Still in the Game

Galleries with staying power have enjoyed growing art market.

By Kelsey Dayton

Forty years ago, when a new work came into Trailside Gallery that Maryvonne Leshe knew a certain collector would love, she’d take out her Kodak camera, snap a picture, develop it, put it in the mail and wait five days to hear the client’s opinion.

A lot more than just how quickly collectors can view new pieces has changed since the gallery opened its doors in Jackson fifty-four years ago, said Leshe, a managing partner who started with the gallery forty years ago.

There are more galleries in town, more contemporary art and the architecture has moved beyond big bison heads hanging everywhere in town, she said.

What hasn’t changed are the names of a couple of galleries that have stayed in the game through the decades, weathering economic downturn, changes in trends, and staying open while competition popped up and disappeared.

In 1970 Carolyn Hines opened Hines Goldsmiths, one of the first fine jewelry stores in Jackson.

The biggest challenge for Hines and other jewelry stores has been competing with the Internet. Hines expanded her Teton collection, making it a fine jewelry line with diamonds and focused on offering jewelry that is not only high-quality, but represents Jackson.

People buy from her, not just because of the quality, but because of their attachment to the place. She’s also added glass and crystal etched with the Tetons, bucking broncos and animals like elk and moose that represent Jackson.

“Collectors are always looking for something new, and that enabled the community to bring in more art.”
– Maryvonne Leshe

“And I can hardly keep it on the shelf,” she said.

Jim Wilcox opened Wilcox Gallery in 1969 to show his own work. The first year the small building exhibited his one-man show, but by the next year he was already expanding. Now the gallery represents about forty artists.

They’ve moved buildings and even expanded to two locations. They’ve worked hard to garner a reputation for taking care of both artists and clients, Wilcox said. Most of their customers are repeat buyers.

While Wilcox and Trailside are two of the longest running galleries in town, the growth of the art scene in Jackson has helped them stay in business, Leshe said.

When the National Museum of Wildlife Art opened in 1987, it brought more attention to Jackson as a wildlife art hub. More people started looking to Jackson for Western art for their homes, Leshe said.

“Collectors are always looking for something new, and that enabled the community to bring in more art,” she said.

Trailside capitalized on that with efforts like the Jackson Hole Art Auction, which its owners started ten years ago. This year’s dates are September 18 and 19.

The gallery also has expanded its offerings to include more contemporary artists like Logan Maxwell Hagege or Dinah Worman.

The key is to keep evolving, Leshe said.

Gallery staff, many who have been with Trailside for more than thirty years, are always actively looking for new talent in western and landscape art. They look at trends, but focus on top quality.

“We’re not just sitting back on our laurels,” Leshe said. “And we don’t intend to.”