Art from the world’s master artists is now available in the Flathead Valley.
The Sunti World Art Gallery opened in Whitefish on July 2. The gallery is located in the former Methodist Church building at 345 Spokane Ave.
Thai sculptor Sunti Pichetchaiyakul previously owned a gallery in Bigfork, but two years ago purchased the Whitefish lot. Pichetchaiyakul and his wife Erica made plans to renovate the building and create a gallery.
Erica’s father, Tony Figueiredo, who owns Hardrock Masonry and Building Contractors in Bigfork, took up the task of creating the new space.
“The bones were good,” he said, referring to the church structure. “The building itself is absolutely beautiful.”
As Figueiredo set to work on the renovation, Sunti and his family ended up with the opportunity of a lifetime back in Thailand.
According to Erica, Sunti was commissioned to sculpt the king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej. The project kept them away from Montana longer than they planned, but it was a project they could hardly turn down.
When they returned to the Flathead Valley, they were eager to get to work on the new gallery.
“Even though [Sunti’s art] is very well-known in Thailand, we’re still on that discovery road here,” Erica said.
Erica said the family feels like they’ve come full circle. Sunti’s first U.S. showing was at a previous Whitefish art festival, and now they are happy to call the town home.
“We’re lucky to be here,” Sunti said, as translated by Erica. “We are proud to be a part of this community.
“It is so nice to slow down and have some roots in the perfect location.”
Since the (near) completion of the building renovations and opening of the gallery, Erica said the community response has been positive and humbling. She said the support they’ve received is just one more reason they are happy to be back home in Whitefish.
The Sunti World Art Gallery features many works by Sunti, including a collection of monks and American Indian figures. But the gallery also represents a host of other international artists.
Other artists represented by the gallery include Adeline Halvorson, Hubert Nanzar, Dillon Huang, Kriangsak Jomsanenong, Andrew Kiss, Don Olze, Alan Wylie, Somgiat Saiglab and Virachai Saiglab.
Sunti said that all the artists are masters at what they do, and that the gallery is honored to represent them.
Erica said that the couple hopes bringing art of the highest quality from around the world will help in the preservation of the masters’ techniques, history and cultures.
For Sunti, it’s about “preserving pure art.” He said he truly loves every piece in the gallery, almost to the point of being saddened when something sells.
“I just want to move my bed down to the gallery and be there all the time,” he joked.
All joking aside, Sunti takes respect for the art very seriously. He and Erica both encourage the community to come take a look at what the new gallery has to offer.
“Don’t look at the [artist’s] name, look at the art,” Sunti said. “Look at what moves you.
“These artists make our world beautiful.”
For more information, call 406-862-1084 or visit www.suntiworldart.com.
Entertainment Editor Stefanie Thompson can be reached at 758-4439 or ThisWeek@dailyinterlake.com.
A bronze statue of Chief Little Horse, part of the Native American Chiefs Collection which is part of the Legends of the Americas, sits in the entryway to the new Sunti World Art Gallery in Whitefish.
Portrait of Erica and Sunti Pichetchaiyakul in the new location of the Sunti World Art Gallery in Whitefish.