Magazine article Sunset

Capital of Creativity

Magazine article Sunset

Capital of Creativity

Article excerpt

Unleash your inner artist in Helena, Montana BY BEVERLY MAGLEY | PHOTOGRAPHS BY AUDREY HALL

DURING THE MUD AND MUCK of March's schizophrenic weather, there's no better time to visit Montana's artiest town for a crash course in indoor creativity. Here are three of Helena's most inspiring artistic hubs, where you can see how it's done by the masters, then get your hands dirty and make your own masterpiece.

1 Carve it from wood

Get inspired Take one look at the gazelle tables or pagoda chairs at the A.L. Swanson Gallery, and you'll realize that you're in a sort of anti-Ikea, where every piece has been individually carved by hand in the old-school Shaker furniture tradition. The furniture (made by master woodworker A.L. Swanson) is the showstopper here, but the gallery is full of sculpture, photography, paintings, and other work by Montana and national artists.

Try it yourself Once a month, Swanson offers four people the hands-on opportunity to make a table. At his Bob Vilastyle workshop, you don't have to know how to use a sander - the workshops are designed for complete beginners. At the end of the weekend, you will be the proud owner - and crafter - of a Shaker-style cherry end table to show off at home. Workshops usually take place last Sat-Sun of each month; $585, including materials and meals; 810 front St.; alswanson.com

2 | P1aywith paint

Get inspired You don't have to spend a dime to get inspired at the free Holter Museum of Art. You'll see works by Montana's first modernist painters and by nationally known photographers who document the West. Exhibits change regularly: In one gallery you'll find a sculpture installation by a Helena artist evoking the Montana landscape (through May 3); another shows formal photographic portraits of workers in South Africa (through Apr 19).

Try it yourself At the Holter, you can learn how to make paper, work at printmaking, or take a beginning oil-painting class. In late March, Montana landscape artist Bruce Park teaches a one-day pastels class open to all levels. From $90; 12 E. Lawrence St.-.holtermuseum.org/education/classes.htm

3 | Make it from day

Get inspired Ceramic artists from around the globe come to the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts for inspiration. An old tile-and-brick company has been transformed into an artist-inresidence program, a gallery, and a space for community classes. Wander the grounds to see the beehive kilns and the dramatic ceramic mementos that the sculptors leave in appreciation - some 30 feet high, others small and quirky, hidden amongthe grasses untilyou round a corner and come upon them. …

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