Celebrating 20 Years!
Alpine Artisans proudly celebrated its 20th Anniversary in 2011. Like the legendary phoenix, Alpine Artisans, Inc. arose from the ashes of an earlier group, the Seeley Lake Arts and Crafts Club. This group put on an annual 4th of July art show and sale, but by 1990 interest and membership had dwindled to the point where the decision was made to disband the Club. Yet a few of its members envisioned another kind of group, one driven by a sense of art, dedicated to encouraging artistic creativity in one another, and committed to sharing their talents with the community. Reaching out to others who shared similar goals, Jeanne Moon, Cindy Torok, Cathy Rapp, Jim Kyle, Marion Burmeister began holding meetings. From the beginning, both artists and supporters were invited to participate.
The group spent almost a year discussing their goals and purpose. Jim is credited with insisting on the word "Artisans" to convey the difference between art and bazaar type crafts. Jeanne, a calligrapher, designed the signature AAI logo. Jeanne and Cindy formulated Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws based on an evaluation of similar documents from other organizations. In September of 1991, Alpine Artisans officially declared itself in the Pathfinder and announced its first public event, "The Community Art Show" to be held at the Seeley Lake Community Hall. Cindy refers to it as "the first Show and Tell" because the emphasis was not yet on selling but rather on demonstrating the array of artistic talent in the valleys.
By this time, Alan Taylor had joined the group, expanding Alpine Artisans membership to the Condon area; Bob and Ruth Korn joined shortly after. Jeri Netherton, owner of the Stage Station and one of the organization's first business members, began allowing artists to display their works in her store. Buoyed by their swelling enrollment, the success of their first showing, Jeri's encouragement, and the support of the Pathfinder, the group decided to stage their first art sales event - Loon & Fish Festival.
During the 1994 tenure of Co-Presidents, Bob and Ruth Korn, the organization navigated the legal intricacies of non-profit status, and Alpine Artisans became Alpine Artisans, Incorporated. Bob and Ruth are also credited with initiating the Wine & Chocolate Socials. They envisioned a fundraiser focused on providing scholarships for local high school students. Marion Burmeister reports the group decided on "a combination sale and social evening, something elegant," and Jeanne adds they all saw it as an opportunity to showcase their work to out-of towners. Marilyn Peterson volunteered The Emily A as a venue and a February date close to Valentine's Day was decided upon.
From the very first planning sessions, Jeanne and Cindy had maintained that the organization ought to focus not just on selling and making money but also on activities that were fun and enriching for the members. So art workshops were part of the picture early on. Individual members invited the whole group to their homes and studios to demonstrate and share their love for woodworking, pottery, painting, calligraphy, basket making, etc.; they arranged for outside professionals to give classes in sketching, African bead work, Chinese ink painting, marketing. They had Christmas parties and summer Show-and-Tells. Alan Taylor even arranged for a piano concert as early as 1992. It took place at the high school gym and the entire community was invited to hear Patricia Burge (1991 Colorado Composer of the Year).
Exposing kids to the arts was also an early goal for Alpine Artisans, one which especially flourished under the leadership of the Korns. Jim Kyle remembers taking his scroll saw to the school and making little wooden Christmas trees; Cindy introduced sculpture to 5th and 6th graders; Joy Clemens led a jewelry making workshop and taught mask making for Halloween; and Bob and Ruth introduced youngsters to a potter's wheel.
To keep members in touch with one another, to inform them about AAI happenings, and to alert them of art-related activities in the wider community, a newsletter was started - one which received complimentary recognition from the Montana Arts Council (Barbara Willing and Charlotte West were early editors). Later, Jennifer Dyer began sending out postcards to notify members of important events (the precursor to today's email bulletins). Ron Ukrainetz designed the 1st AAI brochure. It encapsulated the philosophy, goals, and accomplishment of Alpine Artisans Inc., and extended an invitation to artists and lovers of the arts to join in something welcoming and wonderful.