Community asked to ‘pony up’

EBS STAFF

On Feb. 5, the Arts Council of Big Sky released plans for the organization’s first major public art installation. The sculpture, a larger-than-life bronze horse by internationally acclaimed Montana artist Deborah Butterfield, will be placed in Town Center Plaza in September 2018. The plaza is part of the Wilson Hotel construction project, slated to be completed by June 2019.

Butterfield’s artwork is on display in public spaces all over the world, but the Big Sky sculpture will be her first work to have a permanent outdoor location in Montana. Her pieces can also be found in the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution, and many other museums around the world.

“This is an amazing opportunity to not only showcase one of Montana’s greatest artists, but to have a legacy installation for residents and visitors to appreciate for generations,” said Brian Hurlbut, ACBS executive director.

Closer to home, Butterfield’s work can be found at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings. Former YAM Director Donna Forbes said she still laments not being able to raise enough money to buy a Butterfield bronze to stand in front of the YAM.

Made in her Bozeman-area studio, the piece for the Big Sky plaza will be created from pieces of driftwood collected from the banks of the Gallatin, Yellowstone, and Madison rivers.

Butterfield casts the driftwood in bronze and patinas it to preserve the impression of driftwood, and all of its organic intricacies, in a metal that can withstand the elements.

“We see this installation as the kind of feature that every visitor to Big Sky will want to visit and take their picture in front of,” said Ryan Hamilton, Town Center project manager. “Not only will it provide a sense of place by connecting modern day Big Sky to its historical ranching roots and natural environment, but it will make it obvious … that Big Sky values art and culture.”

ACBS board member and chairperson of the Public Art Committee, Patty Rhea—a long-time admirer of Butterfield’s work—forged ahead with an ambitious capital campaign to raise $400,000 for the sculpture, installation and maintenance. Two-thirds of the funds has been secured.

After a largely silent fundraising campaign, the Arts Council is now asking for the public’s support in an effort they’ve dubbed “Pony Up.”

There will be an opportunity to donate at the sixth annual Auction for the Arts on March 22; and a naming contest for the horse will kick off on June 1. During the Music in the Mountains summer concert series, families will have the opportunity to build their own sculptures from natural and found materials.

“The Arts Council of Big Sky isn’t just about Music in the Mountain anymore,” said public art committee member and former board president, Tallie Lancey. “Big Sky, as a community, has reached the point in its trajectory where critical infrastructure is in place and it’s time for the heart and soul of its residents to shine.”

Visit bigskyarts.org for more information.