liked the space designed for displaying art and its location in the downtown neighborhood that’s been growing its arts scene, she said.

People traveling to places like Yellowstone and South Dakota are drawn to spots like Haven, where they can find one-of-a-kind items, she said.

“I just think that Casper needs to keep this going, because it’s such a unique place,” Henneck said. “People come from out of state, and it’s such an awesome gallery to draw people in, especially because the downtown is so unique. I think this just needs to be part of it.”

Being part of a co-op is a way to stay motivated, metal jewelry artist Bobby Lukowiak said. The artists want to keep creating and bringing in new works, he said. He’s spent a lot more time in his studio since joining the co-op.

“We feed off each other” Lukowiak said. “It’s really inspiring.”

The artists said they enjoy talking about art and sharing their ideas with other members. Hawkinson enjoyed learning from Henneck about how intricate pastel art is, she said. She's also enjoyed discovering guest artists like Kuehl, whom she happened to contact the day he quit his job to become an artist, she said. She's thrilled to host a showing of his work, since he's been booked solid since turning to art full time, she added. The artist plans a live painting session the day after the art walk as well, she said. 

The co-op at Haven a place to connect, and just seeing what others have created sparks new ideas, Hawkinson said.

Although launching the co-op has taken some time from her jewelry studio, it’s important work, she said.

“I just feel like it breeds creativity,” Hawkinson said. “Whether they do the same type of work as you or not, I feel like you get a lot of juice from it. You come up with ideas you would never maybe normally come up with, you talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. I just feel like being around all this creative stuff is inspiration and being around all the other people is good for inspiration too.”

Follow reporter Elysia Conner on Twitter @erconner

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