Private Family Foundation
Jentel is the dream and embodies the vision of Neltje, as a single benefactor, who established a private family foundation in January 2001. Within a unique ranch setting in the Piney Creek Valley, Neltje came to experience the peace and calm from a Wyoming landscape that also offers a healing power for mind and spirit. She realized the potential to share the landscape and the life giving experience with other creative individuals.
To start a full scale operating residency program from scratch is a tremendous endeavor. Neltje was eager to establish a year round residency program in her lifetime rather than setting up an endowment and burdening her children with the responsibility.
During a two year period while Jentel operated as a small pilot program, Neltje launched into locating a permanent site, working with the local professional community to design and construct the complement of seven buildings and expanding the residency to a full time operation and year round program for six artists for a one month residency eleven months of the year.
The compound of five new and two renovated structures reflects the agricultural and historical setting and echo the sweeping lines of the foothills and mountains.
September 2002, Executive Director Mary Jane Edwards and Residency Program Manager Lynn Reeves began working side by side with Neltje to take Jentel from a dream to reality.
Just short of sixteen months after the Board approved the plan to move to the permanent site in the Lower Piney Creek Valley and begin construction on the residence facilities, Jentel officially welcomed the inaugural group of four visual artists and two writers on January 15, 2003.
A few weeks later, the two writers in residence initiated Jentel’s community outreach program, Jentel Presents, at the Book Shop in Sheridan. Since then, the Jentel Presents evening with its diverse and varied presentations by artists and writers offers an appreciative and enthusiastic audience the opportunity to interact with the residents and experience creative expression from across the country.
Throughout the spring 2003, the Jentel staff discussed the opportunity for the Maureen Egan Writer’s Exchange Award partnership for a residency with Poets & Writers, Inc. and the O. Henry Short Story Writers Award residency with Anchor Books. The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT approached Jentel with the idea for a partnership residency to promote critical and creative writing and thinking in the ceramic arts.
Board of Directors
Beginning with the first annual meeting of the Board of Directors in June 2001, Jentel as a private family foundation has enjoyed the enthusiasm and support of a small and dynamic group of family members, arts professionals, artist staff and a financial advisor. Under their stewardship, Jentel has experienced tremendous growth and development in defining its mission and realizing the goals of the foundation. Neltje’s vision is no longer a dream. Jentel is a vital and inspiring place for artists and writers to explore the creative process, to experience of the vastness and power of the Wyoming landscape and to balance the solitude of the studio life with interaction within a small and engaging residency community.
History in the Shaping
With the residency program fully operational, Neltje, the Board and the staff continue to consider ideas and opportunities to enhance the residency and to implement new initiatives to insure Jentel’s continued contribution to artists and writers and members of the surrounding communities. Through the foundation, Neltje’s vision and passion for the arts and the Wyoming landscape will be shared with the immediate Sheridan community and the greater arts community in the years to come.
“Why here in Sheridan County, Wyoming? Why in these rolling hills and valleys of the Big Horn Mountains?” Neltje shares her reflections on Jentel.
Neltje on Jentel
Who knows where or how ideas germinate? To pinpoint a moment in time when the concept of creating Jentel came into being would be like determining when I wanted to be a painter. Was it when I failed art in the third grade or when frozen in an uncomfortable marriage with two small children; I had to find a way to communicate my visions and feelings? I just don’t know.
My background is in the arts. I was brought up in a book publishing family. Authors, actors, actresses, Broadway producers, book and magazine giants, editors, financial gurus, copyboys all were a part of my young life. Authors and their editors were the seeds. They needed the germination of manufacturing wizardry, the addition of distribution acumen, and financial intellect to be a success. However, the author was the one revered, respected, nurtured, and supported.
No longer is the author held in such regard. The book publishing business has become a bottom line business where the chances taken on first novelists or poets or even on nonfiction first timers diminish yearly. A pity because an author has the ability to communicate a reflection of our present day society and perhaps forecast a possible future if we could only listen. The sensitivity, perspicacity, intelligence and talent of any artist can be measured by an aware public. If there are no books, paintings, dance, theater, essays, or music to inform, how is the public to learn to measure thought and emotional integrity? Old societies know the worth of art. We of the United States are young and foolish and not yet steeped in wisdom.
I have inherited money, and I have made money. The money inherited has allowed me to live richly due to the past talents of writers and business people who made Doubleday & Co. profitable. Much of the money I have personally made has been invested in land in Wyoming, a land that feeds my soul every day of my life since I moved here in 1966. A combination of these monies funds Jentel.
My focus was clear in the construction of the residency buildings, the interiors, exteriors, and studios. I used American primitive furnishings, worn pieces of wood and textiles to give warmth to a contemporary surround. I landscaped with native and non-native shrubs, trees, grasses, and flowers planted as though nature left them to be discovered. I wanted to create a home and work space that would nurture, comfort, and support the creative spirit. My dream is to offer an artist time apart to think, gather, evaluate, digest, and create. What better heritage to leave on this earth?
Why here in Sheridan County, Wyoming? Why in these rolling hills and valleys east of the Big Horn Mountains? The space. The unlimited vistas of a sea like landscape undulating west to the massive forms of the mountains bring a sense of stability and thereness to those who live here and those fortunate enough to visit. A sky and heaven that stretches from horizon to horizon uninterrupted. A paucity of people to infringe on this space. We who live here live with a neighboring hand. For me psychic space has been the greatest gift. Just plain room to be, to question, to think, to create, and to love.
Neltje, Founder and Benefactor