Ryan Landis is the performing arts coordinator for the Whitney Center for the Arts at Sheridan College. 


Recently, I was struck by on old memory from a cold winter’s day from my childhood. It is amazing to me, how looking back we can so often see how little moments shape and direct our paths and future. It is a story that starts in a cafetorium in a school in Rapid City, South Dakota. The brick walls, hard tiled floor with basketball lines and distinct aroma from the lunch that was served earlier in the day are still are vivid in my mind some 30 years later. That simple performance of “The Emperor’s New Clothes” transported my young mind to a new world that day. Though it was intended to merely entertain the children in attendance, its future impact upon me was profound (more on this later). Little did I know at that time the arts would provide me with career and cultural opportunities that were far beyond even what that little boy could imagine.

After leaving the Midwest 20 years ago, that little boy from the cafetorium relocated back to the area and settled in Sheridan. Upon arrival, I was immediately struck with the rich and vibrant arts culture here. A number of studies have highlighted the economic benefits of the arts within a community by providing jobs — 11,255 jobs within the arts in Wyoming alone — growth to local businesses and by fostering a culture of creative change and connection. The visible public art throughout the downtown, performing arts venues with busy seasons, art galleries exhibiting world-class talent and wonderful school arts programs are a testament to the hard work and dedication of so many over the years.

In August I began my new position as the Performing Arts Coordinator at the Whitney Center for the Arts. During this time at the WCA we have presented nearly 15 performances, opened three new art exhibits, screened a number of movies and hosted several lectures. Live art, in any medium, excites me. The expectant energy that an audience provides is what makes it such a moving and enriching experience. I often challenge people I meet to, “See it live! Hear it live! Experience it live!” Why you might ask do I do this? Well, for the answer to that the earlier story now returns.

The lights went up at the conclusion of the play and the magical world faded away in the midst of the hum of fluorescent lighting and children noisily waiting to depart. For those 30 minutes however, I had been moved beyond my surroundings. It is this type of transcendent experience, this escape, that mark many concerts and performances we have attended as unique or special events in our lives. It’s amazing how an event can captivate our imagination and our hearts forever leaving its print upon our lives.

As we move into 2020, would you accept my challenge to, “See it live! Hear it live! Experience it live!”