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Artists’ Guild files to dismiss ART 321 suit after mediated agreement

ART 321 (Courtesy)

CASPER, Wyo. — Casper Artists’ Guild members have filed a stipulated motion to dismiss a civil suit in district court against members of ART 321’s Board of Directors.

According to a release by ART 321 on Friday, nine stakeholders, including members on both sides of the suit, met over two days earlier this month to produce a mediated agreement.

The agreement is contingent on ratification by the current board and the dismissal of the suit.

The agreement outlines a return to some of the organizational models that changed during the tenure of former Executive Director Tyler Cessor, who served from January 2020 to October 2022.

According to the release, parties agree to reinstate the use of operational committees made up of ART 321 members and adopt changes in how board members are selected.

The Casper Artists’ Guild, which is approaching its 100th year, has been doing business as ART 321 since acquiring the 16,000-square-foot building on South Ash eight years ago. A rift between Cessor and some members of the board emerged in summer 2021.

Under Cessor, some Guild members felt the traditional volunteer-committee approach to workshops, exhibitions and publicity was being dissolved in favor of board appointments to staff positions. They said dues-paying members had also lost any authority to elect board members. There were also interpersonal and political conflicts.

For the last year, the dispute progressed in district court as Guild members said the current board hadn’t been elected by members according to traditional iterations of the bylaws. The case spilled into three volumes of filings citing state statutes and case law as the parties tried to prove which set of governing documents had been validly adopted. 

Last October, Judge Catherine Wilking said both parties were lacking in verifiable documentation, and neither was entitled to judgement as a matter of law.

The mediated plan calls for a member meeting in April to elect five new board members. After that, a majority of the board would be elected by the board.  

The plan also outlines concerns for the future, including maintaining financial solvency and codifying the new agreement in the bylaws.

The ART 321 release and recent statements by Guild members to Oil City News indicate that all parties are ready to move on to focus on the arts.

“We are committed to working together for the good of the organization and confident in this process and that our plans will lead to our organization’s healing & success,” ART 321 Co-Chair Laura Hunter said in the release. ”Together, we will continue to nurture and educate artists in Wyoming and increase access to art for all.” 

A phoenix sculpture, commissioned by Carli Holcomb, will soon be on display at the gallery. 

“As Members are invited to participate, it will stand as a symbol of our resilience and a reminder of all we have overcome as a community, and the bright future that lies ahead,” the release said.