Cody High Style – A New Beginning at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center

Seeking to find a fresh start, but using the philosophies of the original Western Design Conference, the Cody craftsmen came together to form the Cody Western Artisans Guild in 2007. The original guild had twenty-six members, representing Cody’s finest craftsmen: Jim Anderson, Scott Armstrong, Maurice Brown, John Cash, Brice & Yazmhil Corman, Jimmy Covert, Lynda Covert, Steve Estes, Bill Feeley, John Gallis, Tim Goodwin, Mike Hemry, Bert & Judy Hopple, Tim & Tiffany Lozier, Ernie Lytle, Tom McCoy, Doug Nordberg, Joe Paisley, Wally Reber, Lester Santos, Fly Brod, Keith & Lisa Seidel, Ron & Jean Shanor, Matt Sheridan, Ken Siggins, and Marc Taggart.

These craftsmen and women, led by co-chairs, Jimmy Covert and Wally Reber, created the idea for Cody High Style. With ethics similar to the early Western Design Conferences, Cody High Style’s mission was to educate, to present economic opportunities, and to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas which perpetuate the best traditions of Western decorative Arts.

Unlike the early conferences which took place at the Cody Auditorium – whose decorum and lighting was not the highest caliber – Cody High Style was sponsored by and held at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. To many of the craftsmen who had participated in the Western Design Conferences, the move was a perfect match. The museum held the Molesworth exhibition in ’89 and the largest collection of Molesworth furniture, housed the permanent collection of Switchback Award winners, and was a world-class western museum.4 7 What better forum to hold a show with the premier western designers and craftsmen?

In 2007, the Cody Western Artisans Guild and Buffalo Bill Historical Center held the first Cody High Style. The show was much smaller than the recent conferences. There were fifty-nine exhibitors in the first High Style show. In the 2005 and 2006 conferences, there were one hundred ten and ninety-two exhibitors, respectively. The number of awards dramatically reduced from as high as twenty-five in 2004 to nine in the first High Style show. The show was also designated to be a retrospective for six artisans who had been long time participants of the Cody shows. All of these elements – the gallery-style lighting, higher quality venue, smaller scale, and the artisans – gave the new Cody High Style not only a more intimate feel, but a level above. Anne Beard, a fabric artisan, who participated in the first Western Design Conference and won numerous awards, said of the first Cody High Style, “It was exciting again. The first few Cody High Style shows were as exciting as the first Western Design Conferences.”

As is the saying with the success of a restaurant, “location, location, location” – the success of Cody High Style was driven in large part by being at the museum, and the director at the time, Bob Shimp, guaranteed the craftsmen three years of support. So the artisans, both from Cody and those who had travelled for many years to come to the shows, had a new home. With the combined effort and desire of the Cody Western Artisans Guild, the numerous volunteers who dedicated their time, including former director, K.T. Roes, and the staff at the museum, notably, Jill Osiecki Gleich, – who many craftsmen have said did a great job as coordinator – Cody High Style was a rousing success.

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