Art for the Fun of It

Summertime is big for the galleries in Bozeman and Livingston. Many offer extended summer hours and some are only open during the summer. For those of you who frequent them and buy the art, kudos to you. You are patrons of the arts and the artists of Montana. For the rest of us, who may occasionally stroll through a gallery, gallery walks are a great place to start an appreciation of all the local galleries and the artists they feature.

The Livingston Art Walks are on the fourth Friday of the month beginning in June and ending in September. Livingston is famous for being a small-town art mecca. There are an astonishing 13 galleries in three blocks. This makes them a definite tourist attraction, but they still maintain a community feel. Bonnie Goodman of Mordam Art in Livingston says the gallery walks have “a street-party atmosphere.” Most of the galleries offer wine (the Mordam gallery offers lemonade) and some even have live entertainment.

Brian Williams of Visions West gallery in Livingston and Bozeman said that of the two towns’ art walks, he prefers Livingston’s because they are “more social [and people] have more fun with it.” He thinks a big part of that is the galleries' proximity to one another. Bozeman’s galleries are so far apart that people don’t have time to hit them all. So a few trips over the hill this summer would be time well spent.

The Bozeman Gallery Walks are on the second Friday of every month from June through September. Tons of people file through in two hours and as Sheila Raskey, owner of Artifacts gallery in downtown Bozeman points out, it’s “a lot of work” for the galleries to prepare for the crowds. Although the galleries are the destination, Raskey finds that the real joy of the events is “bringing everyone together.” Her gallery goes through about 14 bottles of wine on an average night. But the work has its rewards. People who generally wouldn’t walk into a gallery enjoy the more open and comfortable atmosphere. And the free appetizers and wine are an added bonus.

Iris Model, owner of Indian Uprising Gallery in downtown Bozeman, speaks highly of the gallery walks. She agrees that the preparation is a lot of work, but it’s “very much worthwhile.” As a community activity, she says, the Gallery Walks are great because they “put the emphasis downtown, not on the artificial shopping centers. And downtown is the heart and soul of town.” Present at her gallery for many of the walks are the artists whose work she’s showing. The public and the artists, Model feels, really benefit from the open interaction.

The gallery walks in both Livingston and Bozeman are a great way to spend an evening—with friends, family, and local familiar faces. Because as Iris Model puts it, “Southwest Montana is not just about fly fishing, canoeing, and other outdoor activities. It’s also about the nurturing of culture and the cultural activities that go on here.”