Photo by Phyllis Burchett.……

Very exciting news from Art of the Cowgirl: their 2021 fellowship recipients have been announced!

Art of the Cowgirl is known for its contribution to the careers of female artists in the Western industry, and they’re particularly proud of their Fellowship Program.

The Art of the Cowgirl Fellowship Program pairs fellowship recipients with master artists, under whom they will train all year long in preparation for the 2021 event. The 2021 fellowship recipients are a diverse group, coming from bit making, horsemanship, photography, fine art, horse hair hitching/rawhide braiding and saddle making.

“I thought it was very important that we honor women in the industry and let them be mentors,” Pate says. “Our Fellowship Program encourages arts and trades among Western women, both continuing tradition and inspiring innovation.”

“What I see with Art of the Cowgirl is women who are skilled, who are professionals in their fields, and they want to pass along that experience and knowledge,” says Barbara Van Cleve, photography mentor. “That’s how it is in ranching. You pass that tradition along. That’s how people learn.”

“What we’re looking for in a Fellowship Recipient is someone who will bring it full-circle to give back again to the next generation,” says Art of the Cowgirl Fellowship Director Jaimie Stoltzfus. “Someone who values the spirit of the Fellowship Program.”

In addition to training under their mentors, fellowship recipients receive funds to travel and present their work from their fellowship year at Art of the Cowgirl 2021.

This year’s fellowship recipients are as follows, with bios courtesy of Art of the Cowgirl:

Amy Erickson from Evanston, Wyoming, is the 2020 Bit Making Fellowship Recipient and will learn from Master Artist John Mincer. Erickson became interested in silverwork and bits and spurs after attending the Elko poetry gathering as a teenager, but further developed that interest later in life. She was given the opportunity to learn engraving from Ernie Marsh and then later attended an intermediate engraving class taught by Jeremiah Watt.

Selected as the Horsemanship Recipient, Paula Francis of Bakersfield, California, will gain experience and insight from Master Artist Sandy Collier. Competing in NRCHA NonPro boxing classes the past three years, Francis says riding has always been part of her life and she looks forward to sharing what she learns with others to encourage them on their journey.

Erika Haight of Roundup, Montana, was selected as this year’s Photography Recipient and will study under Master Artist Barbara Van Cleve. Among her many Western subjects, Haight has devoted the past nine years to documenting and spending countless hours on the reservation with her adopted Crow family. Haight’s work is both modern and timeless — historically significant in the context of our times. 

This year’s Fine Art Recipient, Jessica Howard, who will study under Master Artist Shannon Lawlor, says her deep admiration for horses as partners has been prevalent in her artwork since childhood. Howard believes it is her responsibility to paint and use her art in a way that respects, memorializes and inspires western culture.

Melanie Kimpton-Weyant, a fifth-generation rancher near Toston, Montana, has been selected as the 2020 Horse Hair Hitching/Rawhide Braiding Recipient. She will learn from Master Artist Teresa Black. Weyant started braiding in early 2017 with help from her dad. By May of that year, she completed her first bosal of latigo and kangaroo — and was hooked. With continued practice, she has built five bosals, a riding crop and a rawhide headstall.

This year’s Saddle Making Recipient, Chelsea Sazama of Fallon, Montana, started her leatherworking journey about seven years ago. Today, Sazama operates Rocking S Saddle Shop and makes everything from saddles to belts, chinks, tapederos, medicine bags, Buckaroo Sweaters and more. She’s made 14 saddles so far, and looks forward to further developing her skills by learning from Master Artist Nancy Martiny.

Art of the Cowgirl 2021 will be held at Horseshoe Park Equestrian Center in Queen Creek, Arizona, from January 13-17, 2021. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit