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SLAM Festivals adapt to bring art to community

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While SLAM Festivals have usually taken place solely at Bogert Park, this year the 46 artist booths were spread out among three locations: Bogert Park, Story Mansion Park and the Emerson Lawn. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

By Mira Brody EBS STAFF

BOZEMAN – Sandra Wright Sutherland of Bozeman sits in her booth at the Support Local Artists and Musicians Festivals surrounded by her life’s work, consisting of a pile of books containing 30-years of photography and colorful oil paintings. It’s a warm summer afternoon on Saturday, Aug. 7, and the former art student, teacher, road biker and 30-year velodrome bicycle racing photographer took up painting during the pandemic and began creating renditions of her photography, but with a vibrant palette.

“It’s a fun sport, a really colorful sport,” Sutherland said. “I used to do black and white photography, except that with bike racing, there’s just too much for black and white. So the color was the thing I always liked to do the best. So I now I get to do what I like to do, which is paint pictures of color and shape—it’s what I’m particularly interested in.”

Sandra Wright Sutherland is a former velodrome bicycle racing photographer who has turned her craft into color paintings. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

In her booth, Sutherland is in the company of her paintings, as well as the book she wrote, “NO BRAKES! Bicycle Track Racing in the United States,” which depicts the front and behind the scenes lives of many famous gold medalists. Her whole life is in this tent, she says.

Sutherland isn’t the only booth at SLAM who lives and breathes her craft—it’s what the 10-year nonprofit festival aims to support. The nonprofit’s executive director, Callie Miller, founded the organization on the belief that local artists and musicians should be celebrated as working professionals who are celebrated for their contributions to the community.

The event takes place during the same weekend as the city’s historic Sweet Pea Festival for the Arts, as a free option for families. In it’s conception, it was a way to counteract Sweet Pea, with their popularity and admission fees, with a low-cost alternative.

“It makes you feel completely different when you drink your coffee out of a beautiful mug when you had a conversation with the person who made that mug,” Miller said during a phone interview with EBS. “It’s enriching in ways that we don’t always think of and SLAM is committed to fostering those connections.”

Art lovers from across the Gallatin Valley strolled between each of the three SLAM Festival locations in Bozeman’s Historic District. After a 2020 with a virtual and adapted SLAM due to pandemic restrictions, the nonprofit is back and heeding the health of the community in a unique twist.

While SLAM Festivals have usually taken place solely at Bogert Park, this year the 46 artist booths were spread out among three locations: Bogert Park, Story Mansion Park and the Emerson Lawn. Not only did the new layout allow artists and guests to adhere to health department guidelines, but it also offered a fresh experience for those adventurous enough to bike or walk to each location.

“Response has been super positive,” Miller said the day of the festival, watching eagerly as guests filled into the Emerson lawn. “The artists are really appreciating it.”

By 11:30 a.m., just a half hour after opening, all three locations were bustling with art admirers.

At each location guests perused a variety of art, watched live art demonstrations, grabbed local bites from a variety of food trucks and some even received their COVID-19 vaccine.

The Bozeman Community Kiln at the Emerson Lawn was abuzz with children as BCK teachers signed up families for a make-your-own ornament demonstration. Megan Sprenger, BCK’s education director and pottery teacher, says demonstrations and hands-on activities at an event like SLAM allow kids to understand the amount of work that goes into much of the art on display.

SLAM featured unique graphic t-shirts by Made Graphic Design’s Renata Strauss and sister Joanna Anderson. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

“The kids really want to enjoy something fun, and to be able to touch and experience clay brings a whole new meaning to the ways of making,” Sprenger said. “I think allowing the community to get to touch and play really helps them to understand a little bit about he process of how people in the community here make their work too, so we were really excited to be able to do our own little demo booth here.”

From comical profanities cross-stitched onto tea towels by Thread Parade, to artfully designed topographic posters of area mountain ranges by North Fork Mapping’s Allison Throop, to graphic t-shirts by Made Graphic Design’s Renata Strauss, this year’s SLAM had a little bit of everything for the local art lover.

“It’s super important to support this community because they really do enrich all of our lives in ways that we’re not always aware of,” Miller said. “Anytime we have the opportunity to do a public installation for art, this is the community from which we would draw. Having those relationships not just in a municipal scale but also in our day-to-day lives makes a really impactful difference.”

If you were unable to attend this year’s SLAM Festivals, you can visit slamfestivals.org to shop artists’ websites or donate to the nonprofit.

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