What started as an experiment in outdoor art is turning into one of the most popular tourist destinations in Western Montana. Now with new additions being added this month, the Sculpture in the Wild art park in Lincoln continues to fill a unique niche and boost the economy.
If you've never stopped east of Lincoln on Highway 200 and wandered among Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild , you're missing one of the hidden treasures in Western Montana.
Whether you're from out-of-state, or just need to stretch your legs on the long drive between Missoula and Great Falls, the park is a fascinating and contemplative blend of the forest and art.
"The artists I select are storytellers. So it's all about they come here, they have a site visit, they research the actual the community, the landscape and then they come back and create a piece that's kind of based on some storytelling,” said Kevin O’Dwyer with Sculpture in the Wild.
The park's centerpiece continues to be the repurposing of a "teepee burner" from one of the old mills. Filled with historical photos of the timber industry's legacy in the Blackfoot Valley, it serves as an introduction to the park and a gathering place for events.
In the years since the park first opened there have been many new additions. In fact, there are now 18 pieces of art scattered throughout the forest and trails of this 26-acre site.
The inspiration continues to speak to both what's unique about the Blackfoot and Montana, and how the artists envision that relationship.
Stuart Ian Frost, who came all the way from Norway, is creating a stand-alone piece using more than a hundred pieces of Douglas Fir, sawn into shapes of a saw blade which will be assembled into a free-standing structure.
His inspiration came from seeing artifacts at Garnet ghost town.
“The two things together sort of gave me an idea for something like a settlement, or a homestead or something. And how people needed to create a space for themselves when they perhaps moved into Montana in the early days,” Frost said.
Alison Stigora came all the way from Pennsylvania to create a free-standing shelter with benches where people can sit and contemplate the contrast between the destruction and life that comes from wildfire.
"But it's been a long-time dream of mine to actually work with material that's been sourced from a wildfire site,” Stigora said. “And so I was thrilled to be able to have that opportunity here and gather material from the Park Fire, the Copper Creek Fire and other places locally, and use that material for this piece."
"We're really getting a lot of visitors, both from Montana itself and from other states and internationally,” O’Dwyer said.
The artist-in-residence program will continue through the end of the month. The weekend Sept. 21 and Sept. 22 will feature live music, food, tours and an art auction in Lincoln.
The finished sculptures will be unveiled Sept. 28.