50 Artists to Watch: Whit Olson

Farmer, rancher and artist Whit W. Olson has been making a name for himself in the traditional cowboy arts scene throughout the past several years. His art form, rawhide braiding, means he works with the untreated hide that remains in its natural state.

“Only God and a Rawhide Braider can bring a dead cow back to life,” he says.

Whit began braiding in 2001 while at college in Brookings, SD. After moving to Montana, he met fellow braider and friend Hial Steele and working with another artist helped him improve. What started out as a part-time job quickly turned into a passion.

With the help of Nate Wald, Leland Hensley and other members of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association (TCAA), Whit’s abilities grew even further.

In 2014 Whit was awarded the Academy of Western Artists Braider of the Year award. And this year, he won the 2016 TCAA Fellowship which he has been working on for the last year with some of the best braiders in the world.

Whit’s work can be seen at many events including Trappings of the Great American West, Trappings of Texas and Elko Cowboy Poetry Gathering.

Whit makes his home on his ranch near Canistota, SD with his wife, Megan, and their three young children. He also keeps his work updated on his Facebook page, so check him out @WhitOlsonRawhideBraiding.




50 Artists to Watch is a special project we’re embarking on in celebration of our 50th anniversary at the South Dakota Arts Council. This series of short artist features is intended to share the work of South Dakota artists on a wide platform. It is not intended as a list of top or best artists. It is not presented in any particular order. Featured artists are being selected from nominations sent to us. You can nominate an artist by emailing sdac@state.sd.us. We can’t include them all, but we’ll keep all nominations on a list for future features and blogs.

We welcome your continued suggestions for 50 Artists to Watch and your (constructive) comments about the work of those being featured.


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