Your event, our venue. The Headwaters Arts and Conference Center delivers quality service in a stunning setting for diverse art, education, business, social, and entertainment events.
HOW THE HEADWATERS ARTS AND CONFERENCE CENTER CAME TO BE:
By Laney Hicks
The story of how the little town of Dubois, WY managed to create a center that promotes the arts and houses conferences, workshops, and community events, is a storybook tale. Time-wise, it probably could not have happened before it did, and had the community waited until later, it would not have been an affordable project.
Those of us who were involved in building this facility recall an amazing series of political and financial successes and some unpleasant disagreements. But it all came together and has served the community for more than 25 years.
The Wind River Valley Arts Guild was founded in 1949 by local artists, Joe and Mary Back. Over the many years, Mary and the Guild put on annual shows that were hung in the local school gymnasium and the patrons’ dinner was held in the back room of the local bar.
In the mid-1980s, Art Guild member, Laney Hicks, purchased an old concrete structure that housed a defunct wildlife museum. It was truly the ugliest structure in the town, but it had a nice location by the Wind River. For several years the annual WRVAG art show was hung in the cold and drafty concrete building. Clearly, there had to be another solution. Laney’s core vision, when she bought the building was to create a center that would serve both artists and be a financial asset to the town. It was, from the beginning, a vision that was a perfect match to be with the adjacent Town Park, the Bighorn Sheep Center, and the Dubois Museum. It was to be our cultural center.
With the guidance and assistance of the then-mayor, Vance Ponton, and his town coordinator, Pat Neary, the Art Guild decided to donate the building to the town and combine all our resources to build the Headwaters Center.
Between 1988 and 1990, with the invaluable assistance of the Fremont County Grant Writer, Mike Morgan, the town of Dubois used the value of the land and concrete structure to obtain $1.4 million dollars to renovate and add on to the old structure. The Federal Government supplied $650,000, the Wyoming State Land Investment Board granted another $569,000 and the town passed a bond issue for $122,000.
Twila Blakeman, who was then on the Town Council, was the leader in selecting the architects, Malone-Belton from Sheridan, Wyoming. She spent endless hours designing the large conference room and the additions of the sunrooms on the south, the kitchen, and the entryway. She and the Guild designed all the classrooms and gallery on the second floor and the wonderful Joe and Mary Back library. Twila is still the guardian angel of the Headwaters Arts and Conference Center.
Looking back over the years the Center has been operating, there have been countless people involved donating time and talent. Having the vision and obtaining the money to build Headwaters was only the start and the easy part. Keeping it going required hard work and dedication and a loving spirit for Dubois. The people of the Wind River Valley are the real movers and shakers that make the Arts and Conference Center work.
Headwaters is the home of the Wind River Valley Arts Guild, the Never Sweat Needlers Quilt Guild, and the Dubois, WY Visitors Center.
I thank everyone, past and present, that have made this dream a reality.