Exhibit Features Ranching Culture in Sonora Mexico

Contact: Darcy Minter
Western Folklife Center
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National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Exhibit Features Ranching Culture
in Sonora, Mexico

Elko - The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering -- the premiere festival celebrating the expressive arts of ranching and cowboy culture -- observes its 24th year beginning Saturday, January 26 and running through Saturday, February 2, 2008 in Elko, Nevada. This year, the Western Folklife Center, producer of this signature event, welcomes vaqueros, musicians and gearmakers from the Sonora region of northern Mexico and the western United States to the Gathering, where we will celebrate our shared legacies of land and livestock, enjoy our traditions of poetry and music, and explore the future of ranching culture and the West.

Each year during the Gathering, the Western Folklife Center presents exhibits in its Wiegand Gallery. Starting January 26 through September 20, 2008, the Folklife Center will present The Rugged, Beautiful World of the Sonoran Vaquero, a collection of photography and handcrafted objects that offers a glimpse of the world of working people making their living on the land today in Sonora, Mexico. This is a region that prides itself on its cattle -- exporting more than any other state in the country -- and this cowboy identity permeates its everyday atmosphere.

The Rugged, Beautiful World of the Sonoran Vaquero also brings into focus the dramatic terrain and associated plant life that supports ranching in northwestern Mexico, and the quiet settlements along river valleys that are home for much of this region's craft, agricultural and horseback work. Factory produced and U.S.-made products have found a shelf in the marketplace even in the most isolated corners of Sonora, yet hand-crafted, locally made work is still valued and often necessary. Look for gearmakers in these small towns, and you will often end up in a backyard workshop of someone's home, in the shade of a tree, tarp or shed roof. Outdoor workshops are well-suited for this desert climate, and in this exhibit you will see some of the sturdy craftsmanship that has emerged from these workshops -- gear built for everyday use with the resources at hand and with the working person's budget in mind. Curated by folklorist Jim Griffith with Western Folklife Center staff Meg Glaser and Christina Barr, this exhibit features the photography of Jim Griffith, David Burckhalter, Meg Glaser, Guy de Gallard and others.

An opening reception for this new exhibit will take place during the 24th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering on Thursday, January 31, at 3:30 pm for Western Folklife Center members and 4:30 pm for the general public. Refreshments will be provided by the Red Lion Hotel & Casino, Silver State Liquor and Wine and the Elko County Cattlewomen. Live entertainment will be provided by New Frontier and Mindi Reid.

Also in the Wiegand Gallery is Buckaroo! The Hispanic Heritage of the High Desert, a tale that began far from this landscape of rimrock and sagebrush. Distinguished by regional customs of horsemanship, language, and style of dress, buckaroos are a society within their desert communities of eastern California, northern Nevada, southwestern Idaho and eastern Oregon. Their story has evolved across 700 years and three continents. This exhibit was produced by the High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon, and curated by Robert Boyd, the museum's Western History Curator. Through this unique collection of artifacts and photography, including the striking photography of Kurt Markus and Charles A. Blakeslee, visitors have an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the buckaroo way of life.

In addition to the exhibits in the Wiegand Gallery, the Western Folklife Center will also present the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Student Art Show in the G Three Bar Theater. This installation of Elko County student artwork showcases the talents of students from kindergarten through high school. This year's National Cowboy Poetry Gathering theme, "The New West: Grabbing the Future by the Horns," has inspired a wide range of creative expression, from plaster masks to photography to drawings and collages.

The purpose of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering -- known simply as "Elko" to many -- is to present and preserve the traditional and contemporary arts created by people living close to the land in the American West. Through poetry, music, stories, handcrafted gear, film, photography, food and more, the Western Folklife Center strives to convey the richness as well as the challenges of rural life in the West. In recent years, discussions of rural issues have become an integral part of the Gathering, as leaders in the conservation movement have come together with ranchers to find much common ground in an atmosphere of collaboration and concern for the future of the West.

Started in 1985 by a small group of folklorists, poets and musicians, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering has become an annual ritual for thousands of people who value and practice the artistic traditions of the region, and are concerned about the present and future of the West. Hundreds of cowboy poetry gatherings have since taken hold across the West and the nation over the last 23 years, as the Elko Gathering has reinvigorated a tradition that never ceased to be a part of the lives of cowboys, ranchers and rural westerners. In 2000, the U.S. Senate recognized the cultural value of this tradition and the event responsible for its renaissance when it passed a resolution naming the Elko Gathering the "National" Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

The Gathering will feature performances by close to 60 poets, musicians and musical groups, including new faces and returning favorites. Special exhibits, workshops, films, lectures, panel discussions, ranch dances and late-night jam sessions, all contribute to the depth, richness and authenticity of this one-of-a-kind event. For more information about the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, please visit the Western Folklife Center website at www.westernfolklife.org.

Major sponsors of the Gathering include the Bretzlaff Foundation, City of Elko, Community Foundation of Southern Arizona, Elko County Recreation Board, Ford Foundation, International Game Technology, National Endowment for the Arts, Nevada Commission on Tourism, Nevada Humanities, Nevada Arts Council, The Southwest Center at the University of Arizona, the Wallace Foundation, and many more.

The mission of the Western Folklife Center is to enhance the vitality of American life through the experience, understanding, and appreciation of the diverse cultural heritage of the American West.