Anna Cothren started selling artwork in first grade. She’d traverse her neighborhood, knocking on doors, asking if anyone wanted to buy a piece by her mother, local contemporary painter Donna Bowen. Now, she’s come full circle.
Last month, Cothren decided to transform the storefront at 1906 Thomes Ave. into Cheyenne’s latest artistic space, Powder River Art Gallery. She opened a gallery of the same name in Buffalo last summer, but due to the lack of tourism during the COVID-19 pandemic, she decided it was time to move to a bigger city.
“Buffalo is dead right now,” Cothren said. “Cheyenne is booming – it’s growing much faster than Cody and Sheridan (where she also considered opening galleries).”
As a Realtor, Cothren is confident of this. And that’s why she was particularly excited to snag a location in the West Edge neighborhood, around the corner from the city’s newest watering hole, Black Tooth Brewery. The storefront is also near the Cheyenne Civic Center and a lawyer’s office, two businesses that she believes have some crossover with the kind of clientele she hopes to attract to the gallery.
The space – which was still under construction, but coming along at the time of this article – is comprised of the chandelier-lit main gallery upstairs and a basement with a “gift gallery,” palm tree wallpaper and a wooden bar, where martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives, real Spanish hot chocolate and more will be served during events such as the Cheyenne Artwalk.
As for the gallery’s contents, Cothren said her focus is on Western art with a “contemporary flair,” and some of the work already on the walls include politically charged quilts by Cheyenne fiber artist Do Palma, colorful wildlife paintings by Cheyenne’s Steve Knox and wild horse photography by Olathe, Colorado artist Susan Humphrey.
For those who don’t have any open space left on their walls for a painting, the gallery will also sell leather purses, hats and other accessories created by Toles Leather Work and footwear by Punchy Pendleton’s.
Cothren said she also plans on showing a great deal of work by Indigenous artists, one of which is Blackfeet Nation member Louis Still Smoking, whose vibrant paintings are most often portraits of those living on Native American reservations.
Also being prepped to hang on the wall are several portraits and European landscapes by Cothren’s mother, Bowen, who she cites as her “silent partner” on this project. Although Cothren is the sole CEO and founder, she credits her mom for supporting her emotionally in the endeavor (and supporting on Facebook, where she left the gallery a glowing and objectively adorable review).
Powder River ceremonially opened Thursday afternoon with a ribbon cutting and the artwalk following, but the grand opening will be 4-7 p.m. today. Cothren said the public is invited, and she’ll have free beer, wine and even a chocolate fountain to welcome everyone to the new space. Guests can peruse the artwork, meet other local creatives and listen to live music by viola player Ross McIntosh and a guest on violin.
“I’m looking forward to meeting more of the community,” she said of the event. “And hopefully helping this grow, in a good way.”