by Nathan Boddy
Icy sidewalks in Hamilton were not enough to damper the Culture Crawl on Saturday, January 9th. Art lovers carefully picked their way up and down Main Street to participating locations for poetry, music, and to see some of the art expressions of area artists, as well as installations of artwork from Hamilton High School students.
Barbara Liss, owner of Montana Bliss Artworks, has long been the driving force behind the Culture Crawl events which take place between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays in downtown Hamilton, and was happy to see some of the new faces that appeared following the participation by Hamilton students. “It’s a different profile,” said Liss. “We’ve seen a lot of kids coming in today, so that’s exciting! They are coming in in groups.”
While the Culture Crawl has been going on since Liss reinvigorated the event in 2017, participation by high schoolers is the result of joint planning between Liss, the Hamilton Downtown Association, and Hamilton High School art teacher, Daniele Vickers. After several months of creative effort, the students were ready to expose their artwork to the community at multiple locations in Hamilton, including Big Creek Coffee, Chapter One Bookstore, and the Paper Clip. Their theme, Pop Culture, presented representations of characters and props and challenged viewers to make their best guess at the show the artwork represents. Said Liss of the challenge, “You’re welcome to Google, so just have fun with it.”
Jean Driescher, artist and education coordinator at Bliss, said, “Normally we don’t have Culture Crawl in January, but Daniele is committed to connecting her students to the community and art. That’s why she came to the Hamilton Downtown Association, to have this happen. She’s committed. It’s nice to see that because it’s hard getting busy teachers to get involved.”
Montana Bliss Artworks, along with other participating studios, have tried to remain engaged with the students for more than just the Culture Crawl event. “Our goal is always to have all ages, and that’s why we like doing these on Saturdays rather than a Friday night event,” said Liss. She also adds that her studio offers free workshops for kids in the summer months, as well as an ‘Emerging Artists’ program for young artists. Not limited to paint or sculpture, however, music and poetry have been on the agenda as well.
“We do poetry readings from 11 to noon and that’s growing. Today we had a student who wrote a poem and her mom who wrote a poem. So, we love seeing new faces and all ages doing poems. We’re trying to get the entire community, not just the students but the entire community, to be involved in art.”
Another of the artists present at Saturday’s event was Bobbi Dye, whose ‘Travel Montana Graphic Poster Series’ was on full display. Locals will quickly recognize the scenery repeated by Dye as some of the most spectacular views the valley has to offer. Dye, a native Montanan, says that it was her grandfather who named Roaring Lion Creek, and that the landscape of Montana is a “huge source of pride” for her.
“I’ve grown up in this area and have seen pretty much all of it,” said Dye. “How can you not be inspired?”