Artist-Wilderness-Connection Program seeks applicants

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Gini Ogle, left, and Francesca Droll paint along the shoreline of the upper fork of the Flathead River in the Great Bear Wilderness. (Courtesy of Francesca Droll)

The Artist-Wilderness-Connection Program is looking for two artists to spend up to two weeks in a backcountry cabin documenting the natural world.

The Flathead National Forest, Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Hockaday Museum of Art and Swan Valley Connections invite artists to apply for the 2018 Artist-Wilderness-Connection Program.

Professional working artists of various disciplines, media and styles, including writers and musicians, spend up to two weeks in a cabin on the Flathead National Forest to focus on their respective art.

The backcountry cabins in the program are located 5 to 15 miles from the nearest trailhead. Travel to the cabin is by foot over uneven ground. Artist’s personal items, food and art supplies are packed in by mule and horse. Some cabins are very private, suggesting solitude, reflection and personal work while other sites offer the experience of working or living with Forest Service crews. The best residency experiences come from plans that allow for the unexpected and are entered into with an open mind.

After completing the residency, artists select a format to share their talents and residency experience with the community and donate a representative piece of their art to the Artist-Wilderness-Connection Program. Since its inception in 2003, 44 artists have participated in the program. Last year, pastel artist and Woods Bay resident Francesca Droll and oil painter Gini Ogle of Kalispell were selected for the venture.

Ogle and Droll spent 11 days at a rustic cabin near Granite Creek painting rivers and mountain scenes.

“It was really an incredible experience … we loved being there,” Ogle said. “It was a beautiful setting.” The oil painter said she enjoyed being able to work uninterrupted in nature, but noted that her adventure involved more than just painting.

“One of the things we learned is in the wilderness there are a lot of things that you have to take care of before you can just paint, like hauling the water and the meal prep and gathering wood,” she noted.

Encounters with wildlife were another highlight to Ogle’s residency in the wilderness. They witnessed a bear swim across the river near their camp, watched an eagle soar up and down the river and found evidence that a cow and calf moose had visited the beach near their cabin.

Ogle said both she and Droll hope to produce 10 pieces based on work produced during their experience for an Aug. 2 presentation at the Hockaday Museum of Art titled, “Two Sides to Every Story.”

“I would absolutely recommend it,” Ogle said. “It’s just a fabulous experience — the whole process from the application to the actual wilderness time and then the [public] program afterwords. We’ve really delved into this and feel we’ve gotten a lot out of it.”

Applications are due by Feb. 28 and both individuals and group collaborations are welcome to apply.

To learn more about this unique artist-in-residence program, join the museum for a Facebook Live chat at 2 p.m. on Jan. 26. Information on the live chat along with applications and program information is available at under “Artist Opportunities.”

For more information, contact Kathy Martin at the Hockaday Museum of Art at 755-5268; Teresa Wenum at the Flathead National Forest at 758-5218 or Jessica Evens at the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation at 387-3822.

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