Todd Hayes

A piece from "Dwellings," by Todd Hayes. The Utah artist's work was at FrontierSpace in December 2013.

Cory Walsh

On any given First Friday, you can find some of the most adventurous art of the evening at FrontierSpace, “the little gallery in the alley” between Sushi Hana and Pine Street.

What’s less obvious, unless you stop to read the mission statement pinned to the wall, is that the modestly sized space is run by MFA students from the University of Montana.

It’s completely independent of the university, and the co-directors – on student budgets, mind you – curate 12 shows a year and pay the expenses themselves.

“It’s money out of our pocket,” said Tyler Nansen, one of the two students who runs the space between thesis work and course instruction. “We think it’s important for the community.”

On Sept. 5, the gallery will host a silent auction with 40 to 50 pieces by artists from Missoula, Butte, Portland, Oregon and as far-flung as Korea. The proceeds will help cover the costs of rent, basic maintenance and other expenses.

It’s also aimed at benefiting one of the gallery’s core missions, “to bring in contemporary art from outside the region to expose Montanans to work they couldn’t see otherwise,” said Nansen, an MFA student in ceramics and sculpture.

That means paying for simple things such as return shipping. In June, for instance, the gallery displayed digital prints that artist Joe Meiser created with computer-assisted design software.

Nansen mailed the Bucknell University professor’s work back to Pennsylvania at a cost of $300. That’s “three hundred bucks for a show for four hours,” Nansen said.

Help covering the costs could help them work with more professional contemporary artists.

“I think funds will keep it at the same level and bring more to Missoula,” he said.

They’re also working on ideas to make the gallery as “enticing a space as possible,” Nansen said.

He and fellow co-director Tress Jones just moved into a house with a spare room, so that an artist could visit from out of state and stay for a week or so to work on an installation.

An abbreviated list of artists donating work to the auction include Sunshine Cobb, Chris Dufala, Matt Hamon, Giselle Hicks, Trey Hill, Anna Kirsten Lemnitzer, Beth Lo, Sarah Moore, Courtney Murphy, Joey Walker and Dave Wilson.

“They’re giving work as supporters of the space, have shown at the space or would want the space to continue,” Nansen said.

They’re not the co-directors’ friends, but “friends of the space,” Nansen said.

The auction will occur only in person on First Friday, though, and there’s no sample photos online.

Like any other First Friday at FrontierSpace, stop in or you’ll miss it entirely.

Silent auction on First Friday

FrontierSpace, an alternative art gallery in downtown Missoula, will hold a silent auction fundraiser on First Friday, Sept. 5. The bidding will start at 5 p.m. and close at 8:30 p.m. The gallery will remain open until 10 p.m. It’s located off Pine Street in the alley between Sean Kelly’s and Sushi Hana.

For more information on the gallery, including its past exhibitions, visit its website at

How the gallery works

FrontierSpace is an alternative art gallery run by a group of co-directors. Since it was founded four years ago, those co-directors have traditionally been visual arts students in the MFA program at the University of Montana, although that’s not a firm requirement.

“It’s a hard sell to be part of a gallery that isn’t about selling work and is money out of your pocket every month,” said co-director Tyler Nansen.

And so participants have usually been MFA students who are excited about bringing experimental work into the community and vice versa.

The gallery has a year-round, open submission process.

“If we think it fits the space, we’re always open for that,” he said.

The co-directors collectively make the final call on what goes up in the gallery.

Details on artist statements and applications are available at

Entertainer editor Cory Walsh can be reached at 523-5261 or at

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