Next week, a Kalispell museum will unveil a national treasure.
The Hockaday Museum of Art has acquired 15 murals of Glacier National Park. The pieces, which range from 5 to 13 feet in length, originally were created to decorate the park’s iconic lodges.
The first mural to be restored depicts the Grinnell Lake area in Many Glacier, according to Kalispell painter Mark Ogle. It will be unveiled at a reception Jan. 10 at the Hockaday.
The murals had languished for years at Leona and Robert Brown’s West Glacier home, said Elizabeth Moss, the Hockaday’s executive director. The Browns had rescued the pieces when the lodges were remodeled decades ago.
“When the lodges were remodeled, everyone knows the stories of how the artwork was put out onto the lawns and Dumpsters,” Moss said. The Browns saved the murals, but didn’t display them.
“[The murals have] been living in their garage all these years,” she said.
The Browns passed down the murals to their granddaughter, Leanne, and her husband, Alan Goldhahn, of Bozeman. Leanne Goldhahn donated the murals to the Hockaday in memory of her grandparents.
A gallery in Bozeman acted as an agent to figure out who would take the murals, Moss said.
“We’d been in talks for six months before we acquired them,” she said.
The Hockaday acquired 14 murals to display in Kalispell. One will remain with the family but has been deeded to the museum, Moss said: “It comes back to us.”
Those murals will be carefully restored by Joe Abbrescia Jr., who is donating his labor. Moss laughed when she recalled one restoration effort by the family.
“Leanne Goldhahn ... decided to keep one for the family to enjoy, so she vacuumed it to get the dirt off. She also used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on it,” Moss said.
“As a conservatory, we were cringing. I said, ‘You’re coming to the right place. We will take care of them.’”
Abbrescia will work first on the murals in the best condition, Moss said. Some will take significantly more work; at least two were badly water damaged.
“But we’ll keep the collection together,” Moss said. “Our goal is to get them to the public for the public.”
The nonprofit museum can’t do the work alone. The Hockaday is relying on help from donors to finish the restoration.
The initial mural’s restoration has been made possible by donations from the Goldhahns and Abbrescia’s labor.
Those interested in helping with the restoration process should contact Moss at the museum, at 755-5268 or email@example.com. She reminds people that working on the murals aligns perfectly with the Hockaday’s mission to preserve the park’s artistic legacy.
“That’s one reason to put one out, to let people come in and learn about it,” she said. “It’s part of our heritage, and that’s what the museum’s heritage is, to preserve that legacy. We’re thrilled to have them.”
Joe Abbrescia uses pastels to restore a mural depicting Grinnell Lake Monday afternoon at Abbrescia Art Restoration in Kalispell.
Joe Abbrescia restores a mural depicting Grinnell Lake Monday afternoon at Abbrescia Art Restoration in Kalispell.
Joe Abbrescia restores a mural depicting Grinnell Lake Monday afternoon at Abbrescia Art Restoration.