A Backyard ‘Plein Air Glacier’

The Hockaday Museum of Art shifts to an online auction, a two-and-a-half week exhibition and the option to paint from home amid the pandemic

By Maggie Dresser
Artist Rob Akey creates a plein air painting of Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish on June 18, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

When COVID-19 began shutting down art exhibitions, museums and galleries in March, artists were simultaneously losing much of their livelihood.

But The Hockaday Museum of Art is still hosting its 13th annual “Plein Air Glacier: Paint Out,” this time with remote options for artists who cannot travel to the area due to COVID-19.

“We wanted to make sure it was possible to try and reimagine this event so we could still have it for our artists,” Hockaday Director Alyssa Cordova said.

Traditionally, artists from around the country and Canada travel to Montana to paint “en plein air,” which means “outdoors,” to participate in a 10-day paint out where artists paint in Glacier National Park and the surrounding Flathead Valley.

While the paint out will be the usual 10 days, Hockaday organizers have extended the parameters beyond the Flathead. Artists who are unable to travel due to the pandemic can now paint anywhere, as long as they are outside.

“This year we decided that we would be as inclusive as possible and allow any artists who were originally going to travel here and were not able to for any reason like travel restrictions or compromised immune systems,” Cordova said. “Now they have the option to do it from home.”

Cordova says she has received positive feedback from artists who weren’t able to travel this year, including one artist participating in the paint out whose spouse is recovering from the coronavirus.

“She sent an email saying that she’s so thankful that she can still participate because of this new format we’re using,” Cordova said.

In addition to location flexibility, paint out organizers wanted to create a more inclusive event this year and have accepted all 52 artists who applied instead of the typical 20-artist selection.

“This is kind of an exceptional year,” Cordova said. “We still want to stick with the tradition of a selective event … I think this is just such a unique moment and a time to really come together and support artists.”

The Hockaday has also traditionally organized tours where people can watch artists paint on-location in the park. But Cordova says there was no way to safely host a viewing this year.

While the Hockaday normally hosts an outdoor party at the end of the paint out with a one-night-only sale, organizers decided to cancel the party and shift to a Facebook Live online kickoff event on June 27 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. featuring local artists Mark Ogle, Rob Akey and more.

Although the outdoor party was canceled, Cordova says the museum is also able to offer new opportunities this year, like an extended exhibition, which will last two-and-a-half weeks.

New this year, the Hockaday will host an online art auction of more than 100 pieces on Saturday, June 27 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, visit the Hockaday’s page for the event.


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