Fresh Look and Perspective at Bigfork Center

Shift from art museum to cultural center allows for more events, different exhibits

By Molly Priddy
Valerie Vadala Homer, director of the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center, pictured April 22, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Like most towns in Montana, the village of Bigfork is at once unique and familiar, a place where the seasons dictate the town’s feel, whether that’s the frenetic, welcome chaos of summer or the cozy, quietness of winter.

Its unique qualities come from the people who inhabit it, the community of diverse characters who share the major commonality of calling this place home.

This is the idea at the center of a recent cultural shift in the village. What used to be known as the Bigfork Museum of Art and History has changed back to its original name, the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center (BACC). Along with getting back to the name, director Valerie Homer said BACC will also focus on being as community-minded and community-involved as possible.

“It’s been like starting a new business from the ground up,” Homer said in an interview last week.

Homer herself is a new addition to BACC, starting as director with the center’s revamping. Her previous experience in the art world includes being the founding director at the Scottsdale Public Art Program in Scottsdale, Arizona, and curating the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, among others.

BACC board president Shadowhawke said the shakeup started taking root about two years ago, but really came into focus last fall. Homer replaced longtime director Marnie Forbis, and the center closed for two months in winter, allowing for renovation.

Through grant money, they were able to replace most of the floors in the building, along with add a new welcoming kiosk near the entrance. The center’s shop was also spruced up with new merchandise that will complement and rotate with the seasons, Homer said.

The upper galleries, which generally features historic pieces, have been readjusted to allow for more representation in the first two bays, and a classroom space was added toward the back of the building.

The rebranding also led to a shift in the annual shows presented at the center. Both Shadowhawke and Homer said the center had fallen into a familiar cycle each year with repeating shows, and they want to create a new look.

This means a change in the art that will be displayed there, Homer said, because now “art” will include not just flat paintings on walls. There’s opportunity for community-involved projects, such as bringing in people to crochet a giant sculpture or hosting exhibits about the art of cocktails, with art about cocktails complemented with actual spirits.

The two annual member shows – a chance for the center’s 250 members to showcase their art – will remain, due to their popularity. And the art displayed at the center itself will see a fresh rotation of artists in general, she said.

“We really wanted a fresh look and we wanted to give other people opportunities,” Homer said.

Those opportunities could also come from the community itself, which Homer is inviting to approach her with ideas for exhibits and activities. It was community input that led them to change the name back to BACC, she said.

“The community believes that we need an art center, the community believes that we need a cultural center,” she said.

There will also be more collaborative projects between the center and other entities, Homer said.

As a nonprofit, BACC receives its funding through grants and membership dues. In an effort to bolster its coffers, BACC is hosting Springtime in Paris: The Art of French Food, Wine and Cocktails on April 29 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. It’s also a chance for the community to check out the new space. Tickets are $25.

Upcoming exhibits include the Spring Member’s Show, with a reception on May 6; “Earthworks,” with a reception on June 3; National Parks Centennial, with a reception on July 15; “Art in Fiber,” with a reception on Aug. 26; Montana Watercolor Society, with a reception on Sept. 30; “Festival of Trees” with a reception on Nov. 18; and the Winter Member’s Show on Nov. 25.

The center’s website will have updates of monthly events as well. For more information, visit www.bigforkculture.com.

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