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New director offers her vision for future of BACC

by Taylor Inman
| October 13, 2021 1:00 AM

The Bigfork Art and Cultural Center has been a hub for artists in town for over 40 years, and BACC Executive Director Julie Bottum wants to continue to make it a place where community members can share art and make art together.

Bottum became executive director in June and said her background in education has inspired her to help create programming that teaches kids and adults about art, narrative storytelling and much more. This is just one part of her bigger vision for the BACC over the next year.

“We wanted to develop collaborations and classes, so in essence create a network of artists and establish the BACC as an educational hub for developing and inspiring learning through the arts,” Bottum said.

Bottum said an ongoing exhibit about the history of Bigfork was another long-term goal she and the board of directors wanted to pursue. The exhibit starts on Oct. 8 and runs through the end of the month. Bottum said “Bigfork Stories — Where History Comes Alive” is something that the center is continually adding to.

“Throughout the year what we do is continue to gather the stories. We are scanning everything that we bring in and then organizing it. Not just by location, but by individuals, families, and events. So what we’re doing is entering all of that into a database, so that each year as we develop the theme for the exhibit, we can just go right back to that database and pull-up the stories and images, and we also have all of the interviews logged into that database as well,” Bottum said.

One goal of the history project moving forward is to search for more stories from the perspectives of women and native people. The history exhibit is an evolution of a project created in 2017 called “Bigfork — A Montana Story,” that also was displayed at the BACC and was accompanied by a book and documentary.

Bottum said other important goals for the BACC were to look into how they set up their shops and exhibits to best display artist’s work, as well as creating a long-term financial plan. She said creating a long-term plan was important to the sustainability of what the BACC does. She said small nonprofits rely on fundraising throughout the year, but the BACC wanted to establish other ways for people to support the center, such as legacy giving programs.

“So the first thing is to let people know what we’re doing and how we’re involved in the community, the second thing is to show them there are ways to donate and give over time,” Bottum said. “A lot of people are looking for a place to donate to that has a long-term plan for community involvement,”

Bottum said in February 2022 the BACC plans to launch their new website, which will be an interactive learning platform and includes a new store to sell artist’s work. This ties into one of the main missions of the BACC according to Bottum, which is giving emerging artists tools they need to continue to learn and grow.

“Artists that are learning the ins and outs of marketing their business, we have some great mentor artists that help them with those platforms. So again, just that network we can offer to people that are just getting into the art business, or people that want to learn new things, like the workshops have been super popular,” Bottum said.

Other programs coming up at the BACC include the annual Member Market in November. The Member Market will have an artist’s work for sale for a period of time before rotating to the next artist. Bottum said after the market, the center will participate in holiday giving outreach while continuing to offer classes and programs for children. She said these children’s workshops will also help contribute to holiday activities.

“Christmas is a huge deal in this area, so December will be a month of giving workshops and them making and collaborating with artists to create decorations and also follow the theme of the workshop at the time,” Bottum said.

Bottum said there are three ways community members can support the BACC. One way is to visit the exhibits to get to know local artists and hear their stories, another is to check out their work that is for sale at the gallery. She said the third way is to reach out to the BACC and offer ideas and feedback, as well as spreading the word about programs and events.

Keep up to date with events at the BACC by visiting their website at baccbigfork.com/exhibits.

Bigfork Eagle editor Taylor Inman can be reached at 406-758-4433 or editor@bigforkeagle.com.