Flathead’s Art Community Begins Reopening

Museums, galleries and more have started reopening to the public after two months of closures

By Maggie Dresser
The Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell on Dec. 9, 2019. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Since Montana began reopening its economy in early May, business managers across the state and in the Flathead have been learning how to operate with half capacity, deep sanitation and watchful eyes over customers.

The arts community is no different. After a two-month closure, the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell reopened its doors to the public on Saturday, May 16, with restrictions including six-feet-apart distancing, plentiful hand sanitizer, a visitor sign-in and a half-capacity space.

“There’s still a great need in the arts and arts education at this time,” Hockaday Museum Executive Director Alyssa Cordova said.

Amid the pandemic, the Hockaday is showcasing a special family exhibition called “Hope and Hard Times: Children in Art from the Hockaday Collection,” a series of pandemic-inspired pieces that will live on through history. The exhibition includes work from Bob Scriver, Jeanne Hamilton and more, which will be displayed in the Community Gallery.

Cordova says the exhibition will preserve the pandemic hardships and memories for future generations.

“Looking at Landscape: Dale Beckman and Richard Thompson” will also be on display at the Hockaday. Both exhibits will run through May 23.

While the Hockaday will be open for exhibitions, the museum will continue to stay closed for school and public tours and programs, classes, receptions and workshops.

“We’re not going to have any gatherings,” Cordova said. “Typically the museum has all types of programming we offer daily … but at this point we’re just focused on having a space for people to come and have a restful and hopeful experience.”

In addition to fewer programs, the museum will limit its hours to Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with hours for seniors 65 and older to Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Like the Hockaday, Frame of Reference Fine Gallery in Whitefish is also learning to grapple with COVID-19 restrictions. When the gallery opened on May 4, owners Elizabeth and Derek Vandeberg began taking visitors on an appointment-only basis, but have since unlocked the doors to the public.

With three separate display areas, Elizabeth says complying with social distancing and capacity rules has been fairly smooth sailing. She also asks each person entering the gallery if they are an out-of-state traveler and denies visitors if they have not completed a 14-day quarantine.

At Bigfork Summer Playhouse, Music Director Brach Thompson says the summer lineup hasn’t seen any major changes due to COVID-19 interruptions.

While the first early season show was canceled, the playhouse still plans on showcasing the four musicals that were originally planned, including Newsies, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Sister Act and Something Rotten.

But with a theater capacity of 432, Thompson says that after he blocks off every other row and leaves two seats between every group, roughly 170 audience members will be a full house.

“It’s going to be an odd year in the way people see (shows),” Thompson said.

While Thompson says he’s received mixed reviews about the playhouse reopening, he says Bigfork’s businesses are supportive of the shows.

“Bigfork needs all of us,” Thompson said. “We’re there to help provide people to the restaurants. We bring in 400 people a night and the last thing we want to do is shut anything down.”

Bigfork Summer Playhouse shows are tentatively scheduled to reopen July 2, assuming Montana has entered the second reopening phase, and ending Aug. 22. For tickets, visit http://www.bigforksummerplayhouse.com.

For more information on the Hockaday Museum of Art and Frame of Reference Fine Art Gallery, visit http://www.hockadaymuseum.org and http://www.frameref.com.

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