I grew up in a house that backed up to the 14th Tee of a private country club golf course. My family didn’t belong to the club. My parents weren’t about to spend that kind of money on a club membership, raising six kids.
A lot of my friends in the neighborhood did belong, though. I was a frequent guest of them at the country club pool. In fact, I was so frequent a guest that I was always brown as a biscuit by mid-July, and became so strong of a swimmer that the country club coach asked why I wasn’t on the swim team. The shit hit the fan when he found out that this kid he saw all the time wasn’t even a member.
At times I wished we were members of the country club, but not often. Some of my best friends were. They and their families seemed like really good people for the most part, from what I recall. But there was a fairly large contingent at the club who were boorish. The dads were overweight, the moms were underweight, and both were often drunk. It was good fun to watch certain members zoom up in a golf cart, drunkenly chop at the ball on the 14th tee, curse, and veer away down the fairway, while we ate dinner and watched out our window. And let’s not talk about the clothes. Yeesh.
In high school, I was in the Spanish Club my sophomore year, but as far as my parents knew, I was in the Spanish Club my junior and senior year, too. But those weren’t Spanish Club meetings that were making me come home late. They were detentions.
In college I despised the Greek system because in my freshman year I watched my best friend be humiliated over and over by his “frat brothers” who hazed him as a “pledge.” I couldn’t understand why he accepted the abuse. If somebody slapped my head and called me those names, I would have given them a nice Hawaiian punch. I mercilessly made fun of the fraternity at my small liberal arts college, via a humor column in the student newspaper, and on more than one occasion, I went to frat parties at UofL and flipped the breakers on the fuse box, yelling into the dark, “Frats suck and you all buy your friends!”
So I guess you could say I’ve never been a joiner.
I don’t feel a need to formalize a friendship with other people, pay dues, go to meetings. I would feel pretentious putting letters after my name. I’m a registered Democrat, but I was an independent for years before aligning myself with a party.
But in September, I joined something. Not just a club, but a GUILD. Now, the word “guild” is a dirty one in my vocabulary. I hate the idea of excluding someone from a trade organization until they meet the real or imaginary standards of the establishment. Always seemed elitist, exclusionary, and bullshitty. Nevertheless, Tammy Lucas offhandedly asked if I wanted to be a member of the Wind River Valley Artists Guild, and I found myself immediately saying, “Sure!”
I don’t know.
I imagine that I won’t be terribly active in the organization. After all, it’s located in Dubois, Wyoming, and I live in NYC. It’s not that I’m super close with a lot of the members. I’m sure I know a few because I have experience and connections in the Dubois art scene, but I have no idea who is on the roster. But I’m proud to be a member of the WRVAG nonetheless.
Is it the quilts that members sew, some with depictions of birds so wonderful, each square could be its own piece of art? Is it because their yearly painting and sculpture show is surprisingly big and of good quality even though Dubois is a town without a stoplight?
I think it is for two reasons. First, I love the Wind River Valley. I am eager to make permanent connections there. I’ve already made some good friendships with people in the town of Dubois, and elsewhere in Wyoming.
The second reason is related to the first. Life can be hard in Wyoming. Most of the people I know who live in the Dubois area have more than one job. The high school football coach has a bead store and carves art out of moose antlers. A real estate agent is also a trout fishing guide. A rancher also works at the Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center. But the artists in the area do all that they need to do to make a living, AND they put together a show and support each other. That’s my kind of club.
I won’t be putting “WRVAG” at the end of my name on papers, letters, or paintings. It’s funny even to type that. But I’ll be paying my annual dues and stay a member in good standing.
Nobody is more surprised than me. Ω
With apologies to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, I present this fun little painting.
Lynne and I saw this song sparrow nearly every morning for a month on our morning walks to Dyckman Fields. We walk together for exercise, but it also gives us a chance to talk to each other beyond the admin stuff that dominates so much of our household conversation. Each morning, this little bird inspired me, singing his heart out, head tilted up to the skies. Wonderful.
So I took lots of photos. I drew him a few times and settled on a pose. I drew the pose on a piece of wood I–ahem–upcycled from the curb, and sent the photo to my good friend Jim Coe for advice. He is a bird expert and a fine painter, so I wanted to know if I were veering too far off the path on this. I am not a very tight painter, but accuracy counts. That’s the journalist side of me.
So he gave some tips and i burned it and then I painted it with acrylic. I love this darling little thing, but I put it up for sale here.
Robert A. Bahr
4524 W. 74th Place
Prairie Village, KS 66208
Author of Taking Root in Rocky Soil: 3,000 Years of Art in the Wind River Mountains
Published in September 2019, this 142-page book looks at the history of visual art in the Wind River range in Wyoming, utilizing personal interviews, historical sources, and more than 120 images.
Writer at Large, Susan Kathleen Black Foundation 9/14 – present
Writing about news and opportunities for this national non-profit art education organization. Also serving as photographer and support staff.
Artist 1/13 – present
Subject of several art shows in New York City. Work in oil, acrylic, graphite, pastel, and other media.
Arts Editor and Writer, NYC 9/09 – present
Planning and supervising magazine issues, writing feature stories, editing submissions for national magazines, including PleinAir magazine.
Editor, PleinAir Today 4/13 – 5/17
Gather, write, and edit 10 stories per week on the plein air painting movement. PleinAir Today is the weekly enewsletter for PleinAir magazine.
Managing Editor, American Artist, NYC 1/05 – 9/09
Overseeing the staff and production of the monthly art-instruction magazine, American Artist, as well as three quarterlies: Watercolor, Drawing, and Workshop magazines. Overseeing the website for the four publications. Acting as project editor for Drawing: assigning stories, editing all stories, writing feature articles and departments, acquiring all images, planning and implementing editorial budget, ensuring the timely production of the magazine. Writing and editing articles for other three publications as necessary.
Associate Editor, American Artist, NYC 1/03 – 1/05
Acquiring, editing, and copyediting feature articles and departments for American Artist magazine, a subscriber-based art-process magazine published since 1937. Launched Drawing magazine, a quarterly devoted to works on paper. The first four issues sold out in national bookstores. Managing and maintaining websites for American Artist, Drawing, and Watercolor magazines. Writing feature articles and departments. Runner-up for 2003 President’s Award for Innovation and Creativity in my 1,000-employee workplace.
Freelancer, NYC 5/00 – 1/03
Serving clients as writer, editor, content manager, consultant, and HTML coder. Clients included American Heritage magazine and VNU Inc.
Web Editor, Miller Freeman, Inc., NYC 8/98 – 5/00
Daily management of the news sites for Miller Freeman Jewelry Group, including editing, programming, and uploading content to www.national-jeweler.com, the group’s flagship site. Designing, writing, and hard-coding special sections for news events. Developing marketing ideas. Responsible for overall vision and growth of sites.
Associate Editor, National Jeweler, NYC 8/98 – 7/99
A full-time position writing all content for the watch section for this twice-monthly, award-winning jewelry trade publication. Also regularly contributing news, features, and cover stories.
Production Editor, National Jeweler, NYC 3/98 – 8/98
Proofing and copyediting all text for this national publication.
Freelance Writer, Self-Employed, Louisville, KY 2/90 – 3/98
Engaging in a variety of copywriting tasks ranging from newspaper articles to corporate communications. Among my major clients:
• Daily newspaper: Courier-Journal—regular contributor of reviews, feature stories and a weekly column
• Monthly magazine: Louisville magazine—regular contributor of food features, personality profiles, and cover stories
• Nationally distributed book: Co-author of Insider’s Guide to Louisville, published November 1997.
Education and Honors
Bellarmine College, Louisville, Ky. Editor-in-chief of college newspaper
B.A. in English/Mass Comm., Music minor Cum Laude graduate, 1988
E-mail me at babahr(at)babahr(dot)com.