In 1998, a group of the West’s leading cowboy artisans—saddlemakers, silversmiths, rawhide braiders, and bit and spur makers—recognized a threefold crisis: a shortage of newcomers entering their trades, an aging master class of artists, and fewer opportunities for apprentices to find willing, qualified mentors.
Disciplines that had been part of the cowboy culture for generations were in danger of dying off, of being replaced by mass production. And, the prospects for aspiring makers to earn their livings producing quality work seemed to be fading fast.
In response, these individuals joined together to form the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, a group dedicated to educating student craftsmen, demonstrating the levels of quality possible in their represented trades, and proving that makers producing fine work through traditional methods could be paid fairly for their efforts and rightfully be considered artists.
TCAA created an unprecedented lineup of education programs—scholarships and fellowships, workshops and mentoring opportunities—aimed at enabling younger makers to achieve success. The group’s annual exhibition of TCAA members’ work, though, would become its highest-profile educational effort, showcasing one-of-a-kind, handcrafted works exemplifying the finest work possible in these traditional cowboy arts.
Cowboy Renaissance tells this group’s story—its origins, its evolution, its impact on the contemporary West—and features hundreds of the works that have been included in TCAA’s annual show, an event that’s grown from an experiment fraught with risk, to one of the cowboy culture’s most anticipated, and most inspiring, offerings.