By Western Hands (BWH) aims to preserve western heritage and design through the celebration of past and present artisans. Our three-part mission to educate, perpetuate, and conserve the legacy of western design and traditional arts corresponds with three main elements—a museum and archive, internship training program, and legacy artisan gallery.
Previous iterations of the organization were the Western Design Conference and Cody High Style. Through these other iterations, artisans were encouraged to innovate, create, and add to the dialogue about western design and craftsmanship through annual exhibitions. Awards and sales reached peaks in the 1990s, but the nation-wide recession in 2008 had lasting effects. After a brief hiatus, a group of artists and patrons led by Harris Haston and Carlene Lebous determined that the need to preserve the legacy of western design was eminent. They founded By Western Hands as a nonprofit organization in 2015, and since then the group has exhibited annually in partnership with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and the Buffalo Bill Art Show during Rendezvous Royale. Building upon the success of these years, by 2018 the organization roused enough community support for a local investor group to acquire a permanent location in the Cody historic district. The volunteer board and an interim director raised the capital for tenant improvements with contributions from a huge cross-section of the community, and By Western Hands opened its doors at 1007 12th Street in June, 2019.
The design exhibitions that started with the Design Conference and Cody High Style continue, but the main difference between BWH and these other versions is that we’re now a nonprofit organization with education and preservation at the heart of our mission. Through the interrelated Museum, Archive, Internships, and Gallery, BWH hopes to become the link between current and future generations of western artisans and the epicenter of information for and about western functional art.
By Western Hands is an exempt organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Today, we have a unique opportunity to take meaningful action that will provide a future for western design for generations to come.