When Stumptown Art Studio began at its original location on Obrien Avenue in 1995, the newly founded nonprofit mostly offered youth art education, but, 25 years later, it’s become a diverse venue for kids and adults of all ages to express their creativity.
While the studio has maintained a strong emphasis on kids, the downtown Whitefish location on Central Avenue, where it relocated from Obrien Avenue, has evolved into a space that hosts artist exhibitions, afterschool art clubs, adult classes, public art projects and more.
In addition to the studio, Stumptown Art travels to community events around the valley throughout the year, including Huckleberry Days, the Whitefish Trail Hootenanny and others. Managers Melanie Drown and Jessica Inez try to immerse the studio in the community as much as possible.
“After 25 years, they’re finally calling us to ask us to be at these events,” Drown said. “We’ve been knocking on doors forever.”
Flanked by a restaurant and an art gallery, the studio’s location in downtown Whitefish resembles a retail space to pedestrians passing by, and Drown says many of them don’t initially realize it’s a nonprofit.
But after building a reputation as a community art center for more than 20 years, Drown and Inez say the studio is seeing a steady stream of kids and adults taking classes, dropping in to work on personal projects and participating in public art display projects.
In the last two years, Drown says they’ve focused a lot of energy on creating more public art displays in downtown Whitefish.
Stumptown Art Studio finished its most recent public project in December, an illuminated bronze and patina whitefish sculpture displayed in front of Whitefish City Hall on East Second Street. The project took two years to complete.
Additionally, more than 600 community residents participated in creating the colorful, stained-glass windows scaling the outside walls of Latitude 48.
“That was so powerful because that pulled our community together,” Drown said.
The studio also organized classes for more than 200 adults and kids to learn how to stamp and paint their own tiles, which were later donated back to the studio and installed on the Whitefish River trail pedestrian bridge.
In collaboration with Whitefish High School, Stumptown Art Studio will also work with students to create their “Gear Project,” an outdoor sculpture that will be located outside the Center for Sustainability and Entrepreneurship on campus. Made out of old gears found at a farm south of Kalispell, the sculpture will be laser-cut out of steel and welded together to represent the sharing of ideas and knowledge. A sculptor from the art studio will lead the project, but Drown says the students will orchestrate most of the project. They expect to complete the project by June 2020.
While more collaborative and public art projects are in the works, Stumptown Art still offers its popular clay co-op, art club classes, “Canvas and Cocktails” classes and, for kids, the “Canvas and Cookies” classes, as well as special events like Wild Women Wednesdays and drop-ins.
Drown says the drop-in option has boosted funding for the nonprofit, which cycles back into education programs.
New next month, the studio will offer a “Make and Take” class where adults and kids can stop by to paint glassware and take it with them the same day. Inez says this is ideal for tourists who are only in town for the day.
Stumptown Art won’t have its 25th anniversary until September, but Drown and Inez plan to celebrate all year with special events and flash sales on the 25th day of every month in 2020.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the studio offered a Prize Wheel Tuesday where people can stop by to spin the wheel to win discounts, coupons and pick from a bin of prizes.
To celebrate the studio’s birthday in September, Drown and Inez will throw a big party with music, guest speakers, a themed auction and a birthday cake.
For more information, visit www.stumptownartstudio.org.