KALICO Brings Community Art to Kalispell

The art center held its inaugural “Quarantine Dreams” exhibition opening in early June as it gradually opens in phases downtown

By Maggie Dresser
From left, artists Heidi Marie Faessel, Kelly Moncur, Kage Harp, Olivia Stark and Tessa Heck are the creators behind the works featured in “Quarantine Dreams,” a contemporary art exhibition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at Kalico Art Center in downtown Kalispell on June 5, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

When the artists responsible for KALICO Art Center’s 2020 inaugural exhibition started brainstorming ideas last year, they chose to allow a theme to form organically over time.

“We just trusted a theme would emerge,” Exhibition Curator Jenny Bevill said. “We didn’t want to have them work to a theme.”

Once the pandemic took hold in March, the theme quickly evolved.

After a one-hour Zoom call, Bevill and the five artists agreed on “Quarantine Dreams,” an exhibit ranging from multimedia pieces to papier-mâché sculptures inspired by isolation and future reconnection.

While the artists worked to finish their pieces, Bevill and the KALICO Board of Directors were busy figuring out how to showcase the exhibition in an era of social distancing.

“How do we welcome people into the community that is safe and respectful?” Bevill said.

Instead of showing the exhibition digitally, organizers required everyone to wear masks, shrank the viewing to a maximum of 10 people and rotated several groups in 20-minute viewing increments to mitigate contact at the June 5 opening. The exhibition will on display all summer.

“We really went back and forth between doing it online,” KALICO Director Alisha Shilling said. “But there’s so much power with seeing art in person. We also felt it was important to find ways to be together safely.”

Shilling is also slowly phasing in-person activities back into the art center. Now open on Monday, Friday and Saturday, the center is offering pottery-painting reservations for the public. But Shilling also hopes to have more walk-ins as restrictions ease.

KALICO’s virtual Drink N’ Draw class meets via Zoom once a week, which Shilling plans to continue hosting virtually. Additionally, Kalico will host an in-person Drink N’ Draw once a month.

Kids art camps are also in the works, which will host a maximum of 10 kids per camp. While Shilling doesn’t yet have the logistics planned out for the camps, her goal is to keep the community safe while working within state mandates.

“It’s challenging, but we are figuring it out,” Shilling said. “We are busy just building this airplane in the air.”

Once KALICO is completely operating, Shilling hopes to be open six days a week to host fine art, painting and drawing classes, poetry slams and small concerts, all of which the board had hoped to start after their projected opening date at the end of March. But once the pandemic closed doors across Montana, KALICO scrambled to shift programs digitally.

“That was kind of the big question,” Board President Kirk Cornelius said. “How can we continue to do what we were planning to do in these new circumstances?”

Instead, KALICO collaborated with the Hockaday Museum of Art and ImagineIF Libraries to produce and donate 300 art kits, which were distributed to local elementary schools, the Samaritan House and other organizations. Kalico also hosted a digital living room music series and online poetry slams, while ramping up the Drink N’ Draw program, which Cornelius says drew participants from other states.

“It kind of sparked a light bulb,” Cornelius said. “Having digital versions of these programs actually allowed us to expand our community out into other places.” “You have to trust in the unknown,” he added. “Which artists are really good at.”

For more information, visit www.kalicoartcenter.com.

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