Sculptures in the Wild

By Rick and Susie Graetz  |  Office of Research and Creative Scholarship  |  University of Montana

So, an Irishman and a logger walk into a Seattle bar. Imbibing spirits, they bond over their interest in knives, solve the world’s problems, and by the end of the night the two new BFFs think that with no source of funding, building a massive 26-acre outdoor art gallery in the middle of woods in Montana and getting renowned international artists to participate is a swell idea. And, just like that… Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild was born. Well, that’s my short version of the story and I’m sticking to it.

We can thank acclaimed Irish silversmith/environmental sculptor Kevin O’Dwyer and Lincoln, Montana, logger/rancher/Damascus steel knife mastersmith Rick Dunkerley for their vision and commitment. To date,18 art installations by highly accomplished artists from Germany, Norway, Finland, Ireland, the UK, Denmark, and the USA have ignited our imaginations, amazed us with the scale and creativity of their installations, put a tiny town on the “Must See” map, and proven O’Dwyer, Dunkerley, and a passionate army of believers and volunteers right.

Each piece of art represents the artist’s own understanding of the history and the landscape of the Blackfoot Valley. Like a house, but with no walls confining one’s thoughts, visitors are free to wander and interpret the outdoor furnishings in their own way. When I first came upon O’Dwyer’s vertical, bare steel Montana Line Drawing in the forest, I was struck by how strongly it represented the winter larch trees with their branches stripped of needles standing out against the evergreen fir trees; but to O’Dwyer, it portrays the repetitive pattern of a jackleg fence and is sited upright to create a tree-like structure. What do you think?

House of Sky | Courtesy Blackfoot Pathways

Part Grande Dame, part Great Old Broad, the Delaney Sawmill Sawdust Burner is the centerpiece of the Park. Weathered and worn, she stands solid, stately and proud… I am incessantly drawn to her. In the day-time, she is a gathering place, a shelter from the elements, a classroom… her walls portray the logging history of the valley. But at night, a burning red crown harkens me back to her early years and the memory of the massive lumber industry this state was built on. She is a force to be reckoned with.

It takes many adjectives to completely describe the Park. Often quiet, sacred almost, it can be boisterous with youngsters exploring, discovering, and creating their own personal works, photographers and painters making their own art out of the installations.

Whimsical, thought provoking, refreshing, educational, industrial, inspiring, respectful, natural, fun, and touchable are merely a few descriptors that come to mind. But don’t just take my word for it, go see for yourself!

Sculpture in the Wild is a gift to adventurers, art enthusiasts and ordinary folk everywhere and is a testament to the foresight, fortitude, and love of the land of the people of Lincoln. As the Base Camp to the Crown of the Continent, Lincoln has much to offer. With access to the great Bob Marshall Wilderness complex, it is smack in the middle of an outdoor paradise. Lincoln has a long history of hard-working people making a living off of the land, a stellar winter recreation playground, excellent hunting, Blue Ribbon trout streams, a welcoming community intent on moving forward and willing to put its shoulder to the grindstone to make things happen, and now a prestigious and world class art park.

I like Lincoln. It’s a “can do” town…it’s my kinda town.  For more information go to: