EVANSTON — Evanston is losing a community member who for 25 years has made a great contribution to the arts for young and old. Carolee Bowen, executive director of Arts Inc. is retiring, selling her home and moving to St. George, Utah.
“I’ve been talking about retiring for some time, and with all of our events being canceled due to the coronavirus, now seemed like a good time,” Bowen said. “We have been training Heather Botts for my position and we hope to move forward with her as the director in 2020 when events resume.”
In 1995, Bowen was teaching piano and woodwind lessons and wanted to give her students recognition in the community, so she and fellow piano teacher LuAnn Nelson teamed up and started the Young Artists Piano and Woodwind Competition. That first year they had 40 students participate, and over the years the program grew with other piano teachers and schoolteachers getting involved. It became the Young Musicians Festival.
In 1998, Bowen started the Young Musicians Summer Camp with 60 students. Held each July, it has evolved into what is now called MAT (Music, Arts and Theater) Camp and draws more than 400 students and offers 190 classes.
The founding organization became known as Young Musicians Inc. and currently operates under the title of The Arts Inc. to be more inclusive of all ages and artistic endeavors. Out of that creation the Arts Inc. Concert Series began in the 2000s, and as community and funding support grew, Bowen and her board of directors added more events and activities.
Bowen, who had been volunteering her time, became a paid director when a grant was received from the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund. She was also able to hire a part-time assistant, Shasta Wigginton. With fundraising events and the receiving of grants, The Arts Inc. has become a respected and stable contributor to the artistic culture of Evanston.
In 2009, The Arts Inc. began to hold the now famous and well attended Ceili at the Roundhouse Celtic Festival which draws a crowd of thousands over the two-day event. Bowen has made connections with artists of all genres throughout the world and has been able to recruit international performers for this annual event. The Celtic Festival has been The Arts Inc.’s main income source, and after the shutdown in March, the organization was unable to pay its staff. Bowen said she plans on coming back to Evanston to help with the Celtic Festival in 2021.
The Arts Inc. sponsors year-round events and recently took on the summer Bluegrass Festival when key organizer Kathy Bella retired. Sadly, due to the coronavirus pandemic all planned events for the remaining months of 2020 had to be canceled.
“I am moving to St. George to get away from winter,” Bowen said. “This year was an especially hard one for me. There is nothing keeping me here any longer. It is a good time to go. I’ve enjoyed living here for the last 30 years. My interest was in building artistic programs and watching the children and adults benefit from them. I love the people in Evanston, the state of Wyoming and the clean air — except in winter. I thought I would live here forever but things change, and I don’t like the cold anymore.”
Bowen’s three children are all grown and live elsewhere, and with the recent passing of her husband, she chose St. George to be close to her brother. She has already closed on a house there and has put her home in Evanston on the market. Bowen said she likes St. George because it is mainly a retirement community and they have good health care, lots of artistic culture and it’s warm.
Bowen plans to continue her good work with the arts.
“I have already made connections with the symphony there and will audition for an oboe position,” she said. “They also have a community concert band. I have already been in touch with the director of the Red Rock Scottish Festival and will get involved as a volunteer. They also have the Tuacahn Theater that utilizes pit orchestra players. I will be looking for opportunities to enjoy my hobbies and have fun. I just want to enjoy and participate in other people’s events instead of creating and running programs. At least that is the plan. I’m retired!”