Kalispell’s Hockaday Museum of Art, with its permanent and expansive collection of Glacier National Park paintings, is intimately tied to that alpine landscape, from which artists have drawn inspiration for decades. So it’s fitting that as Glacier Park looks back on its first 100 years this summer, the Hockaday is poised to begin the next phase of its life in downtown Kalispell.
The first tangible steps toward the long-term goal of expanding the Hockaday were taken last week with the demolition of two houses to its south. By mid-June, museum officials plan to have in place a parking lot and covered brick pavilion – just in time for the museum’s slate of summer events to coincide with Glacier Park’s Centennial celebration.
Tabby Ivy, the Hockaday’s board president, stood across Second Avenue East from the demolition last week, marveling as crews demolished two adjacent homes owned by the museum.
“It’s really amazing to see,” she said. “Knowing that it’s going to be a completed project in another month is really rewarding.”
Behind Ivy, a group of children at Smith Memorial Day Care stood inside the fence surrounding their playground watching the destruction, rapt.
“Having this all open, it can really showcase the unique architecture of the Carnegie building,” Ivy said of the 1904 structure housing the Hockaday. “It really is a gem of a building, and it will be much more prominent on this block now.”
On June 17 the Hockaday will hold the opening reception for its, “John Fery: Artist of the Rockies,” exhibition, which will feature some 23 pieces by the painter lent to the museum by Fery’s family, BNSF Railway and private collectors. But many of the paintings are large, Ivy said, and will take up much of the space inside the Hockaday, making the new outdoor pavilion essential for events like the Plein Air Paint Out party and sale.
For that event, 20 Montana artists are given three days to produce as many paintings in and of Glacier Park as possible. Those paintings will then be put up for sale at a fixed price at an exhibition and party June 26.
“That will be outside this year, under the tent,” Liz Moss, Hockaday executive director, said. “It will be complete by the beginning of the summer for all our Centennial events.”
For those wishing to make an individual contribution to the Hockaday’s expansion, the museum is offering, “Legacy Paver” stones, which can be inscribed with a name or message and will be used to line the pavilion floor. A 10-inch-by-5-inch stone costs $100 and a 10-inch-by-10-inch stone costs $150, with proceeds going to pay for the expansion. The deadline for the paver stones is May 15 to be included in the opening ceremony, but they can also be purchased after that date. When the construction of the Hockaday’s addition commences some time in the next few years, those stones will be used in its foundation.
That is a phase of the museum’s expansion, however, that Ivy acknowledges will take longer than the relatively brief month required to build the outdoor pavilion and parking lot. The planned future expansion will triple the space of the museum at a cost of $5.6 million, but it could be two years before the fundraising campaign for that phase begins. Eventually, the expanded Hockaday will feature expanded exhibition space, a better classroom for youth and community events, as well as dedicated space for the gift shop and staff work areas.
Moss called the prospect of expanding the Hockaday’s permanent collection, “huge.” The museum is currently trying to negotiate for 1,500 historical photos of Glacier Park, but the biggest issue, she said, is assessing how and where they would be stored. She noted the size and layout of the current Hockaday makes it tough to bring in as many traveling exhibitions as museum officials would like. Even many installations as close as the Missoula Art Museum, Moss said, often require more space and features like climate control – to prevent humidity from damaging fragile art – than the museum can provide at present.
Ivy is encouraged by the fundraising for the current phase of expansion, which, at about $235,000, covers the parking lot, landscaping, Centennial Pavilion and house removal. So far, the museum has raised about $160,000, an encouraging figure in this economy.
“The community support has been wonderful,” Ivy said. “It’s really nice to be able to accomplish this for the summer.”
Ivy hopes the popular Thursday!fest summer street parties shifting a block east will encourage Kalispell residents to take advantage of the Hockaday’s new green space, and draw more people to experience its exhibits, whether they are long-time Flathead residents who haven’t checked it out in a while or new to the valley.
And that is, essentially, the dual goal of the expansion: an improvement to the Hockaday that ultimately benefits and improves the city surrounding it as well.
“This is a wonderful project, just generally for downtown Kalispell. The more people we bring to the town benefits us, benefits the city,” Ivy said. “Ultimately, I think that’s the benefit of having a cultural core to a city, is it keeps people in the area longer.”
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