Metropolitan Feel in a Small Town

Artist Marshall Noice transforms Main Street studio into modern art gallery celebrating Montana artists

By Molly Priddy
The opening show at Montana Modern Fine Art on March 3, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Transformations are inherently interesting to human nature: We get used to seeing someone or some place a certain way, and when they change or evolve, our perspectives typically do too.

Shifting the paradigm is one of life’s few constants, and in Kalispell, two transformations have transpired in one place, ready to change how valley residents see or think about or even just enjoy art.

Montana Modern Fine Art has opened its doors to the bustle of Main Street, with a wide-open space, red oak floors, white walls, and exposed brick from the original building’s 1899 construction.

It’s a bright, airy, modern space, at home in any metropolitan area, which is what owners Marshall and Jackie Noice were going for when they renovated Noice Studio & Gallery last winter.

They demolished a room in the space and took out a counter, making the whole area accessible to visitors seeking to view and/or buy the art on the walls. And that art is also part of a major transformation, at least for one artist.

Ron Scharfe is the gallery’s first artist to exhibit there with his show, “An Uneven Distribution of Pigment,” which opened on March 3. Scharfe has always had an artist’s heart, graduating from the Art Institute before pursuing various business interests, including running Rocky Mountain Outfitter on Kalispell’s Main Street with his brother, Don Scharfe.

He also worked as a color consultant, and his paintings prove his strength. His work is modern, with splashes and shapes of color interacting and flowing, floating on top of one another or jumbling together to create a pseudo landscape or anything else the viewer may want to see.

It’s pleasant, and it’s professional, which is part of the transformation for Scharfe, who has only been seriously painting for a year.

“I’m doing what I’m really, really passionate about,” Scharfe said in an interview with the Beacon. “This was always on the backburner.”

Marshall Noice said Scharfe’s work represents a nice introduction to what Montana Modern Fine Art will offer the valley. There will be only six shows a year, and the gallery will only work with a few artists at a time.

The walls will offer space for each piece, and the gallery itself is open and airy enough to allow a visitor to feel like they are in a contemporary museum.

“We want to give the art room to breathe,” Noice said.

It’s also an opportunity to take some of the spotlight off his work and promote art that Flathead Valley residents may not get the chance to see unless they head to galleries in major cities. Noice is known for his oil paintings, photography, and pastels, with his work hanging in galleries and museums around the world.

Noice said at Montana Modern Fine Art, they would work with mostly Montana artists, but a few out-of-state artists will join them. One technically out-of-state artist, Sarsten Noice, still considers herself a Montanan despite living in California, Noice said of his daughter, whose paintings hang across the gallery from his own.

There’s also opportunity to connect with the community in person, both Marshall and Jackie Noice said, because the gallery will host events along with finding its place among the other vibrant businesses dotting the historic heart of Kalispell.

“We’re excited about the opening and being part of the downtown community,” Jackie Noice said.

Overall, the Noices hope the new gallery attracts all kinds of viewers for a metropolitan modern art experience right here in Northwest Montana, something out of the norm to move them or have them think or see in a new way, each piece bringing about its own small transformations.

“We need art,” Marshall Noice said.

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