A Stroll Through Whitefish, Montana's Art Galleries
By Chadd Scott
Most of the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit Whitefish, Montana annually do so for the area’s abundant outdoor recreation with easy access to Glacier National Park. When all that hiking, skiing or whitewater rafting leaves visitors too pooped for another day outdoors under the Big Sky, a stroll around the town’s galleries proves wildly more fulfilling than might be expected from the small town of 7,700 residents.
While not Jackson Hole or Aspen – yet – the art scene here punches well above its weight.
Nancy Cawdrey 'Where the River Runs'
Gallery namesake Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey has earned her reputation painting dazzling watercolor on silk depictions of local wildlife. Bighorn sheep, buffalo, and especially grizzly bears, come to life through this technique which has been in practice by Chinese artists for thousands of years.
Cawdrey’s popularity has seen her artwork expand into a growing universe of merchandise from high-end giclee’s to posters, postcards and calendars. No artist’s work says “Glacier” like Cawdrey’s.
Dick Idol Signature Gallery Interior
Dick Idol Signature Gallery
Dick Idol Signature Gallery could be used industry-wide as an example professionalism. The gallery is chock full of art, but not overcrowded. The gallery is hung perfectly. The lighting is just right. The sales pitch is just right. The music is just right. The mix of artwork is just right.
Major-name Western artists such as Brent Learned, BC Nowlin and Troy Collins are featured. Stealing the show, however, is Montana artist Kira Fercho who’s gloppy, glossy, gorgeous largely abstracted paintings pull non-specific Native American imagery from a boldly colored, painterly haze.
Fercho’s work in tall, skinny dimensions, as well as desk-top original oil painted cubes, offer dramatic solutions for hard to fill spaces.
Tom Saubert Painting at Underscore Art
A giant gallery dog meets visitors to Underscore Art. On the walls, it’s local Kalispell artist Tom Sauber’s painstakingly researched oil paintings of Native figures, particularly horses wearing indigenous regalia, that demand attention.
Sauber has devoted countless hours to studying the Blackfeet tribe which traditionally called the area home both through books and in person. A regular on the reservation, particularly in his younger days, Sauber stages photoshoots – he’s up to more than 25,000 slides – using Native American models on-location around Montana to capture the images he paints.
Saubert sweats the small stuff, authentically representing Native clothing, hairstyles, guns, bead colors, bead size, teepee decoration and every other imaginable cultural minutiae. His attention to detail went so far as to have him learn Native American beadworking techniques.
Sauber works in a light, soft color palette giving his work a sun-faded and instantly archival quality.
Sunti World Art Gallery Interior
Sunti World Art Gallery
A unique mixture of East (think India) meets West occurs at Sunti World Art Gallery. Fantastical hand embroidered Zardozi wall hangings mix with wildlife paintings and remarkable, monumental, hand crafted wooden furniture.
Co-founder Sunti Pichetchaiyakul’s on-site sculpture studio allows remarkable insight into his artistic practice.
Don’t miss the downstairs café for coffee, teas and lemonade.
Stillwater Gallery Interior
Whitefish Pottery and Stillwater Gallery
Find your next-level Montana souvenir or gift at Whitefish Pottery where a wide variety of locally made pottery, ceramics, prints and artful trinkets of all description can be found. For not much more than you’d spend on a mass-produced hoodie, you can bring home an original work of art.
At the attached Stillwater Gallery, admire Barbara Candelaria’s colorful, joyous, make-you-want-to-move-to-Montana watercolors, all super-reasonably priced with many costing only a few hundred dollars.
Bill Mittag 'Coldmakers Confinement'
Frame of Reference Fine Art
Frame of Reference Fine Art, so named for the on-site framing shop, hosts a summer schedule of shows for its contemporary artists along with a limited selection of historic work from the likes of Thomas Moran, C.M. Russell and Olaf Weighorst.
Bill Mittag’s impressionistic oil landscapes deserve particular attention for their “take you their quality.” His small paintings are especially charming and priced right for entry-level collectors.
Frame of Reference offers a wide selection of oil paintings by numerous artists in the $1,000 price range and isn’t too pretentious to lean a painting on the floor when they run out of wall space.
Going-to-the-Sun Gallery Interior
Large scale wildlife sculpture will impress even non-art lovers at Going-to-the-Sun Gallery, so named after the famous road which traverses Glacier National Park east to west.
Ken Hansen’s California buckeye burl salmon sculptures are a revelation.
Amanda Krolczyk at Walking Man Frame Shop and Gallery
Walking Man Frame Shop and Gallery
A petite gallery and frame shop, stop by for Amanda Krolczyk’s reclaimed wood landscape pieces that can also be had at rock bottom prices. The ultra-local gallery is stocked with plenty of smalls and tourism-related graphic posters ideal for a memorable souvenir.
All of the galleries are easily walkable in tidy downtown Whitefish. Make your accommodations at Firebrand Hotel, also downtown, for quick access to galleries, boutiques and restaurants like Jersey Boys Pizza where the Jersey Rolls are to die for – if you like garlic. Just outside of downtown, Piggyback BBQ will convince you you’re in Texas and Bonsai Brewing Company serves up creative craft brews with delightful outdoor seating.