– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –
From June 30 to August 6, 28 members of the Montana Painters Alliance will show their work at the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, Montana. We asked members of the Alliance how they landed such a plum exhibition.
Lead Image: “Morning on McDonald Creek,” by Rob Akey, oil, 24 x 18 in.
Each artist will likely have two paintings in the 2-D show. Montana Painters Alliance member Rob Akey is handling the selection, documentation, and logistics. He talked to PleinAir Today about how the exhibition came about.
The major factors behind the securing of the show are not earth-shaking. There is no magic bullet. It comes down to two things: finding a match with a museum that is in line with your organization’s approach to art, and building relationships with that museum. Then it just takes a steady hand and a seriousness about one’s work.
“The short answer is we landed a show like that because they know who I am and they know some of our other members, and they know us to be serious artists of some standing,” says Akey. “The proposal to have a show like this was made two or three years ago. They reviewed our members and made sure we are what we say we are, and things proceeded from there.” Akey says he has been involved in activities with the museum for more than 10 years. “A lot of the towns in Montana have art museums, and we support them,” he says. “When you have a relationship like that, it’s not that difficult to propose a show like this and make it happen.”
The vast majority of the painters in the Montana Painters Alliance are full-time artists. Akey says there are a few who are retired and don’t need or want to take on the steady production of images and the selling of the work, but all are devoted to their craft. In general, some museums may be looking for impressive curriculum vitaes, others will feel it is important to “show good quality work from anyone who has a love of painting.”
But it’s not just going to come together out of the blue.
Akey points out that the Hockaday is a community museum that is oriented toward paintings of nearby Glacier National Park. It is decidedly sympathetic to both plein air painting and representational art. It is interested in local art and artists.
On the other side, the Montana Painters Alliance has a broad reach with a varied roster —and one thing in common. “The theme of the show is that we are a diverse group of painters from all across a pretty darn big state,” Akey says. “We all work in different media, styles, and subject matter, but all have an interest and love of plein air painting. It is some portion of what we do — it either feeds our studio work or we’re pure plein air. We have people working in oils, pastel, watercolor, and mixed media. But we’re all Montana residents.”
The Montana Painters Alliance is a solid organization, but it’s not an extremely active one. The group generally gets together twice a year for a paint-out and a show. As part of these multi-day get-togethers, the group plans out the next one or two paint-outs, selecting a location and handing out relevant duties. Alliance member Jerry Inman says that their work is generally well received. “We just had a fairly successful show in Big Timber, a small mountain community,” says Inman. “It was at Two Rivers Gallery — they had a nice show with a good turnout and some nice sales.”
Inman has a fairly clear view on why a show at the Hockaday worked out. “The Hockaday doesn’t have a narrow view about what art is, and I think they see that we are part of it,” he says. “We have had some luck with the C.M. Russell museum as well. We just paint on location and depict the reality of the situation at that time.”
Their next paint-out is in Helena on Memorial Day weekend.