Ucross will present the internationally acclaimed performer, musician, and writer Joy Harjo with the Ucross Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Arts during her performance at the WYO Theater in Sheridan, Wyoming, on Saturday, February 25. Harjo will be the second artist to receive this award; the first was the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx, a former Ucross artist-in-residence and member of the board of trustees, at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City in 2018.
“We are thrilled to celebrate the international achievements of Ucross alumna Joy Harjo with our local community as part of our 40th Anniversary festivities,” said Ucross President William Belcher, who will present the award to Harjo on Saturday. “Joy is one of the nation’s most beloved and respected artists. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy and honor her craft.”
Harjo recently concluded her historic third term as the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States. A member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, she was the first Native American to hold the post and the second poet laureate to be appointed a third term in the position’s history. She has written 10 books of poetry, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs. As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums. Her many honors include the Ruth Lily Prize for Lifetime Achievement from the Poetry Foundation, the Academy of American Poets Wallace Stevens Award, two NEA fellowships, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Harjo is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation and the first Artist-in-Residence for the Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
She first came to northern Wyoming 10 years ago as an artist-in-residence, through Ucross’s partnership with the Sundance Institute.
“The imagination finds refreshment in lands rich with plants and creatures of all kinds,” Harjo said after her residency. “Ucross is rich in spirit food.”
First, Harjo will give a free community craft discussion at Sheridan College on Friday, February 24, at noon. The artist will guide the audience through her process of writing, composing, and performing. The event, held in Sheridan College’s Whitney Center for the Arts, rooms 234/235/236, is free and open to the public, with no advance registration needed.
On Saturday, Feb. 25, Harjo will give a performance of music and poetry at the WYO Theater, accompanied by her longtime musical collaborator, Larry Mitchell. Mitchell is a Grammy Award-winning producer, engineer and performer who has toured the world playing guitar with well-known artists including Tracy Chapman, Billy Squier, Ric Ocasek, and Miguel Bosé. In his original compositions, Mitchell skillfully weaves guitar textures that showcase his virtuosity as a solo artist and ensemble player.
The evening will begin in the WYO lobby at 6 p.m. with a VIP reception, featuring an artist meet-and-greet and refreshments. At 7:30 p.m., Harjo will take the main stage to perform with Mitchell. General, student and VIP tickets are available at wyotheater.com.
The two events are part of Ucross’s ongoing celebration of its 40th anniversary. Since 1983, Ucross has supported writers, visual artists, composers and choreographers with the gift of uninterrupted time and studio space on its 20,000-acre ranch. Like Proulx and Harjo, many alumni go on to have distinguished careers after their residencies, including Terry Tempest Williams, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Patchett, Ricky Ian Gordon, Theaster Gates, Tayari Jones, Sigrid Nunez, Academy Award and Tony winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, Emmy Award winner Billy Porter and Pulitzer Prize winners Michael R. Jackson and Colson Whitehead.