Artist Residency Program Connects Artists to Northwest Montana’s Wilderness

KALISPELL – A residency program attracting artists from across the country offers a chance to fully immerse themselves in and be inspired by the wilderness of northwestern Montana.

“Continuing your creative process and getting out into nature allows you to grow in ways you couldn’t foresee and it’s a risk and a chance that’s definitely worth it,” landscape painter Ken Yarus told MTN. News.

Since 2004, 50 artists from various mediums have participated in the Artist Wilderness Connection program at the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell.

“We’ve had artists come from as far away as Connecticut, Iowa, and then right here in Montana,” said Teresa Wenum, conservation education specialist for the Flathead National Forest.

Each summer, selected performers hike to a remote cabin in the backcountry of the Flathead National Forest, staying for up to two weeks at a time in a remote and beautiful setting.

The program is a partnership between Hockaday, The Flathead National Forest, Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation and Swan Valley Connections.

“We had writers. musicians, sculptors, and of course your visual artists, photographers so it’s been very diverse,” Wenum added.

Artists create works on their own schedule, inspired by their surroundings, with all necessities provided except their own art materials.

“If you’re not from here, you might not know how amazing this opportunity is,” said oil painter Richie Carter.

Flathead artists Richie Carter and Ken Yarus participated in the residency in 2016, staying at the Granite Cabin in the Great Bear Wilderness.

Together they produced nearly 50 paintings.

“That’s why it’s so good to have so much time because you only take a few days to acclimate to this pace, you know no cell phones, no distractions and all day to paint is a pretty great luxury,” Yarus said.

After the residency ends, each artist is required to present their work to the Hockaday Museum of Art, either through an exhibition, performance, or educational program.

“It really varies, we really tailor it specifically for this artist and we work very closely with the artist to design this project,” said Alyssa Cordova, executive director of the Hockaday Museum of Art.

Yarus said he continues to draw inspiration from his time in residence, cherishing a painting of Granite Cabin that he keeps for himself.

“Paintings when you do them outdoors are like little screenshots in your memory, every time I see a painting I can remember the time of day, the smells, the feeling of all of that, it’s fun to be able to have these little keepsakes, I’m sad that I only have one, but we sold the rest, which is cool,” Yarus said.

Artists can find an application for the program online.
The application deadline is February 18.

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