A New Gallery for Montanans, by Montanans

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – Deena Brenden had a vision and Thomas Lewis could see it too. Sometimes art works like that. Sometimes a gallery just makes too much sense to ignore.

Brenden and Lewis believe the recent opening of Gallerie at Piney Creek is a valuable showcase opportunity for Flathead artists who lack a presence in Whitefish. And, they say, the community benefits by having an ongoing exhibit of local artists in a prominent downtown location.

Thomas G. Lewis puts the finishing touches on a painting at Piney Creek Interiors in Whitefish. Lewis grew up on a cattle ranch and says that experience influences him to paint things related to the cowboy culture.

The gallery is located in the upstairs level of Piney Creek Interiors, which Brenden owns. Brenden had thought about opening a gallery in her interior design store for some time, but it wasn’t until she had conversations with Lewis, a Bigfork artist, that the idea began to take shape.

A committee was formed to select local artists who fit the bill for the newly formed Gallerie at Piney Creek. The result is an eclectic and decidedly Montanan collection, showcasing artists – including household names – from around the region.

“Our goal is the Montana experience,” Brenden said.

Among the artists represented at Gallerie are the late and famed painter Joe Abbrescia, internationally recognized sculptor Eric Thorsen and painter Kelly Apgar of the noted Apgar family.

Lewis has a number of pieces on display as well, along with Toni Whitney, Brandon Wiese, Mary Kelley and Clint Walker. Media include oils, watercolors, alkyds, pastels, photographs and sculptures.

Apgar has displayed her art extensively throughout Northwest Montana, but said she has never had much gallery representation in Whitefish, which is a common theme among the other artists featured at Gallerie as well.

For that reason, among others, Apgar said the new gallery is an important addition to the Flathead art scene.

“It was a real honor to be selected,” Apgar said, “and it felt like a perfect fit for me too.”

Lewis envisions Gallerie playing a complimentary, rather than competitive, role in helping to strengthen Whitefish’s gallery community.

“I don’t see it as pitting anyone against anyone,” Lewis said. “I see it helping promote everyone.”

Thomas G Lewis scoops paint onto his brush at Piney Creek Interiors in Whitefish.

“Bigfork got to be known as an art community,” he added. “There’s no reason that can’t happen here.”

At a soft opening last week, Gallerie’s featured artists said they were excited by Piney Creek’s location at 100 Central Avenue, which shares a corner with First Street and was home to Flanagan’s Central Station before it shut down in 2007. Brenden moved in last year.

Not only do the artists like the gallery’s visibility, but also its connection to the interior design store. Lewis and Apgar note that Piney Creek already attracts the types of customers Gallerie is seeking.

“Piney Creek and Deena have clients who want that Montana feel in their homes,” Apgar said. “And what better way to do it than with Montana art by Montana artists?”

Whitney, a painter who has shown in Bigfork and Ennis in the past, believes Piney Creek’s cheery personnel bodes well for the upstairs gallery.

“The girls who work here have established themselves and I think their personalities will pull people in,” Whitney said. “That’s going to make a huge difference.”

Apgar said the gallery’s rotating artist-in-residence feature should be attractive to the public as well. Customers and passersby will have the opportunity to watch one of the artists at work, sometimes in the gallery itself and other times on the street.

“People want that personal connection,” Apgar said. “That’s what we’re going to give them here.”

Gallerie at Piney Creek is located at 100 Central Ave. in Whitefish and can be reached at (406) 862-7463.

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