Bobbie Ann Howell

"Nevada Vista, North Ely." Photo by Bobbie Ann Howell.

Oh what the heck is a blog? What do I know about blogging? Do I have anything to say that will be of use or interest? These are the questions I have been thinking about as I launch into the blog o’ sphere.

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering – On the road in Nevada

A very fine week was spent recently traveling to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, just a bit north of my daily stomping grounds in the Las Vegas valley. I always feel lucky when I can once again make this trip. I have always loved traveling in the west and especially in Nevada, spending a good deal of my free time exploring, drawing, taking pictures, and looking at the vibrant sky and colors of Nevada. I have been doing this since I was a kid. We traveled daily from Lee Canyon into Indian Springs for school and into town on Sunday for church and shopping. I often think of the miles and time spent on some of the same paths over the years and how many times I cross over my own tracks. Pathways, tracks, and mapping have been a conceptual element in many of my artworks, and it is always interesting to think about how we are impacted by the landscape and places we go.

The National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is a rich opportunity to learn and listen, to be moved to tears and laugh so hard you cry, to meet and discuss the concerns and needs of our land and communities. To be able to crowd into the Western Folklife Center’s Pioneer Bar after a show and visit with people from across the world enjoying time together. On the Sunday drive back to Las Vegas we always end up discussing the event and listening to new CD’s or reading out loud from this year's book selections. This has often been on Super Bowl Sunday, good when the roads are clear, not so good when you wonder who is supposed to be driving the snow plow and where are they? I am always intrigued by the sheer number of people who tune into a football game -- the hype, the commercials, and everything that goes into the event. This year I was thinking about the contrast of the experiences I had in Elko and the togetherness or shared experience that seems to me the best part of the Super Bowl phenomenon. I always like to look at the data involved in the media and marketing of the Super Bowl ads. This year the two top ads, at about 4-million dollars for a 30-second spot, were a story about a man and horse, and a commentary about farmers (and ranchers) overlaid with beautifully textured photographs. Both advertisements are story-based, use cultural elements to get the audience attention, and do not really talk about their product but strive to create a connection between us.

"Nevada Silver Snow." Photo by Bobbie Ann Howell.

The best that was offered in the end needed art, needed a story to find their way into the core of who we are. There were other ads of course but coming back from the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering having heard a number of really grand horse poems such as the A.B. “Banjo” Paterson’s In the Droving Days, performed this year by Randy Rieman, a classic poem about the intertwined life of a man and a horse. It is good to know we are on the right track and that for less then 4 million dollars but worth far more; I got to hear such stories from the people who live them. I hope that others will discover what we at Nevada Humanities know and work to share, that it is our stories, our shared experiences that make us a community. Check out a few of the performances on-line at The Western Folklife Center.

"James Galvin Keynote." Photo by Bobbie Ann Howell.