Lily Anderson looked down at her latest creation and pursed her lips.
“It looks like a Pinterest fail,” she said, spinning the yellow-painted pumpkin that had been topped with a heap of glitter.
Anderson is one of the founders of the Cool Art Club, a group started in the spring to try to help new artists in town find a group of like-minded creative people. Sunday’s get together was pumpkin decorating and luckily, Anderson had brought a backup: a small round gourd she had dripped in a series of bright shades of latex paint.
“I like it, it looks like a party,” Liz La told her, gesturing back at the glitter-festooned first attempt. “Hang it from the ceiling, it’s a disco ball.”
On the ground around the group of artists, who met in the backyard of La's home, were a jumble of decorations gathered from each of the participants' leftover supplies.
"Sometimes you go to the craft store and buy something then try it out and never use it again. I’m not going to throw it away, so this has been a useful place to let other people try it," La said while gluing a few extra googly eyes on the side of her palm-sized pumpkin.
La, who started the Cool Art Club with Anderson, came to Missoula from North Carolina in late 2016, and said — like Anderson, who moved from Bozeman — she struggled at first to find a way into the city's art scene, especially having not attended the University of Montana.
“I left a place where people knew me enough that I didn’t have to have a job. I could just paint and sell my work,” La said. “I came here and I didn’t know anyone or how to sell it. It’s really intimidating to move here and be like 'I’m an artist' if nobody knows you.”
When Compass Barbershop on Higgins Avenue opened shortly after she moved to town, La said she saw a social media post from the company looking for artists who wanted to display work inside and jumped at the opportunity. In late 2017 she met Anderson, who had recently moved to town, when she too put her work up at Compass.
Since forming the club, the pair try to organize two events per month for area artists looking to meet others, particularly those who don’t already have an artist social circle through attending UM.
“We really wanted to make something that felt approachable. That’s part of the reason for the name. It has a name like a kindergarten group so you will not feel intimidated to come if you want,” Anderson said.
The group also organizes pop-up shops and group gallery spaces for members, something Anderson said is helpful for artists who don’t always have enough finished pieces to be able to put on a full show by themselves.
More information about the artist events Cool Art Club puts together can be found on the group’s Facebook page.