New Art Exhibit Showcases America’s Only Touring Black Rodeo

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December 8, 2022

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The High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon has a new art exhibit. The exhibit, “In the Arena: Photographs from America’s Only Touring Black Rodeo” opened on November 19. It features images from the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, the only touring Black rodeo in the country, through the lens of photographer Gabriela Hasbun.  

She told The Click about her work with the Bill Pickett Rodeo and how it was overlooked in the media. “They were doing these positive things for black culture, black youth, black joy, black pride, why weren’t they being written up about, why weren’t they celebrating this community?”  The museum is excited to host a new exhibit that emphasizes an important, lesser-told culture and tradition.

Heidi Hagemeier, the director of communications at the High Desert Museum, discussed why she believes this new exhibit is important. “When people come across something like some of these amazing black cowboys and cowgirls and these riders, and are really taken with the imagery, they might be drawn to learn more and take away that new knowledge of the world,” she said. “So, it’s really a beautiful way to encounter learning and education and exploration.”

Hasbun’s collection of images from the Bill Pickett Rodeo are also featured in her published book, “The New Black West.” In the book, she discusses the long history of Black cowboys and how they helped “shape the culture of the American West.”

For almost 40 years, the Bill Pickett Rodeo has been a highly anticipated event celebrating the skills and talents of Black rodeo stars and their contributions. It tours all over the US from California to Georgia, bringing together families to embrace cowboy culture. 

Museum patrons can enjoy the exhibit through June 25, 2023. 

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