A calling to create
At just three years old, Kira Fercho knew she wanted to be an artist
Billings native Kira Fercho either loves or hates things. There is no in-between. Exercising self-control, she makes one New Year’s resolution per year to do something she hates. One year that was to endlessly listen to Mariah Carey’s music. “And now I love it,” she said.
Fercho’s true and lasting love in life is painting – something she has never had to force herself to appreciate. Her paintings hang in the White House and Tom Brokaw’s home. They also hang in the homes of Dwight Yokum, Emmylou Harris and John Mayer. Seventy percent of her work is commissioned, and she often travels from Big Sky to Los Angeles or New York City to do installations.
It’s not a bad gig considering Fercho describes painting as her only talent and only hobby. She truly doesn’t believe she could do anything else. Plus, she told her dad after he taught her how to draw a heart at the age of three that she was going to be an artist someday. Her tough cowboy grandpa, who was a WWII veteran and grew-up on the Osage Indian Reservation, then taught her how to sketch the camel from a pack of Camel cigarettes. She stared at boxes of cigarettes until she became proficient at drawing camels by the age of four.
Fercho’s parents acknowledged her passion and enrolled her professional art lessons by the time she was 12. She found her drive – her singular purpose. She found at an early age the kind of passion many people lack for their work their entire lives.
Her artistry was balanced by a driven family. Top marks were the only grades accepted in her household. Where some artistic types may lack self-discipline, Fercho has boatloads. She was studious and by all definitions a good kid. Until – one day – she met her first real obstacle to her dream. That obstacle came in the form of an art teacher who gave her a C-grade for one of her paintings – the first low mark she’d ever received. Shocked, she believed he had mistakenly given her someone else’s grade. So, she approached him.
She said her teacher responded: “Nobody paints with thick paint like that. This isn’t going to dry for months.”
“I was in shock,” Fercho said, describing her soft reply, “‘The French and Russian Impressionists do,’ and realized I completely pissed him off. I was surprised and tearful because art was everything to me.”
Fercho dropped out of high school a month later with a 3.9 GPA to start college early. The transition wasn’t difficult, she said, since she had started college the previous summer. Still, she never realized how much the experience with that critical teacher impacted her life until a few years ago.
“Teachers have such an impact. They can push you – for good or for bad,” she said. “I talk to high school seniors sometimes: Find the right people. Whoever is talking to you like that – it’s about them, not about you.”
University was a wonderful experience for Fercho. Montana attracts the greatest artists in the world, she said, and she was able to learn from them. Some people born and raised in rural areas feel the draw of city lights, but not Fercho.
“I like to paint what I know: our culture, our people, our landscapes,” she said while looking around her gallery on Town Center Avenue. She continued, “I think that’s the draw to the gallery – it’s a little piece of Montana.”
Her paintings are layered, leaping from the canvas – multidimensional in a style she describes as “Imposto and Russian Impressionism as well as Western Tonalism.”
“I’m very concerned with the texture of the piece as much as the colors and overall feel of the piece. I’m very tactile,” she said. “I like the whole build of them.” She now shows in six national galleries and two museums including her gallery in Big Sky which she has had for five years. She’s never had a business plan or a business loan.
“Everything I have I own outright. It’s just worked – and it never should have. A month after I opened my business in Big Sky I found out I was pregnant with my daughter,” she said while laughing.
Fercho doesn’t do giclees, or prints of any kind, for that matter. All of her work is original – she owns all the rights to it when most artists don’t.
It’s also an anomaly for an artist to have the bulk of their work be commissions, but that is the case with Fercho. She enjoys going into homes to create the balance of what the designer, builder, architect and homeowner have already done to “put the cherry on top.”
“The homes I build paintings for are custom built homes and some palaces, so these pieces have to add to the home but feel like they fit there,” she said. “It’s a huge honor because a lot of these projects are the very best. I love it.”
Her love for her work, Montana and Big Sky is apparent. She describes Big Sky as having a kind of European ease. “We don’t have chain stores and we never will. The fact that this is an art gallery and this is all I sell is very European,” she said.
Fercho can often be found painting in her Big Sky studio and said she loves meeting people. To her, art and life is about human connection.
“I meet people who are really inspirational: who have invented something or who are at the top of their trade, I meet really well-developed people,” she said.
Her big bucket list dream, though, is that someday Ralph Lauren will stroll through her studio doors.