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The Arts Council of Big Sky's new space in BASE allows for unprecedented interface with the community it serves as well as an opportunity to host art education programming on a contribute-what-you-can model. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY.

Arts Council takes new residence in BASE, offers accessible programming

By Tucker Harris EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – While the Arts Council of Big Sky has long been known for its high-profile events like Music in the Mountains, the cultural nonprofit is expanding its community reach and visibility from its new headquarters in the BASE community center. Part of this reach includes a new roster of art classes and programs meant to be accessible to the entire community.

Since the organization’s inception in 1989, the arts council has been tucked away in various office spaces throughout Big Sky. Its new space in BASE allows for unprecedented interface with the community it serves, according to its leadership, as well as an opportunity to host art education programming on a contribute-what-you-can model.

“I think the biggest thing about being here is just that we’re more visible and more accessible to the community,” said Brian Hurlbut, executive director of the arts council. “And on top of that, being able to offer more.”

The arts council’s new space includes an office to the left of BASE’s front desk and a welcoming, light-filled art studio equipped with six pottery wheels, a kiln, and arts supplies ready for use. The arts council’s studio and office space in the community center is open to the public; no BASE membership is needed.

“One of the big things we struggled with is we’ve never had our own space to do all kinds of programs,” Hurlbut said, adding that in the past, the arts council would have to scramble to find locations for their offerings, whether that be the community library or even someone’s home. 

“We put so much thought into accessibility. We want this space to be financially, socially and emotionally accessible.”

– JULIE EDWARDS, ARTS COUNCIL OF BIG SKY STUDIO MANAGER AND LEAD INSTRUCTOR

The studio will be run by Julie Edwards, the new studio manager and lead instructor for the ACBS.

Edwards has 30 years of public education experience under her belt and is excited to offer ceramics classes and other arts programs that are accessible to the Big Sky community.

“We put so much thought into accessibility,” Edwards said. “We want this space to be financially, socially and emotionally accessible.”

Julie Edwards has 30 years of public education experience and is the new studio manager and lead instructor for the Arts Council of Big Sky. PHOTO BY TUCKER HARRIS

One example of the arts council’s commitment to accessibility is their “Contribute What You Can” payment model. It works exactly how it sounds: Participants choose the best price option for them. For example, if they can’t afford a suggested six-week class fee of $270, they can pay as low as $54. For those looking to extend support to other community members, they can pay more than the suggested fee.

“It’s a really cool model just because we don’t want any barriers for people to take our classes,” Hurlbut said.

This spring, Edwards will offer classes including: After School Connect; Community Art Class: Exploring Pottery, Handbuilding Basics; Introduction to Throwing Pottery; Intermediate and Advanced Pottery and a Weekend Clay Workshop. These courses have been made possible through a Yellowstone Club Community Foundation Behavioral Health Program.

The class offerings are designed to meet the needs of all interests and ages.

One program, After School Connect, is designated for kindergarten through seventh graders. After School Connect will be a time for students to attend an art class Tuesday through Thursday focusing on pottery, drawing or water color.

Having a different place to go to after being in school all day is important for children to experience, Edwards said.

“[It’s important] for our younger population kiddos to have that awareness of ‘Oh, I was at school all day and now I get to go do this. This is also part of my community,’” Edwards said.

Edwards will also offer clay workshop courses on the weekend for children.

Teens and adults will have access to sign up for Introduction to Throwing Pottery and Intermediate and Advanced Pottery evening classes. A Handbuilding Basics evening class will also be available for adults 18 and over.

The arts council’s class offerings are designed to meet the needs of all interests and ages. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

The acronym “BASE,” Big Adventure, Safe Environment, is important for Edwards.

“To me, ‘Safe’ is like being safe with your emotions, not being judged,” she said. “When you walk through that door, whatever baggage you come in with, someone’s here to assist you.”

To execute that mission, Edwards will offer the Community Art Class: Exploring Pottery for teens and adults, with a special focus on wellness and expression. The class will allow for art with a behavioral health focus, Edwards said, where she will focus the conversation on wellness and taking care of oneself while participants are learning to create utilitarian and decorative vessels.

Interspersed with Edwards’ regular programming, the arts council will be working with talented local artists to hold their own workshops in the studio space, ensuring that the studio will be “utilized to its fullest,” she said.

Both Edwards and Hurlbut emphasized the focus on accessibility and opportunity for the community to be more involved in the arts with the organization’s move to the BASE building.

“The doors are open for everyone,” Edwards said.

Visit bigskyarts.org/art-classes/ to register for the Arts Council’s Spring 2022 courses online. Classes start April 18.

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