Paint, Metal and Mud
If you ever doubt that the beauty of the mountains surrounding Kalispell can inspire art in every medium, step into Paint, Metal & Mud. Twelve local artists comprise this 18-year-old cooperative, which sits just off Main Street next to the Kalispell Grand Hotel, and much of their work takes cues from striking natural elements of the Flathead Valley.
You’ll find beautiful scenic shots by John Ashley, a photographer known for his book Glacier National Park After Dark; graceful watercolor renderings by Lois Sturgis, who paints flowers and animals; and quilted and textile art by Monique Kleinhans, who composes vast natural scenes with hand-dyed fabric.
Another fiber artist, Francine Brown, creates woven tapestries, pillows, and scarves that don’t always depict nature in a literal sense, but incorporate beautiful colors found outdoors. Ann Schmidt, who makes pendant lights, clocks, and keepsake boxes with glass, makes use of light in her art. Cheryl Ross Ellingson, a potter, says that Montana’s beauty has influenced the glaze and form she uses.
Goldsmith Pia Eaves, along with graphic designer Michaele Eaves and jeweler/stain glass artist Pat Jones, formed the collective nearly two decades ago to take control of their careers as artists. While a gallery will often take anywhere between 40 and 60 percent of the profit, Paint, Metal & Mud artists keep 100 percent of sales, and the cost to maintain the space isn’t a heavy burden with 12 members contributing to rent. And the central Kalispell location is a boon, Pia says, because artists and art-lovers visit from all corners of Northwest Montana.
The shop, which sits on First Street West, is also accessible by the Kalispell Grand Hotel lobby. The space used to be the hotel’s breakfast room, and many hotel guests still stop by for gifts and souvenirs.
The 12 artists meet once per month to make sure business is running smoothly, catch up, and discuss guest artists—they currently have two, a mosaic and a graphic artist. The supportive, collaborative model allows them to explore whatever type of creation they want without being held accountable to someone whose only interest are sales.
“It has ups and downs,” Pia says of business, noting that the summer is the busiest season with the influx of tourists.
But the old building and its history points solidly to one fact—with deep enough roots, businesses here can weather any storm. Besides, the future holds sunny skies, Pia thinks. The Kalispell economy is growing, expanding, and supporting the arts better than it ever has. She’s not sure if the cooperative will ever expand, though, because the space is chock full with goods as it is, and she can’t imagine growing out of the downtown location.
Click on photo thumbnails below to view gallery.