Society / Featured Parties

40 Years of Hosting Pulitzer Prize, Oscar and Tony Award Winners — Ucross Celebrates Its Impact In a $800,000 Houston Night

Creating Priceless Space and Time For the Creative Process

BY // 11.09.23
photography Jenny Antill

It was 1981 when the now-deceased Raymond Plank, co-founder and longtime CEO of Apache Corporation, founded Ucross, the artist residency program on an historic 20,000 acre ranch in Northern Wyoming. Since that founding, more than 2,600 artists — including Pulitzer Prize winners, Tony Award winners, National Book Award winners and Academy Award winners, among many others — have taken residence there.

The 40th anniversary of the residency program was celebrated in Houston at The Revaire where several Ucross alumni performed.

Ucross Houston Gala – Scott Sheffield, Steve Farris, Award
Scott Sheffield receives the Raymond Plank Award for Visionary Leadership from Steve Farris at the 40th anniversary dinner celebrating Ucross.

As a celebration of the creative spirit, the evening featured Ucross alumni. Susan Koozin and a band from the Alley Theatre performed “Lightning Strikes” from the musical Cowboy Bob, co-written by award-winning playwright and Ucross alumna Molly Beach Murphy. The evening also featured performances by acclaimed singer-songwriters and Ucross alumnae Kate Schutt of New York and Sarah Sample of Sheridan, Wyoming.

In addition, Ucross alumnus Seth Tummins of Waverly, Tennessee, created an oil painting live throughout the evening, which was purchased by a live auction attendee.

“Ucross is dedicated to fostering the creative spirit and honoring the creative process, without limits, expectations or obligations,” Ucross president William Belcher says, inviting the 215-plus guests to imagine each fellow’s experience. “As an artist, your time is your own, to dedicate to the creative process, for the next two, four, or six weeks: uninterrupted time in the most beautiful land with a chef who delivers lunch to your studio’s doorstep so you don’t have to stop working, and a staff dedicated to supporting your artistic vision.

“This is why we’re here, and this is what we must sustain for future generations of artists and those who believe in the power of art and the creative spirit.”

The evening, which raised $800,000 for Ucross programs, honored Scott D. Sheffield, founder and CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, the second largest crude producer in Texas. He was presented the Raymond Plank Award for Visionary Leadership, which was created following the death of Plank in 2018.

Ucross Houston Gala – Houston Ballet (Lauren Anderson on right)
Houston Ballet’s Stanton Welch, Julie Kent, and Lauren Anderson at the Ucross 40th anniversary dinner.

Introducing Sheffield, Ucross trustee Steve Farris, former Apache chairman and CEO, notes: “With his foresight and perseverance, Scott exhibits the same visionary leadership that Raymond Plank demonstrated when he founded the impactful organizations of Apache and Ucross.”

Representing several of Ucross’ Houston partners were Alley Theatre board member Kathryn Ketelsen and Alley Theatre creative director Rob Melrose and Houston Ballet’s Stanton Welch, Julie Kent and Lauren Anderson.

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