Sitting in a cozy corner of Hamilton’s Picturesque studio, Steve Wilson has his eyes on the clouds.
Standing right behind him – with her own paint brush in hand – Brooke Wetzel is studying the line of surf that anchors Wilson’s latest creation.
One artist to another, their conversation flows between composition, color and tone on the seascape painting that Wilson’s attention is focused on now.
“By the way, I like the palette knife work on those mountains, too,” Wetzel said, with a smile as she points to a finished painting resting against the wall.
It’s a conversation that must make Bitterroot Cultural Heritage Trust’s Kris Komar’s heart sing.
As the trust begins the final push to put together its second annual ARTrageous in the Bitterroot event, which brings together the valley’s creative community for galas, an art show, a concert and fine dining
Nov. 7-9, this simple interaction between two creative minds goes right to the event’s core.
“Artists are solitary by nature,” Komar said. “Most have their studios in their homes. They need a place to gather and a place to share their ideas.”
ARTrageous is helping to build that community amongst the surprisingly large number of talented artists that call the Bitterroot Valley home.
Along the way, it’s also providing an opportunity to create a new economy that could spill over into a variety of other businesses, said Komar.
“It’s one of the reasons that we chose this time of year for ARTrageous,” she said. “It’s the slowest time of the year for many of our local businesses. It’s the shoulder season. We hope to bring people here and fill up motel rooms.
“It could make a real difference for many local businesses,” she said.
Last year, the inaugural art show at the Ravalli County Fairground First Interstate Center attracted a crowd estimated between 1,200 to 1,500 people over a six-hour timeframe.
“Everyone was blown away,” Komar said. “People were impressed by how great the place looked. They were very impressed with the quality of the work and how outgoing all the artists were at the gala the night before the show.
“People were just pleased this was here,” she said.
Last year’s event was such a success that many of valley’s most well known artists have offered to step forward and support this year’s ARTrageous event by showcasing their own artwork.
“Local emerging artists and highly acclaimed artists whose work is internationally renowned will all work together this year to make it a success,” Komar said.
Some of the Bitterroot Valley artists who will show work include Gary Lynn Roberts, Brent Cotton, Troy Collins, Jerry Crandall and Julie Jeppsen.
The event’s organizers responded by expanding this year’s art show and sale to both Saturday and Sunday and adding a couple of new events.
ARTrageous begins again with a gala party on Friday, Nov. 7, from 7 to 10 p.m where people can meet the artists and get a first look at their work. Tickets for the event are $75.
On Saturday afternoon, local chefs and bakers will provide the soup and bread to be placed inside bowls created by local artists in the first-ever Bitterroot Empty Bowls event at the St. Francis Pastoral Life Center in Hamilton from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
That night, three of Montana’s finest musicians and songwriters – Philip Aaberg, Jack Gladstone and Rob Quist – will perform at the Hamilton Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.50 and $27.50
On Friday and Saturday, chefs from a number of local restaurants will prepare mouthwatering dishes featuring local lamb in their contribution to local art. Downtown Hamilton’s First Friday event will spill over into Saturday with special sales, artist’s demonstrations and performances.
To learn more about this year’s ARTrageous, go to bitterrootarts.org.
Komar hopes this year’s event will continue as a springboard to further the potential of what artists can add to the local economy.
“This is only a festival that last three days of the year,” she said. “It’s important that people see it as an opportunity to support our local artists with their feet. We hope to see a lot of people there.”