40 Prominent People | Cowgirl Up!

Cowgirl Up!
Mary Ann Igna, Curator

Artists in Cowgirl Up!

Distinction: Igna oversees the Desert Caballeros Western Museum’s annual Cowgirl Up! show, which provides a counterpoint to the Cowboy Artists of America, giving women a place of their own in the western art scene.
What has been the biggest change in the art world during your career? I think the biggest change I’ve seen is the increased level of professionalism and accountability.
What are you proudest of about the Cowgirl Up! show? The fact that it gives women western artists a secure platform on which to advance their careers.
What is your most memorable moment while working on the exhibition? Our facilities manager having to dispatch a diamondback during the artists’ trail ride comes to mind, as does the vision of a patron being so excited at acquiring a Quick Draw oil painting that he clutched it to his chest, with unfortunate results. The artist very graciously retouched it.
How has your show evolved over the years? For the first show in the spring of 2006, we had to cold-call all the artists and invite them to participate. Now we receive upwards of 200 applications every year. Since we only have room for about 55 artists, the selection committee has a challenging task.
Describe the show in one word. Exuberant.
How do you think artists benefit by being included in the show? Those who attend the opening weekend’s festivities get to know one another and share experiences, giving the newer artists the chance to be mentored by more established colleagues. We provide excellent exposure for them in print publications and on the web. And we introduce them to new patrons.
How has the show contributed to appreciation for representational art in today’s West? The show provides patrons with the chance to become personally acquainted with the artists. There’s no substitute for listening to an artist discuss her own creation.
How has Southwest Art magazine contributed to the show? Southwest Art’s coverage of the show has taken it to a national level that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Art is coming from 11 different states this year, and we also have patrons attend from across the country, many of whom learn about the show through the magazine.

Featured in “40 Prominent People” in May 2011.