Artist receives invitation to Smithsonian |

Artist receives invitation to Smithsonian

by Kurt Hildebrand, Nevada Appeal writer

SILVER SPRINGS — Artist Virginia McCuin grew up in Nevada and learned about working metal from her Railroad Valley rancher father.

From those dusty roots, Virginia grew into a nationally recognized Western jewelry artist. She now has an invitation to send her work to the Smithsonian Institution, where it will appear in the Renwick Gallery as part of a tribute to the great American cowboy.

Along the journey, the 62-year-old has lived on her family property northeast of Tonopah, near Ely, and in Las Vegas before settling in Silver Springs six years ago.

Born in Tonopah to a native Nevadan and American Indian, McCuin says she grew up on the Twin Springs Ranch, which straddled the Railroad and Revellie valleys. Her father, Willie Fallini, was born in Tybo. Her mother was the daughter of a Potowatomi Indian.

She and her husband, Pat, purchased the ranch from her parents early on and worked it for a few years before selling it to the family and moving to a ranch near Ely.

With her children approaching school age, she and her husband sold the ranch in Ely and moved to Idaho for a year, then returned to Nevada.

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In Las Vegas, among the crowds and smog, that McCuin took up her metal work.

“I wanted to learn how to engrave,” she said. “My father used to make bits and spurs, and I would turn the forge. I ended up starting at the bottom and teaching myself how to do jewelry of all kinds.”

At the time, she was selling insurance, but when she began to make more money at her hobby, she quit.

In Las Vegas, she made the contacts that would result in her invitation to display at the Smithsonian.

Invited to show her work at the Dry Creek Fellowship in Arizona, she produced Western and wildlife jewelry as well as 14-karat gold and sterling silver pieces. The fellowship focuses on cowboy arts and includes saddlemakers, ropemakers and all sorts of paraphernalia.

McCuin said she received the letter from the Smithsonian saying she was nominated for the “Great American Cowboy” show.

She received the letter saying she was in a few months ago, but she isn’t packing her bags for Washington, D.C., just yet.

“The Smithsonian Institution is not an overnight affair,” she said. “It goes by steps. First you get invited, then you have almost a year to make the pieces. Then they photograph and catalog them. By the time the show comes around, it will be 2006.”

But McCuin says that’s all right with her.

“I’ve already got the design started,” she said. “It gives me time to take my time and do a very good job.”

Anyone interested in contacting McCuin may e-mail her at