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Local artist brings bold strokes to Montana’s subjects

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From age two, Kira Fercho knew that she wanted to be a professional painter. She also knew it wouldn’t be the easiest career to pursue, but at 40, she has one of the few artist-owned and run galleries in the area. She doesn’t produce prints, so each is unique, specializing in Western Tonalism and Russian Impressionism, creating bold color families, neutrals and sometimes layering many glazes on top of each other. While most artists in her oil paint medium stick to one or two different styles, Fercho paints fluently in seven or eight.

“It’s kind of like speaking seven or eight different languages,” Fercho said. “I have a handwriting and people recognize that as my handwriting. I’m very intentional with every single brush stoke—even soft colors are laid in there with heavy intention.”

She attributes a lot of her style choices to Loren Entz, known as a “cowboy artist,” and one of the best portrait artists in the world. Fercho’s formal education is from Montana State University, Billings, and Scottsdale Artists’ School and she worked as a licensed therapist for many years before turning to painting full time. Putting herself through school as a single parent in her 20s and climbing in her successful career as a therapist, Fercho realized at age 31 if she didn’t make the leap, she never would.

“I couldn’t keep up with everything,” she said. “I had to make the hard decision to give up the job that I had worked so hard for. It was a huge risk and I’ve been really lucky that it’s worked out so well.”

Montana born and raised, Fercho paints what she knows—Montana’s scenery, people, animals and the culture of the west. She describes her work as an “homage” to what she loves rather than an escape. 

When asked when she finds herself most inspired: “Every second of every day,” she laughs. “I always say I’d be the worst person to commit a crime in front of because everything I see, I could draw exactly. Painting for me, it’s like catching a waterfall in a teacup—I can’t get it out of me fast enough.”

Kira is supportive of the community that inspires her. She donates her work to every nonprofit she can, calling them “the foundation of our community—if you’re ever in a position in life where you can give something to make society better, I think you should. It rewards you.”

Of her process, Fercho said she sometimes cringes at pieces she did years ago, but said it is a reminder of growth. “I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to paint when I’m 90. It’s just part of learning and getting better,” she said.

Although a self-proclaimed workaholic, Fercho says it is her husband who grounds her and reminds her to slow down. Together, they raise Fercho’s 19-year-old daughter, their 4-year-old daughter, and his two sons from a previous marriage. They live in Billings during the school year where he teaches, and come to Big Sky during the summers to run her studio.

“I turned 40 this year and was trying to think back at the last 10 years and pick out the things that were the best moments. They were little things like packing lunch for my daughter or going on a picnic,” she said, noting that those are really the moments in life that matter.

Fercho enjoys doing custom commission work with clients to fill their home or office with something unique and beautiful, sometimes traveling to Scottsdale, Arizona or Jackson, Wyoming to collaborate.

“I enjoy using their energy that would otherwise be beyond something I probably would have done myself,” she said. “People have unique ideas and visions for things.”

Fercho prides herself on maintaining a welcoming, clean and friendly environment and notes that even during a pandemic, a gallery is one of the safest places you can still enjoy some normalcy because you can’t touch anything. Her Big Sky Gallery in Town Center opens for the summer on June 20, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

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