Visit Montana’s artiest town for a crash course in indoor creativity
Written byBeverly MagleyMarch 15, 2009
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Sign up for a weekend workshop
Spend a weekend in the capital of creativity to learn how to make a Shaker-style cherry end table, work at oil-painting, and hand build clay pots.
Following are Helena’s most inspiring artistic hubs, where you can see how it’s done by the masters, then get your hands dirty and make your own masterpiece.
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Carve it from wood at Swanson Gallery
Get inspired: Take one look at the gazelle tables or pagoda chairs at the A.L. Swanson Gallery, and you'll realize that you're in a sort of anti-Ikea, where every piece has been individually carved by hand in the old-school Shaker furniture tradition. The furniture (made by master woodworker A.L. Swanson) is the showstopper here, but the gallery is full of sculpture, photography, paintings, and other work by Montana and national artists.
Try it yourself: Once a month, Swanson offers four people the hands-on opportunity to make a table. At his Bob Vila–style workshop, you don't have to know how to use a sander―the workshops are designed for complete beginners. At the end of the weekend, you will be the proud owner―and crafter―of a Shaker-style cherry end table to show off at home. Workshops usually take place last Sat–Sun of each month; $585, including materials and meals; 863 Great Northern Boulevard; alswanson.com
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Play with paint at Holter Museum of Art
Get inspired: You don’t have to spend a dime to get inspired at the free Holter Museum of Art. You’ll see works by Montana’s first modernist painters and by nationally known photographers who document the West. Exhibits change regularly.
Try it yourself: At the Holter, you can learn how to make paper, work at printmaking, or take a beginning oil-painting class. From $5; 12 E. Lawrence St.; https://www.holtermuseum.org
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Make it from clay at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts
Get inspired: Ceramic artists from around the globe come to the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts for inspiration. An old tile-and-brick company has been transformed into an artist-in-residence program, a gallery, and a space for community classes. Wander the grounds to see the beehive kilns and the dramatic ceramic mementos that the sculptors leave in appreciation―some 30 feet high, others small and quirky, hidden among the grasses until you round a corner and come upon them.
Try it yourself: Get some mud on your hands in weekend clay workshops. Visit their web site for details. 2915 Country Club Ave.; archiebray.org