When we decided that we should dedicate the February blogs to the arts in Southwest Montana, I thought I was going to have a pretty easy time of it. Southwest Montana is absolutely riddled with artsy things. Art galleries and jewelry shops fill Montana towns. Many towns boast some sort of artists’ community. Springs, summers, and falls in Southwest Montana are positively rife with art walks and festivals celebrating local talent. And preforming arts? Don’t get me started. The Grandstreet, the Myrna Loy, the Virginia City Players, the Brewery Follies, the Orphan Girl, the Mother Lode, the Montana Shakespeare Company, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, the Philipsburg Opera House . . . the list goes on and on and on.
My problem, it turns out, was narrowing the enormous amount of material into just a few blogs. I won’t have enough time to visit all of the art venues in Southwest Montana that deserve mention, let alone write about them all. So today I will focus on just one: the Holter Museum of Modern Art in Helena. For years the Helena Arts Council supported exhibitions and performances in Helena. Finally, in 1986, the Council managed to purchase the building of the former Montana Power & Equipment Building downtown. By 1987, the building had been renovated and opened as the Holter Museum of Art, named after one of Helena’s pioneering families. From the beginning, the Holter has focused on two main things: bringing contemporary artwork to Helena, and offering high-quality community art classes. The Holter has succeeded magnificently on both counts. In fact, as early as 1989 one of the exhibits earned a half-page article in the Wall Street Journal, which definitely helped boost credibility. Today, the Holter Museum of art comprises 17,000 square feet, including two classrooms and five galleries. The Holter features some of the finest shows in the country. And did I mention that admission is always free?
There are countless ways to enjoy the arts in Southwest Montana. You can visit one of the many museums and galleries, you could watch a play or go to the symphony, you could attend some of the many art shows and festivals. The scenery and history of Southwest Montana have inspired some truly great artists, and a deep appreciation of the arts. The Holter lets you experience the best that Montana has to offer. When you visit the Holter you will see Montana artists on display alongside nationally renown names, and, perhaps best of all, the Holter teaches the tools for you to make art yourself. Is there a better way to commemorate you travels in Southwest Montana?