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Wyoming’s creative economy is trending up

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Kathleen Shannon

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(Wyoming News Service) Wyoming is known for its wild landscapes, cowboy culture, and natural resources. Some are hoping to add the arts to that list.

When ranked by the value that arts and cultural production added to state economies in 2022, Wyoming comes in low - at 48th.

But the state ranked much higher in growth within that sector at 25th, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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The arts contributed $1.3 billion to Wyoming's economy in 2022.

Jason Shogren, Stroock Chair of Natural Resource Conservation and Management at the University of Wyoming, said that growth is significant in a state known primarily for its natural resources.

"That's always been the hard part about living in a resource-rich state, is finding economic diversity," said Shogren. "But, you know, the more we invest in arts, the more folks who are going to come that can diversify this economy."

Creative economies across the country are showing improvement after pandemic-era setbacks.

In 2022, arts and cultural production were responsible for more than 4 percent of national gross domestic product and grew by nearly 5 percent since 2021, according to the National Assembly of State Art Agencies.

The Wyoming Arts Alliance and other advocates are educating artists on how to get more exposure, especially through tourism and other related industries.

Shogren said navigating a rural, western arts scene is unique from the traditional big-city markets in New York or Los Angeles.

"That's a big part of it because the creative energy is there, and you're just constantly amazed at how much talent goes out in the state," said Shogren, "but yet it's a very quiet talent."

Shogren said it can be difficult to quantify the value of arts because they're often hard to measure.

But he aims to get better data on Wyoming's creative economy to turn up the volume on its contributions, and capture the interests of the state legislature.