Welcome to our series, #WHYoming.
We are highlighting people from around our communities and asking them a few questions. We want to learn a little about them and see why they chose this great state to raise their families, start their businesses, or simply to ask — Why Wyoming?
For this week’s #WHYoming, I had a chance to talk with Debora Thaxton Soulé, the Director of the Community Fine Arts Center in Rock Springs. Debora has been involved in the arts since she was young, as her parents always encouraged her to explore with her own artwork. Now as Director of the Community Fine Arts Center, Debora gets the privilege of promoting other artists and encouraging creativity within the community.
There is something special about coming across someone who has a passion for their work, and Debora certainly does. She has now served as the Director at the Community Fine Arts Center for 20 years and she truly enjoys and loves her job. In her own words, it is important to “find that one thing that lights a fire in your soul,” and she has done that. And our community is a much more beautiful place because of it.
Debora, how long have you been director at the Community Fine Arts Center, and what does the job entail?
I just celebrated my 20th anniversary as the director at the Community Fine Arts Center. The CFAC is a unique collaboration of Sweetwater School District No. 1, the City of Rock Springs and Sweetwater County with it being a department of the Sweetwater County Library System.
Maintaining the vast collection of art owned by the school district as well as developing the exhibit and performance calendars, and coordinating events with other arts groups in the area are the primary responsibilities as director. There are many “behind the scenes” duties when organizing a concert or developing a class and if you are doing your job correctly, no one is even aware of them.
How did you first get into art?
I have always stayed connected to the arts in one way or another, including running a pottery studio, cartooning for GAF Viewmaster, custom bridal designs, painting, and graphic design. Growing up, my parents supported and encouraged me to learn to draw and paint though closer to graduation, my dad was trying to talk me into being an accountant so that I could support myself. I received a B.F.A. from East Carolina University in clay and painting. Today I am focus on drawing and painting, though recently I have been sketching idea for sculptures.
What do you enjoy about your job?
The variety of what we provide at the CFAC — both visual and performing arts. I have found a great deal of satisfaction in working with artists and helping promote programming and projects that bring the arts to our community. I also enjoy teaching several fine art classes, as well as knit and crochet to individuals and groups.
Why is art important to the community?
Research shows that along with the economic and cultural benefits in a community, civic and social engagement increase the quality of life of the citizens. Look at the number of murals, the utility box art that is popping up, the sculptures around Rock Springs. This shows pride for where we live. The visual and performing arts help us see the world from different perspectives, to appreciate the beauty and wonder of this world and maybe understand ourselves a little bit better.
How did you end up in Rock Springs?
I grew up as an Air Force brat, so after four years of college in one town, I was ready to move. I lived in Oregon for a bit and took a temporary gig here in Wyoming nearly 40 years ago where I met my husband. Sam had been appointed to the circuit court bench the year before and “wasn’t going anywhere.” It’s a good thing I found the wide open spaces of Wyoming intriguing.
What do you appreciate most about our community?
The acceptance of others and the space when you need it. You can always find people that are willing to work to make things better.
What are some of your hobbies?
My “off the clock” interests are also art related, having a small painting studio at home. Drawing and painting provide an outlet from the administrative work of running the CFAC. Currently, my subjects are animals and birds using bright colors and expressive brushstrokes. Recently, the Rock Springs Box Art Committee selected two of my bison paintings for the utility box wrap at the corner of A and 2nd Streets.
What’s something unique about you?
Maybe not “unique” but I did work for a taxidermy in Portland, Oregon, learning some of the craft and even how to skin raccoons. I have a scar on my leg to prove it.
If you could give one brief piece of advice, what would it be?
If I were to give anyone advice, it would be to find that one thing that lights a fire in your soul. Find a way to make a living at it would be the icing on the cake. I have been fortunate to have done just that.
Where are some of your favorite places to hang out in Sweetwater County?
I love being able to walk or drive a short distance and be in the desert or at the Gorge. Even if the weather is not perfect, there is space to stretch and breathe.
Would you rather walk, take a bike, ride a horse, or drive a car?
Walking is okay, but several years ago I learned to drive a buggy with my mare and we would ride in the neighborhood or out in the desert on the two-tracks. It was heaven.
What would you sing at karaoke night?
Nope, no one wants to hear me sing.
How would your friends describe you?
The family pets are another distraction for me. Through the years, our family has included numerous dogs, cats, parrots, a rabbit, a rat, several horses, chickens and even a ferret or three. My friends probably would say I am soft-hearted. They are always asking me if I have rescued anyone lately. I tell them three cats and two dogs keep me plenty busy these days, but if you know of anyone…
What is one of your proudest accomplishments?
As stated earlier, it is fulfilling to successfully promote other artists whether it is selling their work from an exhibit or having a full audience for a performer. But personally, I get the biggest kick out of teaching someone an art technique, or a knitting stitch, and see the smile on their face when they get it!
Who would you want to play in a movie about your life?
I have never thought about this question — but I am sure it would have to be a comedian!
Why do you choose to continue living in Wyoming?
We raised our daughters in Rock Springs and call this home, not because of the weather, but because of the people. I suppose you can say I planted roots in Wyoming.