A Broad Spectrum of Artists

By Beacon Staff

Once a year, Kalispell’s Hockaday museum has a coming out party for its members. And each year the show gets bolder, brassier and bigger.

The members’ revelation: an abundance of artistic talent.

“I’d say about 20 percent of these people are professional artists, people who make their living doing this,” said Lucy Smith, the Hockaday’s marketing and development director. “For the rest, art is their avocation, not their vocation.”

The Hockaday’s annual Members Salon opened last week, with a reception attended by about 200 people. The theme of this year’s show, which welcomes artwork from all of the museum’s members, is “Changes.” The 85 entries, hung salon style, will be up through Dec. 19. The public can vote once for their favorite piece, and “People’s Choice Awards” will be given the night of the Kalispell Art Walk.

The Members Salon seems to suggest some unexplainable connection between being a member of an art museum and possessing artistic talent. Entries run the gamut, from a painted chair, woodcarvings and encaustic to oil and acrylics. But two things remain consistent: high quality and an inability to distinguish the “amateurs” from the “professionals.”

“They say there are amateur and professionals here, but I’ve walked through and I sure can’t pick out the amateurs,” said Linda Christensen, a local artist who specializes in watercolor but submitted a woodcarving for the show. “It’s only how people label themselves.”

For those who make a career of their artistic talents, the Members Salon is an opportunity to experiment with a different style or medium and a relief from the pressures of presenting a one-person gallery show. “In a one-woman show I felt very exposed, really vulnerable. In this you just have one piece, so you’re striving to be a little different, trying to measure up with other artists in the show,” Lavonne Burgard, a former Flathead High School art teacher turned full-time artist, said.

Others like Barbara Beckwith and Michael Evans enjoy the opportunity to break in to the art community or just show off their work. Beckwith said the members’ show was the first time she had entered her artwork since taking time off to raise her son, Vincent. “It’s fun to be back into it; It was so much a part of my life for so many years,” she said.

Evans works two jobs, one hanging artwork at the Hockaday and the other as a technician at Flathead Valley Community College. Somewhere in his 60-hour workweek, he also finds time to create around 200 pieces of art a year. The Members Salon, which he’s been a part of since its inception six years ago, is his only gallery showing each year.

“In the beginning, people offered up more modest pieces, but with each year things have gotten bolder, brassier – in all the good ways,” he said.

Donna Gans, a Whitefish artist, also has her first solo gallery show running in conjunction with the members show. Gans focuses on landscapes, but from a different vantage point, often displaying Montana landscapes vanishing behind construction projects.