By: Nick Perkins

It started as a dream. Years ago, before the Casper Art Walk, before the Eclipse Festival, before anything even resembling a “downtown district” existed, Garijo Bierley had a dream of seeing a crowd of people gathering together, eating, drinking and enjoying the presence of one another’s company. In her dream, she saw a family sitting together; the sunlight bathing them as they shared a picnic. She saw a boy sitting next to a girl, contemplating taking her hand in his. She saw an old woman dancing. She saw an old man smiling. She saw her community acting like a community. More than anything, she saw potential.

So, she got to work.

The Yellowstone Garage has been a Casper staple since the 1920’s. It was originally a gas station, then an auto dealership, then a motorcycle dealership and then a machine shop. The Garage went through many transformations before current owner John Huff purchased and restored it. Originally, Huff wanted to use it to showcase his vintage muscle cars. Huff would occasionally use The Yellowstone Garage for various events- wedding receptions, car shows, etc. Bierley was hired to manage those events, and it was during this time that she realized the potential for not only The Yellowstone Garage, but for The Old Yellowstone District as a whole.

“About six years ago, I started taking over the events for John and it’s just kind of transformed into something that’s here all the time now,” Bierley stated. “We had a lot of people telling us that they wished they could do more down here; not just if they were invited to a private event. So, we kind of started brainstorming for a while and then the contest for that liquor license came up and we had a plan almost finished by then anyway, so it was almost perfect timing.”

The liquor license was highly sought after. It was something of a golden ticket to business owners in Casper and when The Yellowstone Garage acquired it, not even Willy Wonka himself could have predicted just how much pure imagination would go into the development.

That imagination started with an event called “Rock the Block.” It was something of a precursor to the Casper Art Walk and it was Bierley’s first foray into bringing the community together.

We started Rock the Block 5 years ago and that’s probably the biggest thing that has drawn everybody down here,” Bierley professed. “It’s been amazing to see the evolution of that. Starting the first year, we had maybe 200-300 people show up on Thursday night, to last year we had 2,000-3,000.”

Bierley continued, stating that “It’s just been absolutely wonderful to get the community involved and get them down in this area to see everything that’s going on down here and all the redevelopment and everything that this Old Yellowstone District has to offer.”

Rock the Block was one of the first events to really offer the community a chance to come together and play. Taking cues from its predecessor, The Nic Fest, Rock the Block featured local musicians, artists, food vendors, performance artists and more- all in an effort to promote community involvement.

“Everything that we built Rock the Block on is helping local people grow their businesses and show off their talents,” Bierley said. “It’s a really big deal to us to keep things as local as possible. If everybody is successful, it makes us more successful and that’s why we create that whole vibe down here. We want to help everybody, we want to work together, and the more successful business are down here, the more traffic we’re going to have and the better everybody is going to be.”

This is a vision, a dream, that is shared by numerous business owners in the downtown area. In addition to The Yellowstone Garage, The District has seen the creation of businesses such as Urban Bottle, Racca’s Pizzeria, The Gaslight Social, David Street Station and more. All of these shops and bars and restaurants share a common dream of seeing Downtown Casper flourish. And that is exactly what it’s doing.

Thanks in large part to The Yellowstone Garage, as well as David Street Station and ART 321, Downtown Casper has seen a huge influx of activity in recent years. The Casper Art Walk, The Nic Fest, Rock the Block, and various events produced by David Street Station have all given the community reasons to visit downtown. Suddenly, downtown has become a destination. For business owners, this isn’t just how downtown should be; it’s how it always should have been.

Bierley saw the potential in The Yellowstone Garage. She saw the potential in Downtown Casper. She thought about what The District could be, and it was a version of the same dream that so many others had. When asked what drives a person to take on all of the work that it takes to make The Yellowstone Garage what it is, Bierley simply replied “craziness. Insanity.”

Some thought that Bierley was crazy, that she had lost her mind when she spoke of her vision of what The District could be. But that vision has come to fruition and it is one that is shared by business owners, city council members and the community as a whole.

So now what?

“I think it would be really amazing to have a feel similar to Ft. Collins, where people would park and just walk around and wander in all the shops and support the local businesses and actually shop local,” Bierley admitted.

This is undoubtedly where The District is headed. The number of bars, restaurants, shops and art galleries in Downtown Casper is astounding. It seems as though every week produces different events. Whether it’s The Art Walk, the 3rd Thursday Bar Crawl, or any number of events and concerts that David Street Station produces, there is always something to do in Downtown Casper.

It all started, seemingly, with The Yellowstone Garage. What was once just a display for classic cars has turned into a bar and restaurant that hosts of variety of events all year long. It offers good, homestyle food and delicious cocktails. It gives artists and musicians a stage in which to showcase their talents. It gives the community a place to gather, to dance, to laugh. It is the culmination of years of hard work, determination, imagination and the dreams of many people. For Garijo Bierley, it is the opportunity to give back to the community that she calls home.

“I’ve always really liked to create memories for people,” she stated. “It’s just really neat to see families come together and make memories and enjoy each other. Everybody’s just usually happy. There are so many struggles in life; when you can see people come together and enjoy all of your hard work, it’s just very rewarding at the end of the day.”

When Garijo Bierley decided she wanted to help turn Downtown Casper into a destination, she didn’t know what exactly that would entail. She didn’t know that new businesses would follow suit. She didn’t think that an entire plaza would be built. She didn’t foresee just how big this entire idea would get. She was just a woman with a dream and the desire to make people happy. That’s exactly what she’s doing. She has ideas for the future, as well. She can see even more potential for The District and its surrounding areas. She believes that Downtown Casper can be even bigger, even brighter, even better and she believes that the community can build something, really build something that other communities can take inspiration from.

A million dream’s is all it’s gonna take.

Go Back Home

By: Nick Perkins

It’s been said that in life, two things are certain- death and taxes. While death is inevitable for all of us, taxes are a bit trickier. For some, April 15th is the worst day of the year and death would be a welcome relief from the debt that is owed to that son of a b****, Uncle Sam. For others, however Tax Day is a wonderful day. It is a day to rejoice. It is the dream of a new car or a family vacation. Perhaps it is the start of a college fund for your unborn child, Maxwell. Or, if you’re like us, as soon as you get your tax return back, you want to spend every dollar as quickly as possible before they change their minds and try to take it back.

There are two types of people when it comes to tax season- the have’s and the have not’s; the payers and the paid. If you are one of the have not’s, the best we can offer you is a list of drinking establishments in The District for you to spend what few precious coins you have left, drinking your sorrows away. Places like Frosty’s Bar & Grill and The Office are perfect places to mutter “thanks, Obama” in between sips of your tonic ‘n gin. For the have’s who, like us, don’t give a s*** about Maxwell’s future we have compiled a list of the best places in The District to spend that sweet sweet tax money.


Fiscally Irresponsible Stop #1- Wyoming Camera Outfitters

These days, anybody with a camera phone and a sepia-tone filter considers themselves a photographer. They aren’t. Photography is a real skill, a real talent and it require real practice with real equipment. For our money or, we guess, yours, the best place to acquire this skill, as well as the necessary equipment to display said skill is Wyoming Camera Outfitters. WCO is a truly unique store. Specializing in equipment from Canon, Tamron, Sony and more, Wyoming Camera Outfitters has anything and everything a burgeoning photographer could need. They also offer a complete line of rental cameras and equipment and offer a variety of courses and workshops that focus on camera training, lighting, editing software and more. WCO doesn’t want to just sell you expensive equipment and throw you to the wolves (the wolves, in this case, are probably mean comments you would read on the internet). They want to give you the tools and the skills to develop a past time that, for your money, is one of the greatest hobbies in the world. That is the great thing about Wyoming Camera Outfitters- they have everything for those who strictly want to stick to photography as a hobby, or for professionals looking to hone their craft and utilize the newest, most innovative equipment from the industry’s leading providers. If you are looking for something to invest your time and many of your tax dollars in, then Wyoming Camera Outfitters is the perfect place to do it.

Fiscally Irresponsible Stop #2- Spruce Nail Bar

Of course, some people don’t want to take the picture; some people want to be the picture. And nobody prepares people for pictures better than Spruce Nail Bar. Spruce2 is two-fold. They can make you beautiful while simultaneously getting you buzzed. Spruce Nail Bar is the only nail salon in Casper that also offers cocktails. Their services are vast and varied, and include: manicures, pedicures, lash extensions, waxing, facials, Botox, dermal fillers, permanent makeup and more. The goal of Spruce is to make you not only look beautiful but feel beautiful. All of the girls that work there are like the really nice girls whom you meet in the bathroom of a bar at midnight after you’ve been crying because that douche Austin cheated on you, but they remind you of how pretty you are and that you’re better off without him. We all know those girls. We all love those girls. All of those girls work at Spruce. Their job is to remind you that beauty comes from within, but that extra long eyelashes certainly don’t hurt your overall aesthetic appeal. They don’t use chemically-enhanced products, so every nail they paint is healthy, natural and, like, totally gorge. As if that wasn’t enough, they also serve signature cocktails, as well as various types of wines because nothing goes better with beautification than libations, IOHO. Their rates are great, so you won’t even have to spend all of your hard-earned tax money in one place. You can walk next door and buy another bottle of wine from Urban Bottle! This is the perfect place to spend some money and to “enjoy a signature cocktail or a glass of wine with your friends while enjoying beauty without chemicals, the natural way.” So, go on, beautiful. Take your tax money and go get #allsprucedup.


Fiscally Irresponsible Stop #3- The Sand Trap Indoor Golf Center

All work and no play would make any of us dull, especially if there are precious tax dollars to be spent! Luckily for those of us in The District, there is The Sand Trap Indoor Golf Center. The Sand Trap is a unique golfing experience unlike any other. It offers a variety of virtual course simulations, which means, in laymen’s terms, that you get all of the fun of a golf course and none of the wind that inevitably takes your ball on the most important hole of your life and brings your overall score up which wouldn’t be that big of a deal except you bet your boss that the loser would have to buy lunch and now you have to buy lunch and your boss is a big man and always orders the most expensive thing on the menu…anyway. Where were we? Yes, The Sand Trap features 6 golfing suites with 34 different courses. They also have a pro shop to buy sweet merch (because we’re spending like there’s no tomorrow…because in this day and age, there actually might not be) and to get your clubs gripped. They have a full-service bar because golf isn’t golf without a stiff drink to take your mind off of how bad you are at golf. They also offer various league memberships and corporate events so this is definitely a place that your tax money would be well spent. We all deserve a little fun in life, and there is nothing more fun, more satisfying, than hitting a ball into a screen that tells you it actually went 500 feet.

So then. We have given you three exceptional places in The District to spend all of your moneys. The best part about each of these three is that they are made up of individuals who genuinely want to make people happy. You’re not giving your money to huge corporations that would barely bat an eye at it. You’re not investing it in a future that may not exist. You’re sure as hell not giving it to fricken Maxwell. You’re giving your money to local businesses, made up of local people and you’re getting hours of entertainment, talent and beauty. It’s been a hard year. You deserve to spend a little time and money on yourself. Just make sure that when you do, you’re spending it in The District.

Go Back Home

By: Nick Perkins

It was overcast and chilly when ART 321 and the Casper Artist’s Guild presented the first Casper Art Walk of the 2018 season, but Mother Nature could not stop the community from coming downtown to see all the incredible sights and sounds that the Art Walk had to offer. The Art Walk enveloped much of the downtown area, but it seemed like it was within The District that the perfect combination of art, music, food and drink came together.

Crescent Moon Coffee Shop, one of Casper’s newest ground houses, featured Kirstin Bott, owner and operator of Frosted Tops, LLC during the Art Walk. Nothing goes better with coffee than cake, it can be argued, and Crescent Moon had both aplenty on this night.

“We’ve been in business about four years and we’ve been participating in the Art Walk for the last few,” said Bott, in between servicing the ever-growing line of hungry customers at her table. “I think the Art Walk is awesome. It’s an opportunity for the community to gather together and really rally around small businesses and support each other.”

That is one of the major things the Casper Art Walk is trying to accomplish- bringing businesses and the community together. The Art Walk also provides an opportunity for artists to display their work to an even wider audience, through different gallery shows, meet and greets, artist dinners and more. Scarlow’s Gallery is just one of the many art galleries featured in the Art Walk. It also happens to be one of the coolest.

Featuring artists such as Jim Kopp, E.K. Wimmer, Barbara Kuxhausen and more, Scarlow’s Gallery exists to display the work of artists who have a story to tell. Claire Marlow, owner and curator of Scarlow’s Gallery said it has been open for nearly four years, and in that time, they have featured artists from all over the spectrum- painters, sculptors, photographers and more.    

“My main goal is to just bring in culture that people haven’t seen,” Marlow said. “We’ve featured a lot of local artists, which is fabulous. Casper doesn’t get a lot of fresh stuff, so we just try to bring in stuff they’ve never seen.”

 

An artist that Casper has definitely never seen before, but will undoubtedly see more of in the future, is Neal Breton.

Breton is a pop art-inspired artist who focuses on colors that really speak to the viewer. He is one of the featured artists this month at Scarlow’s Gallery, and his work needs to be seen to be believed. When Breton speaks of his art, he does so with the enthusiasm of a child who is presenting the coolest thing he has ever seen at Show and Tell. His enthusiasm is contagious, and his art takes one back to a happier, simpler time when all it took to make you smile was a picture of a little girl holding a flower.

These are sort of half a love letter to California and half a love letter to color,” Breton said of his work. “What I’m trying to accomplish here is having little moments trapped. And those little trapped moments are for you to enjoy. I want to make things that make people happy and make people at peace.”

Making people happy is exactly what Breton does, and he really exemplifies just what it is that the Art Walk is trying to do. It’s trying to make people happy. It’s showcasing artists and musicians and chefs and sommeliers, all of whom have a story to tell and a canvas to work on. The Art Walk is that canvas.

Betsy Bower, a local artist who has had her work featured all across Downtown Casper, believes that the Art Walk is incredibly important to artists and galleries alike.

“The Art Walk is something that really brought culture into downtown and I think that’s one of the biggest things that has helped [artists], because there are galleries that you can walk to,” Bower said. “It’s like everybody is coming out of the woodwork to show their art. It’s like everybody had a secret hobby that I didn’t know about and now they have a place to display it, so I think it just keeps getting better.”

“It’s encouraging,” Bower continued. “I think there are a lot of artists that are growing and being nurtured by [the Art Walk].”

It’s not just painters and sculptors that are being featured in the Art Walk, however. Musicians, as well, are given the opportunity to perform and tell their stories. Bands such as Mastermind of Monkey, Jeff Stanley and The Gang, Jason Ford and more all had the opportunity to play various venues throughout The District. Places like The Gaslight Social, Racca’s Pizzeria, Yellowstone Garage and Urban Bottle are not usually what one thinks of when picturing venues for musicians to play at. But that’s the great thing about the Art Walk- everybody wants to display artists!

 

Lauren Griffith is one of the owners of Urban Bottle, and she said the stage that the Art Walk presents, for both artists and businesses alike, cannot be overstated.

“It’s amazing,” she said of the community coming together during the Art Walk. “It drums up so much business and we get so many more people that haven’t been in here before. We love to promote local musicians. It’s just been so much fun to see all these people that wouldn’t normally go downtown to just come and frequent all of these spots all over downtown.”

The list of participating businesses and artists for the Art Walk extends far beyond The District and truly encompasses almost every business in Downtown Casper. This is incredible. It means that all of us, from writers to artists to musicians to restaurant owners to business owners to art gallery managers and more all have a single vision of what Downtown Casper be.

That vision might look a little bit different, depending on who you ask, but one idea, one hope, one dream remains the same- that Downtown Casper will continue to flourish.

James Andrews, owner the Smoked ‘N Tender food truck said that his wish is “to see droves of people walking through these streets, hitting food trucks, restaurants, all the shops and having it be a place where people come from different towns to come see Downtown Casper.”

His wish is shared by almost everybody in the Downtown District and it is one that all of us can make come true. The best part is that we, the public, have the easiest job of all.

All we have to do is show up.

Featured Scarlow’s artist Neal Breton said that Casper “is lot like the town that I’m living in right now, which is kind of a burgeoning town; it’s learning about culture and it’s learning about art and what better way to do that than by bringing everyone together and to identify a community? What I think [Casper is] doing is great. It will always take a lot of work and it will never be fully realized, but as long as people start to participate, and they’re turned on and they’re interested about art, and they’re interested in participating in that, then it will be huge!”

“Art is a universal thing; it’s a universal language,” Breton stated.

Art is a universal language, and because of The Casper Art Walk, it is a language that all of Downtown Casper is starting to speak.

Go Back Home

By: Nick Perkins

It wasn’t always like this. Used to be, art was looked at as being “boring.” Used to be, art galleries were believed to be owned by old ladies or single men who lived with a cat. Used to be, you’d have to travel to one of the “bigger” cities that actually had “culture” if you wanted to see art and the artists who created it.

Used to be, art didn’t exist in The District.

But then, something happened. Somebody had an idea. Then somebody else had an idea. Then, somebody else. And more. And more. Suddenly, there was not only a surplus of artists; there was also a HUGE surplus of art. Better still, there were galleries where that art could be displayed. There was ART 321. There was Shawn Rivett Designs (formerly Haven). There was Scarlow’s Gallery. Suddenly, there are entire walks dedicated to art! Art, it seems, has taken over The District.

But it wasn’t always like this.

“The Casper Artist’s Guild has been in Casper since 1924,” stated Diane Harrop, Executive Director of ART 321. “The women that were involved would tell you that it was like an old woman painting club. They realized they were either going to go away entirely or they needed to up their game.”

That’s exactly what that so-called “old woman painting club did.” The Casper Artist’s Guild was originally stationed in an old firehouse behind the CY Albertsons, and it served many of the same functions that it does now. But ever since moving into the building at 321 West Midwest Avenue (hence their name), ART 321 has been doing everything a little bit bigger, better and brighter. More than anything, though, they have become a beacon for artists who want to ply, and sell, their craft.

“We do basically the same kinds of things that they did in the old location- it’s just that we do a whole lot more of it,” remarked Harrop.

 

ART 321 offers workshops and weekly groups for different art mediums. Classes on pastels, watercolors, ceramics and portraits are offered, as well as classes for fibers and pencils.

Harrop stated that they have “eleven different workshops scheduled, ranging in price and ranging in focus- from the very serious oil and acrylic paintings and watercolor paintings, pastels and drawings to fun things like Betsy Bower’s Metal Flowers.”

Bower, a Casper native, is not your typical artist and her “metal flowers” are proof of that.

“I grew up in my dad’s welding shop, just kind of working with him in his shop, welding metal,” stated Bower. “Then I just went from cleaning metal and sweeping floors to welding. And through my teens I said, ‘I really don’t want to work for my family, but it’s better pay than the movie theater.’”

No doubt, it was more creatively fulfilling as well. It fueled a passion in Bower that inspired her to use her skills as a welder to create a new and different kind of art.

“I just liked it,” Bower said. “From a young age, I knew I just wanted to do something either musically or something artistic. And I felt like…’it is possible to do these things. Someone else is doing it, so why can’t I?’”

She could. And she did. And shortly thereafter, she was “discovered” by another local who wanted to feature her in his gallery.

“Shawn Rivett was probably one of the first people who commissioned me to do something that was more public,” Bower stated. “That started to get my name known around town and then I got more jobs that were more public and it just kept growing.”

Bower continues to produce art in a variety of different mediums, but she said none of that would have happened, or at least not as quickly, without Shawn Rivett and his gallery.

 

Shawn Rivett Designs, originally known as HAVEN, was one of the first galleries in The District that actually made “viewing art” an activity. The work that Rivett displayed, much of it art that he created himself, was so interesting and varied that people began to show up in droves. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the gallery itself was so unique and cool and, dare we say, different that people couldn’t help but be drawn to it. The former HAVEN hosted parties, weddings, wine tastings on the roof and more. It showed that there was so much more to “art” than just looking at paintings. Now, the majority of art that Rivett produces are antler sculptures. Rivett appreciates where he comes from and he knows the kind of natural beauty that comes from the variety of antlers that he sculpts. That is how the elusive Shawn Rivett spends the majority of his days, but he is always on the lookout for up-and-coming talent, just as he was when he and Bower collaborated on various projects.

“[He] came in one day and would observe my work and be like ‘I want this but I want it to look like that,’ and then he’d come up with designs and I’d help him bring it to life.”

They would bring art to life and then Rivett would display that art in his gallery, for all comers to see.

Another gallery in The District that loves to display the work of local artists is Scarlow’s Gallery. Opened in 2014, Scarlow’s “was created with the intentions to provide artists of all kinds, a place to show their talents, speak their creative minds and show the community that the arts in Casper and Wyoming, are an influential aspect of the growth and success of our city and state.”

Scarlow’s Gallery displays the work of local artists, such as Jim Kopp, E.K. Wimmer, Barbara Kuxhausen and more. They produce various events and shows throughout the year and even rent their space to those who want to use it for fundraisers, weddings and more. Scarlow’s is a place that cultivates artists, but it also acts as a resource for the community.

“Scarlow’s Gallery will always support local artists throughout Wyoming, being a space for close communities to collaborate and share,” their website stated. “Variety and fresh perspectives are a beneficial aspect to the progression of Casper and that is why Scarlow’s will work hard to showcase artists from varying states and countries.”

 

Scarlow’s Gallery is not the only gallery that works hard to showcase artists. Scarlow’s, Shawn Rivett Designs, ART 321, Cactus Arts- even coffee shops like Metro Coffee Co. and Crescent Moon Coffee Shop; they all give artists a platform to display their art.

The Casper Art Walk was also a turning point for artists and local businesses alike. Taking place during the Spring and Summer months in Downtown Casper, the Art Walk combines food, music, merchandise and, yes, art to create an experience for residents. And ART 321 is at the center of it. Literally.

“When the city was really starting to focus on the Old Yellowstone District, this [building] was one of the things that came in and really improved a significant building,” stated Harrop. “Other things followed, like Racca’s, Urban Bottle, Gaslight, The Office…but we’re the heart!”

Harrop smiled and made a statement that all of the galleries in The District can subscribe to:

“We want to be in a position to remind artists how important it is to be connected to the community and we want to remind the community how important it is to be connected to their artists.”

There didn’t used to be art galleries in the Old Yellowstone District. Now, there are 4 or 5 galleries within a two-mile radius.

It hasn’t always been, but one hopes that from this moment on, it will always be like this.

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