‘Downtown Stories’ Exhibition Connects Art, Business and Community

The interactive event in downtown Kalispell runs through Oct. 9

By Maggie Dresser
An art installation in the window of KALICO Art Center in Kalispell on Oct. 2, 2020. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In a socially distanced event, KALICO Art Center has facilitated a collaboration between Kalispell businesses and local artists to unveil “Downtown Stories,” an interactive exhibition running through Oct. 9.

KALICO has paired 10 downtown businesses with local artists to create art installations, which were designed to blend the histories of both the business and the artist, with short biographies of each also on display. Many installations will appear in the building’s window.

“Downtown Stories was created to bring people to downtown Kalispell in a safe way that respects COVID, and we’ve sent out a call for artists and businesses that want to participate,” KALICO Program Director Jemina Watstein said.

The art pieces will display new artist creations, designed specifically for Downtown Stories that “tell the business story.” Watstein, who spearheaded the event, says she wanted to give individual artists freedom to tell each story.

“I put trust into everybody that said they wanted to do it,” Watstein said.

As an interactive event, the community is also invited to use their photography skills to shoot the installation, which can submitted to the KALICO website and could be selected to hang in the art center’s window in the following weeks. Watstein is also hoping to create an online gallery where people can purchase images. The photos could also potentially be turned into stickers, she said.

“They might photograph the installation in an abstract way or they might come and take selfies in front of it,” Watstein said. “I’m hoping they find it fun and interactive and use it as an opportunity to be creative themselves.”

Watstein was eager to incorporate an interactive component with the event, and after her own experiences with exhibitions throughout her career, she’s noticed that people love interacting with art, especially with photography. Downtown Stories has allowed for the combination of both along with supporting local artists and business.

After pitching the idea to the Kalispell Downtown Association, the event evolved organically with support on all sides.

“The businesses have been excited about this,” Watstein said. “It’s been interesting to see and observe how they’ve worked together and it’s worked out well.”

Watstein has also created a map of each participating business in Kalispell for community members to follow, which can be found in participating businesses.

“The idea in the aftermath of the whole event can be used to share the community’s creativity, elevate a person who didn’t think they were an artist and financially support KALICO in one way or another,” Watstein said.

Participating businesses include 3 Rivers Bank, Nature Baby Outfitter, The Bookshelf, Montana Modern Fine Art, Instyprints, Imagination Station, Camas Creek Cottage, KALICO Art Center, A&E Design and Bias Brewing.

For more information, visit www.kalicoartcenter.com.


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