Artist Chris Navarro Headlines Rocky Mountain Art Show Benefitting Wyoming Cares
The conference room at the Hilton Garden Inn in Casper was packed to the brim on Saturday, July 16 as the Rocky Mountain Art Show brought together artist Chris Navarro and art enthusiasts from all over the state for a night of food, drinks, fellowship and, of course, art.
And it was all to benefit Wyoming Cares.
Wyoming Cares, per their website, is a non-profit organization designed to target "the many Wyoming residents who often fall through the cracks of available assistance, Wyoming CARES helps Wyoming infants, children, youth, adults and senior citizens for medical and non-medical needs."
Wyoming Cares states that they have no political, national, or religious affiliations and they emphasized the fact that "Funds raised in Wyoming stay in Wyoming, for residents of Wyoming."
And many of those funds are raised at events like the Rocky Mountain Art Show.
"Wyoming Cares has been doing this event for almost 30 years," said Cindy King, the Treasurer and a board member of Wyoming Cares. "It's been one of our main fundraisers. The art is juried and selected. We have a lot of local artists but we also have artists from Colorado, Montana, and around that area that send art to us for a live auction and then a number of their prints and things are then part of the silent auction. So that gives us a great variety to give people. We're trying to get back on our feet after COVID, like all of the non-profits."
King said that Wyoming Cares specifically targets Wyoming residents who experience financial struggles.
"We serve all of Wyoming," she said. "You have to be a Wyoming resident for six months. And we don't do rent or utilities or things like that, but we help with medical expenses, gas, things like that. We get referrals from all over the state for somebody trying to come in and get help."
And in order to help those in need, Wyoming Cares relies on the kindness of strangers.
"We're small but mighty," King said. "We depend on local fundraisers like this and grants. There's no federal funding, and we're proud of that. We've really been a positive impact for the whole state of Wyoming. We have board members in Sheridan and Gillette too, so it's not just a Casper board. It's around the state and we're trying to grow and improve what we can do for the community."
And they do a lot. The Rocky Mountain Art Show is just one of the fundraisers they do throughout the year, but it is their biggest one.
The mission of Wyoming Cares is an important one, and it's one that artist Chris Navarro wanted to stand behind.
"Wyoming Cares helps a lot of people, and a lot of the people are from Wyoming," Navarro told K2 Radio News. "So if you love the state like I do and most other people do, there's not a better place to live. And with events like this, being able to come out and support your home state; that's a good thing."
Navarro is a Wyoming artist, through and through. And he has been for a long time.
"When I came to Casper, I was 18 years old and I was rodeoing up at Casper College," Navarro said. "I was a bull rider and rode bronc some too. I wanted to be a professional bull rider, it was my dream, but it didn't work out."
So, Navarro found another dream.
After riding bulls for close to 5 years, he retired his saddle and began working in the oil fields (told you he was Wyoming through and through).
It was while visiting a friend in Lost Cabin, Wyoming that he first saw a piece of art that would, quite literally, change his life.
"My roommate's buddy was a caretaker at Harry Jackson's studio, so we stopped there and there was this beautiful bronze statue; it's called 'Two Champs,'" Navarro reflected. "And I said, 'How much is that?' And he told me it was $35,000. And this is in 1979. I was thinking, 'Wow, man. I'm busting hard out here and I'm not making that kind of money.' And I said, 'Well, maybe I'll make me one.'"
So, he did. He made a lot. And he sold a lot. And, in doing so, he became one of Wyoming's most prized artists. But for anyone thinking he got into this line of work for the money, don't worry.
"Are you kidding?" Navarro laughed. "I picked the two worst careers you could have if you want a steady paycheck: be a rodeo cowboy or be a professional artist. If you want a steady paycheck, those aren't the jobs."
Art is, very rarely, about the money. It's about the art, about the passion, about the process of creating something out of nothing that people will want to see. Navarro has done that for more than three decades.
"I love it," he said. "I love what I do. In fact, you know, I'm 66 now and I've been doing this for a long time and I don't see me quitting. I hope I do it til the day I die. It's not really a job so much. I love what I do. It's hard work a lot of the time, but I mean, I don't think you'd be really good at something unless you have a love for it."
The staff at Wyoming Cares share that same philosophy. They're a small team, but they do big things for the people of Wyoming. And they will continue to do so for as long as they are able.
"We're small but mighty," King said. "Every little bit makes a difference to families, whether it's for their children or their family member. It's contributing to their survival. Every penny really does count and make a difference, and for us to be able to do this around Wyoming is huge."