A Mosaic for All Seasons

By Beacon Staff

In the art world, a mosaic is made from a collection of pieces of glass, clay, stone and other materials. And like a community of people, each piece is unique and has its own story.

With that in mind, the Stumptown Art Studio in Whitefish is working on a new project titled “Windows on Whitefish,” which abbreviates as WOW. The idea is to replace the mural on the building on the corner of East Second Street and Central Avenue, which currently houses Latitude 48 Bistro and Red Room Bar, with four large mosaics depicting the seasons in Whitefish.

“(The murals) needed to come down, and the public was thinking that maybe the Stumptown Art Studio did those a long, long time ago,” Deb Stika, a mosaic artist who teaches at the studio, said. “And we thought, it’s time even though we had nothing to do with them.”

Art studio director Melanie Drown said that once the studio decided to tackle the mosaics, they also decided that it should be a public project to spruce up the downtown area.

“So that is a part of where the idea was born, trying to beautify downtown and trying to create a bit of an art scene as well as trying to promote community spirit,” Drown said.

Windows on Whitefish

Deb Stika organizes broken pieces of glass to use in her mosaic classes at Stumptown Art Studio in Whitefish.

Instead of a painting, the art studio came up with the idea of four huge mosaics, each spanning 6 feet by 9 feet, that will appear as though the observer is looking out a window and onto a seasonal scene in Whitefish.

The mosaics had to be planned out ahead of time to get the correct color palette, Stika said, and because they will run in order and look as though they feature one continuous scene.

Members of the public are invited to take a mosaic class with Stika to learn the ins and outs of the craft, and then to come back and work on the actual windows. The class costs $25.

The first mosaic that will be completed at the studio is the window showing spring. It will likely be finished in June, Stika said. All four windows should be completed in about two years.

Stika said all of the mosaic workshops are full until May, but work on the summer window should begin in June and run through August, so there will be plenty of opportunity to get involved.

“It’s really kind of taken off,” Stika said.

By getting the general public involved with the project, Stika and Drown hope more people will feel pride and ownership in the mosaics. Drown said the studio received a small grant from the Montana Arts Council, but the windows will be expensive.

With that in mind, each window will have a place to exhibit sponsors who donated toward making it possible, Drown said, and those sponsors could include businesses and individuals.

Windows on Whitefish

A pedestrian walks past a window frame installed on the side of Latitude 48 facing U.S. Highway 93 in downtown Whitefish. The frame will house the first installment of the Windows on Whitefish mosaic public art exhibit.

The community is also invited to contribute pieces they may want to be included in the mosaic. Drown said the studio has already received pottery from the Izaak Walton Inn, and will be using a lot of donated glass, clay and porcelain.

Drown also said a man came into the studio and gifted the project with his father’s old Burlington Northern Sante Fe conductor’s key to go with the railroad scene in the spring mosaic.

“I think that’s where this project will succeed,” Drown said. “Once people learn about it and learn they can be part of history and part of its creation, I think it will snowball.”

For more information on the Windows on Whitefish project, including sponsorship information, visit www.stumptownartstudio.org or call 406-862-5929.

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