Montana Art Idols

Colt and Jen Idol are infusing youth into the Western art world as the new owners of the Dick Idol Signature Gallery in downtown Whitefish

By Dillon Tabish
Colt and Jennifer Idol, pictured on Oct. 12, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Stepping into the Dick Idol Signature Gallery in downtown is an experience akin to walking into the wilderness at daybreak or chasing twilight from the wings of an eagle. The serene landscapes envelop the room and dazzle with bright golden hues. In one corner, an elk tiptoes across a placid river. Across the room, teepees of ancestral tribes rest in a meadow along the foothills of the Rockies.

The details are unique and exact yet distinctly similar.

This is the contemporary Western identity of Colt Idol. The 27-year-old Whitefish native is an acclaimed artist showcased in galleries across the country. His oil paintings, capturing elements of the Old West in a distinctive style, have garnered high praise; one piece earned the highest selling price at last year’s C.M. Russell Museum art auction.

Idol is adding another title to his rapidly expanding resume: gallery owner. This summer, he and his wife Jennifer took over ownership of Colt’s father’s gallery on Central Avenue. Dick Idol, a renowned artist dating back decades, founded the gallery several years ago to showcase his sculptures and home furnishings, and it grew into a vibrant focal point for Western art. Colt grew up under his father’s tutelage and developed an identity all his own, crafting scenes and scenery that feature bold colors and “new faces of the Old West,” as he puts it.

In recent years, Dick was ready to hand off the reins for the gallery’s day-to-day operations so he could focus on additional furniture lines and bronze monuments, and Colt and Jennifer decided the time was right to take over the family business.

“We wanted to keep it in the family, keep the legacy going,” Jennifer said.

“It’s our hometown. It’s our community. It just felt right.”

The Idols are also infusing a youthful energy into the art world, which in many ways is needed in this digital age. The rise of technology has created a sense that younger generations might not seek out unique art, instead focusing on the ever-changing sensation of screens.

“There’s that younger generation that maybe didn’t grow up around art — they grew up in this digital age. Why buy original art?” Colt said. “We’re playing off feeling and value, and it’s a whole different mentality. Art does have value and it’s more of an emotional connection buying a piece of art rather than a poster.”

With that mentality in mind, the Idols try to find unique artists from around the world who have unique identities and styles that fit at their Whitefish gallery. Indeed, they’ve succeeded, and regularly feature many talented local artists, such as Rob Akey, Paul Dykman and Crystal Oftedahl Johnson.

The Idols plan is to keep showcasing artists of all types and to make their art gallery a place that is as much of an experience as it is a destination.

“It was a big decision to do this, and it’s pretty special,” Colt said.

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