A rainy Monday completely changed the summer of 2014 for two Missoula artists.
Nancy Seiler and Laura Blaker visited Bigfork on May 5 looking for art galleries that might be interested in representing their work, but found that all of the established spots were closed.
They saw a “For Rent” sign in an Electric Avenue window and on a whim, decided to call about the space.
“It was too perfect,” Blaker said of the site, which had been used as an art gallery in the past. “It was perfectly lit, everything is here, we didn’t have to put any money into it. It was like a gift from God.”
So Lake Gallery, located at 459 Electric Ave., was prepared and opened on June 1. The two artists will be living in Bigfork for the summer, showcasing their own work in the gallery as well as work by other contemporary artists.
Seiler, 52, has a background in botanical illustration and other natural art. She is the owner of Seiler Design in Missoula, and teaches botanical illustration and nature journaling. In the last five years she has added fluid acrylics to her painting repertoire.
She has designed a number of interpretive signs for places such as nature trails and history exhibits, and has created her own line of colorful note cards featuring native plants and pollinators.
Blaker has been a graphic designer for 35 years, during which time she spend part of one enjoyable summer working on set design at the Bigfork Playhouse. She also found a steady job in designing the Asian-inspired murals for the interior of more than 40 HuHot Mongolian Grills, including the Kalispell franchise.
Her artistic skills were furthered after she went to study in Florence, Italy, for a month to work on her drawing.
She’s well known for her paintings of Missoula neighborhoods, and she expects to be painting Bigfork neighborhoods in the same style. She’s found that people are drawn to representations of where they live, even though she sometimes takes the artistic license to change details and colors.
“The first show I did of a neighborhood, of the 26 paintings I sold 20 of them,” Blaker, 55, said. “People gravitate to them.”
Both artists expect to take advantage of the inspirations found in Bigfork while they’re here.
“She’ll be painting a lot of neighborhoods and views around Bigfork, and I’ll be painting a lot of landscapes,” Seiler said. “We’ll switch off running the gallery so we can paint.”
The style of Lake Gallery is “very contemporary,” Seiler said. “Not wildlife realistic traditional, but more contemporary. Our paintings have a lot of bright colors, fun and lively and a lot of energy.”
They say they’ve been warmly welcomed as newcomers to the Bigfork art community.
“They’re very happy that there will be a business in that location and it will be open every day,” Seiler said. “We understand it’s very busy in July and August especially. We’ll be getting our inventory up this month so we have enough to keep the walls full of art.”