SHERIDAN — A mixture of surprise and elation overcame Erin Butler when she received the news. 

A few weeks ago, she found out the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center received a grant totaling $15,000 from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund. The gift will help with construction of studio space in the Tandem Rehearsal Hall on the third floor of the building.

Butler, the executive director of the WYO, had pushed the potential grant to the back of her mind until she was informed about the award.

“You don’t forget about [it], but you stop thinking about [it],” Butler said. “Then when you are awarded the money, you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that thing. Yay!’”

The grant was one of several dozen given out by the WCTF, an entity created in 1998 to support the arts scene in Wyoming. Its board awarded $293,293.29 to 36 projects around the state during a grant review meeting in Thermopolis last month. 

Renée Bovée, WCTF program coordinator, said the board had 39 applicants, nearly all of whom were awarded at least partial funding. The WYO theater received funding for more than half of its full request of $25,000.

Bovée said the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center had a solid proposal. The board was familiar with the organization and has helped with other expansion projects, so the members felt confident awarding the grant money.

“My board was very comfortable with the proposal,” Bovée said. “It was well-written, the request was clear … We knew exactly where our dollars were going.”

The WCTF awards grants twice per year after a fairly lengthy application process that includes paperwork detailing previous financial data and information on ground plans, building blueprints and future uses. The deadline was April 1, and Butler said it took a little more than a month to complete.

Upon its submittal, the written application was reviewed by the Wyoming Arts Council, one of several sister agencies of the WCTF that provide technical review depending on a grant’s content. The council gave comments to the WCTF board members, who look over all the applications before making final determinations.

The rehearsal space at the WYO has been used for about the past year-and-a-half and was donated by Richard and Tami Davis of Tandem Productions. Butler said the money will help with the completion of two separate rooms that allow for rehearsing, music lessons and vocal lessons. They will also have the potential to be rented for catering and practice space.

The grant funds are part of a six-figure project that will cost the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center about $130,000 total. The work funded by the WCTF grant will likely begin next January and take about four months to complete.

As part of the grant agreement, the WYO will provide regular progress updates to the WCTF and a final report upon the conclusion of the project.

“We’re usually kept very much informed on how the process is going,” Bovée said. “If there’s a glitch or a hiccup or something like that, there’s regular communication that goes back and forth during the course of the project.” 

Bovée works in Cheyenne but has seen a few shows in Sheridan. She attended the Mars Theater opening in 2014 — one of several other projects in Sheridan County to which the WCTF provided funding in previous years — and called seeing the end result of the grants one of the most rewarding aspects of her job.

Bovée has especially enjoyed viewing the evolution of the WYO Performing Arts and Education Center and the impact different funding sources have made.

“I can look at the WYO and see the progression that it’s made,” Bovée said. “I’ve seen their challenges along the way as well, but I can see the overall progression that they have made and I can go, ‘Wow.’ … You can see what the WYO has become. Oh yeah, that makes me feel good.”

WCTF grants also need to be matched dollar for dollar, which will involve securing donations from other private donors. 

Butler said the WCTF grant should help with that process.

“Once one big gift is given, then it sort of fuels the fire of additional gifts,” Butler said. “People want to help.”

Butler said Wyoming supports the arts well and that Sheridan has a particularly friendly community to artists and arts funding.

“There’s a lot of natural beauty and there are a lot of things that are inspiring about the setting,” Butler said. “… People that come through here are always, always, always surprised at this facility. They’re just like, ‘What? This is crazy. Don’t you know how good you have it?’

“I do.” 

The grant entailed significant effort and should play a contributing factor in finishing the rehearsal space in a timely manner.