Fercho Gallery & Elliott Design settles in Town Center

By Taylor-Ann Smith Explore Big Sky Staff Writer

BIG SKY – A new building in Big Sky Town Center is housing two like-minded creatives that are blending more than just a shared storefront. Fercho Gallery & Elliott Design, which opened in the TNG Tower on Dec. 11, meld their respective practices into a working, professional relationship.

The business owners share an entrepreneurial drive and deep rooted passion for the arts that allows the gallery space to not only be a place of commerce but also a celebration of Western art.

Lori Elliott, a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) who is certified with the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCDIQ), began her career in advertising and marketing with a degree from the University of Minnesota.

She began her career with Carmichael-Lynch Advertising in Minneapolis and later worked in media sales for FOX Television, ABC, and WCCO Radio. But Elliott always had an interest in fine art and an eye for spatial awareness. She then sought an interior design education in Madison, Wisconsin before starting her own business, Elliott Interior Design, in 1992.

Elliott explains that her background in marketing allows her to confidently manage businesses, while applying her design knowledge to commercial and residential projects. She prides herself in listening to a client’s vision and executes it with functionality and creativity in mind. In 2011, she moved to Montana when Kibler & Kirch, an interior design firm and furniture gallery in Red Lodge, hired her as a designer and for her business acumen.

“I’ve always had a passion for the West,” Elliott said, adding that her love for contemporary styles creates a juxtaposition that allows her to create unique and comfortable living spaces. “I romanticize about the Old West with the simplicity of life at that time. I’d be happy to spend the rest of my days in an old cabin with a horse and cowboy.”

Fercho is the featured painter inspired by fellow Montana artists, and one who takes pride in displaying their work in the gallery alongside her own. She’s currently among seven different artists on display here – each presenting wide ranges of styles and forms – including contemporary collage artist Kevin Rose, abstract potter Steve Degenhart, and Renaissance-style landscape painter Rachel Warner.

Elliott met Fercho by chance in Red Lodge shortly after she moved there, when she came across Fercho painting en plein air, a 19th-century style of painting outdoors. The two connected over artistic interests and their tenacious ambitions, and over the next three years they hatched the idea of having their own space, eventually settling in Big Sky. Elliott says she’s impressed with Fercho’s energy and wanted to help spread the word of her talents and those of her fellow Montana artists.

“From the day Kira expressed the vision for her gallery, I was on board,” Elliott said. “I have a business, sales and design background that I feel can give her wings to focus on her amazing talents.”

Although Fercho is mainly self-taught, she attended art courses at Arizona’s Scottsdale Artists’ School and earned a master’s as a Licensed Professional Counselor at Montana State University-Billings. She specialized in teen counseling but practices art as a full-time career, focusing on the people, land, and animals of the region.

Fercho is nationally renowned for her depiction of Montana tribal tipis, attributing her fondness for the structures as a tribute to the region’s natives. Each tipi she paints is one she’s either seen firsthand or studied in books, films and photographs. Her renderings include thick, impressionistic strokes of oil paint on custom-made canvases that blend contemporary style with traditional imagery.

Fercho was recently commissioned by the Billings Clinic to display 12 paintings in its common area. Each piece features a tribal tipi that represents the 12 federally recognized tribes in Montana. Her work is featured in galleries across the state including Missoula, Whitefish, Billings and Red Lodge, and she’s also gained national attention with pieces hanging in galleries in Missouri, California, and Wyoming.

Both Fercho and Elliott agree that their gallery is unlike any other since they combine their creative skills with running and operating a business. Fercho Gallery & Elliott Design is the first of its kind in the state.

“Since the business is artist-owned and operated, there is a different quality and feeling to the work we display than any of our competitors,” Fercho said. “I’m really blessed to have someone like Lori at my side.”