Heather Rapp created this painting from start to finish during the event. She also sells colorful masks that can be purchased at Grizzly Outfitters. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Creating an intentional community

First Thursday Art Club off and running

Bradley Thornton strummed his guitar and sang a song co-written with artist Brett Ozment called “Back Roads and Grasshoppers”. He watched painter Heather Rapp do live painting of aspen trees as she listened to his music. John Berezny’s 1889 Wax Lighting glowed on tables as Keaton Britt’s ski and nature photography adorned the center of the room. Ozment’s natural sculptures, stemming from items he hunts and gathers, and jewelry was displayed near the windows, with everything telling a story. Katy Hein’s paintings she created from road trips graced the far wall. She says she soon plans on painting locations around Big Sky.

Town Center’s new restaurant called Acre, located adjacent to Montana Supply in the former space of Toast, was buzzing with conversation and artistic inspiration. After the First Thursday Art Club’s Oct. 1 gathering, Thornton and Rapp discussed how they were both inspired by the work of the other – and by the atmosphere in general.

This sort of intentional community of collaboration is just what photographer Kirby Grubaugh wanted when he started the club. Acre does not charge a venue fee for the space and he does not technically charge artists to participate. Although he does require that 30% of profits be donated to the Montana Racial Equity Project out of Bozeman.

“This event is creating a good vibe, a good culture and a good outlet for people to come together and learn from each other. We’re just trying to give back wherever we can and create some good through this,” he said.

He wants the club to be a safe place for anyone to express themselves.

“Whatever your art form is. If you have a vision for that and have a way of displaying it, come be a part of [the art club] and come interact with us,” he said.

His inspiration came from visiting friends and discovering astounding work hidden in corners of homes, photographs stacked – and talented artists remaining unknown.

“I just wanted my friends to have an opportunity and an outlet to come and show their work. I feel like Big Sky is just lacking this type of culture. We do have some art galleries in town that are incredible that have beautiful work but the work is really expensive and is for people that have really deep pockets,” he said.

He wanted to have a place for people to go one night a month that did not involve the bar.

“I’ve had a lot of thought on the words intentional community. It’s a tricky town to find your way and find your people. Everyone is hustling and everyone is working a lot of hours in the on seasons. In the off season, everyone is pretty much ready to get out of town and go do something different,” he said. “I just want to give people the chance to come chill, hangout, and create new friendships and hopefully find some like minded people.”

It seemed to be working as the artists hatched plans for future collaborations and many have been emboldened by each other. Britt wants to create a sort of dark room co-op for area photographers.

Thornton, who played an assortment of instruments did not start singing until two years ago.

“I was always scared – never thought I was any good. But now, I’m going for it,” he said, noting he plans on putting out a little album soon called “Transplant.”

Eventually, Grubaugh would like Main Street to be shut down every Thursday so the community can have a huge art walk where music, artists and friendship can be found – an intentional community.

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