Brinton Museum artists in residence -
Heather Burton and Chula Beauregard in front of the Brinton Museum

In early May, Heather Burton and Chula Beauregard set off for Big Horn, Wyoming, to participate in an Artist in Residence program with the Brinton Museum. It was a first for both of them, and they certainly grew artistically in the process.

The Brinton Museum began as the 620-acre ranch of Bradford Brinton, a wealthy WWI vet from the East Coast who loved the West. After his sister passed away in 1966, the home became a museum, and the public was able to view the incredible Western Art collection and Native American artifacts that he had collected.

In 2014, another art appreciator, this time from the Mars family (think M&Ms), donated enough to build an incredible new building on the grounds to house the collection. This new space also allowed for more exhibits, so they started the Artist in Residence program. The actual residence accommodations were 20 miles away, near Sheridan, Wyoming, on a ranch.

Ken Schuster, the director of the museum, initially invited Beauregard to come paint in the area for a week. She was able to invite her dear painting friend, Heather Burton, to join her. They each have two kids, and they share some similar challenges of being a mom and an artist.

Brinton Museum artists in residence -
Heather Burton finding a dry place to paint

When Heather and Chula packed up for Sheridan, they pictured their destination to be the Wyoming they knew — windy, dry, flat. This describes the part of their northern neighbor closest to their homes in Fort Collins and Steamboat Springs, respectively. The rainy evening that greeted them in Big Horn was not at all what they expected. The rolling hills were green, and the trees were abundant. In fact, it was more like the Scottish Highlands than the Wild West.

This pattern of wet weather and unexpected delights continued. On their first day, they huddled under umbrellas and in the back of the car to paint the fading landscape. They were delighted by the abundant wildlife — the deer, hawks, bald eagles, and pheasants certainly didn’t mind the weather. That night, they chose to sit in the front of the car and paint the rain-streaked streets of Sheridan with the reflections of neon lights echoing through the classic downtown.

Brinton Museum artists in residence -
Chula Beauregard painting inside the museum

The next day, the rain was even more persistent, and Heather had the idea to paint inside the museum. Chula and Heather stood in front of beaded Lakota cradle boards and feathered headdresses for more than three hours, studying every detail. This kind of slow, quiet attention to the craftsmanship of the Plains Indians led to insight about the shared heritage of artisans. It was certainly a highlight.

The final surprise came at the end of the second day. The clouds lifted, and to the artists’ astonishment, their ranch cottage sat in the shadow of the mighty Big Horn Mountains. It turned out that they had spent the previous day with their backs to the mountains, not even knowing the landscape they were missing. In the bank of the thick spring clouds, the crown jewel of the area lay silent.

Lakota Cradleboard by Chula Beauregard
Lakota Cradleboard by Chula Beauregard
Rainy Day Above Wolf Creek Ranch by Heather Burton
Coming Home by Chula Beauregard

After a week, they packed up the paints and headed home. Now, Heather and Chula have until September 2020 to complete some larger studio pieces from these studies. The Artist in Residence Exhibit, opening September 12, 2020, will give them a chance to see what other invited artists have come up with, during various times of the year.

If you are ever passing through the Sheridan area, they highly recommend a trip to the Brinton Museum. It’s a hidden gem — and the cafe serves delicious food too!

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