The Dry Creek Arts Fellowship (DCAF) was co-founded in 1996 as a charitable and educational non-profit organization. Based in Flagstaff, Arizona, DCAF’s mission is to provide a base of support for the preservation and future development of Western American art. This mission is carried out through the presentation of multiple public programs that honor the cultural heritage of the American West.
DCAF is well known for presenting Trappings of the American West. This juried contemporary fine art exhibition is complemented by a festival of popular, educational, social and scholary programs. Trappings has achieved national recognition for increasing the understanding and appreciation of Western cultural heritage and has become a signature destination event for Flagstaff and the southwestern United States.
A SHARED RESPECT
DCAF was founded by Henry C. Lockett III and Linda C. Stedman. The pair were instrumental in presenting Trappings’s at Flagstaff’s Coconino Center for the Arts, where the show originated in 1986. Lockett, a third-generation Arizonan, collected Western art and chaired the Trappings committee. Stedman, a 44-year Flagstaff resident, was the Center’s installationist for 8 years. She also freelanced for galleries and museums in the United States and Europe. Besides a shared sense of humor, the duo also shared respect for the exacting standards yet humble nature that characterized the artists of Trappings.
In 1996, the struggling Coconino Center for the Arts closed. Trappings patron and Lockett’s good friend, James Offield, was unwilling to let the exhibition be relegated to the history books. He offered financial support and his Sedona ranch, El Rojo Grande, as an exhibition space. Though an outdoor venue posed many challenges, the opportunity to keep Trappings alive was intriguing. Lockett and Stedman were up to the challenge and formed a new organization to present the exhibit.
A new home meant new names and Dry Creek seemed a fitting inspiration. Dry Creek runs through El Rojo Grande ranch and is also the name of the road where Lockett lives. “Arts Fellowship” underscored the importance of sharing common experiences among artists and their patrons. With these ideas in mind, the Dry Creek Arts Fellowship was born.
Trappings was renamed to mark the beginning of its new life in Sedona. The new name, Beyond the 98th Meridian: Images of the American West, was inspired by Wallace Stegner’s description of the arid regions beyond the 98th meridian of longitude. This is where rainfall markedly decreases and “The West” begins.
For the next three seasons, Beyond the 98th Meridian was presented in hand-built temporary structures at El Rojo Grande. But unpredictable weather and increasing attendance made a larger, more permanent venue desirable. In June 2000, the exhibition moved to the Yavapai College Sedona Center for Arts & Technology. The gallery space is adjacent to the new Sedona Cultural Park. In conjunction with the exhibit, DCAF hosted Emmylou Harris in concert at the Cultural Park.
EXPANDING THE HORSE CULTURE EXPERIENCE
As DCAF grew, so did its reputation. In August 2000, the Arizona Commission on the Arts included Beyond the 98th Meridian in its Traveling Exhibitions Program. In addition to other bookings, the exhibition was chosen as an Official Cultural Olympiad Site at the Heritage Museum of Layton, Utah, during the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games.
Meanwhile, the revitalized Coconino Center for the Arts opened its doors. Flagstaff Cultural Partners were now running the facility and eager to reconnect with one of its original events. They invited DCAF to bring the exhibition back to the Center’s 4,000 sq.ft. gallery. The offer included exhibition office space and use of the in-house, 200-seat amphitheatre. Located in a park-like setting on the highway to the Grand Canyon, the Center had a lot to offer. DCAF’s Board unanimously accepted the invitation. In June 2001, Beyond the 98th Meridian returned to its roots. Coming home with the exhibition was its name: Trappings of the American West. That same year, Trappings was nominated as one of the “Top 100 Art and Culture Events in the U.S.” by the National Office of Tourism.
THE STRENGTH OF CULTURAL COMMUNITY
Trappings is unique among Western art exhibitions in that it equally displays functional craft with fine art. The work of eighty contemporary artists throughout the Western United States, Hawaii and Canada, form the exhibition’s core. Intricately detailed yet functional items associated with horse culture: bits & spurs, boots, hats, knives, saddles, horsehair hitching and braided rawhide are for sale – along with some of the region’s finest paintings, bronze sculpture and photography.
THE FUTURE OF THE FELLOWSHIP
DCAF continues to solidify its infrastructure and reputation in the world of Western American art. Stedman serves as Executive Director and Jody Beeler serves as President of the Board. DCAF cultivates innovative projects with the assistance of a part-time professional staff and support of a committed Board of Directors. In 2002, the organization and its programs attracted the attention of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC.
SOME FACTS ABOUT THE DRY CREEK ARTS FELLOWSHIP
The Dry Creek Arts Fellowship received 501(c)3 status in 1997. Funding is comprised of private donations, federal, state and local grants, individual memberships, gallery sales and event ticket sales. DCAF engages in collaborative relationships with the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona Office of Tourism, Arizona Historical Society/Pioneer Museum, Flagstaff Community Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. DCAF’s Board of Directors consists of five members and a ten member adivisory council. The staff is comprised of a full-time executive director and part-time marketing, development and program staff.