The Arts Council of Big Sky will unveil their first major public art project, a bronze sculpture created by world-renowned Montana artist Deborah Butterfield, in Town Center Plaza on Saturday, Oct. 6.
The festivities will run from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., with a celebration following the 1:30 p.m. unveiling and announcement of the name chosen for the sculpture.
The Big Sky sculpture will be the first work by Butterfield, an internationally acclaimed artist and Bozeman resident since 1977, to be on permanent outdoor display in her home state.
In its 29th year as a local non-profit organization, the Arts Council is proud to place a landmark piece of significant art in the center of town by a Montana artist. The larger-than-life horse appears to be made of wood, but is actually bronze and impervious to the elements. It will be the anchor of the plaza in front of the Wilson Hotel on Town Center Avenue, scheduled to open in the spring of 2019.
As part of the Arts Council’s “Pony Up!” campaign to raise funds for the $400,000 project, the organization solicited entries from local businesses and schools with possible names for the sculpture. Nearly 200 ideas were submitted and the final selection will be made by the artist herself.
Butterfield’s artwork is on display in public spaces, museums and private collections around the world, including New York’s Whitney Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art; and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C..
Closer to home, the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings also has Butterfield’s work. Former museum director Donna Forbes is quoted saying she still laments not being able to raise enough money to buy a Deborah Butterfield bronze to stand in front of YAM. “There isn’t an outside Butterfield anywhere in the state of Montana, and that’s a shame,” Forbes said.
The Big Sky piece was made from pieces of driftwood carefully collected from the banks of the Gallatin, Yellowstone, and Madison rivers. Through a lengthy creative process, those driftwood pieces were eventually cast into bronze. Butterfield patinas the bronze by hand to enhance the look of driftwood and set the color.
To borrow her words, in 500 years, the form will still be as she intended it, with all its nuance found in the pinecones and wood grain. Butterfield describes her art as a combination of animals and architecture, a juxtaposition that all Big Sky visitors and residents taking advantage of Big Sky’s downtown corridor will have a chance to contemplate.
The piece will be positioned to have direct sight lines to Lone Mountain, Big Sky’s most iconic natural monument. Ultimately, the work is a reflection on technology, transportation, history, wildlife, beauty, and the human relationship to those ideas.
During a donor-appreciation event, Butterfield invited participants to let their imaginations crawl into the negative space of the sculpture, where humans can inhabit the wisdom and grace of horses. Under Big Sky resident Patty Rhea’s leadership, the Public Art Committee raised all the funds needed to purchase, insure, and maintain the sculpture.
Visit bigskyarts.org to support public art initiatives in Big Sky and for more information.