Artists are often a solitary bunch.
They spend long hours creating their artwork in studios without much interruption from the outside world.
On Thursday, three Bitterroot Valley artists spent a creative day together in an effort to help out a longtime friend.
Steve Wilson and Jim Joyner met Chip Jones at his studio north of Stevensville to add their own special artwork to chairs for the upcoming annual auction that supports Corvallis’ Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding.
Inside the cavernous studio that once housed a roof joist factory, the men spent the day painting horses, cowboy boots, elk and quaking aspen onto the three old chairs that had already been donated to the cause.
Along the way, they offered each other encouragement and camaraderie that sometimes can be missing in a working artist’s life.
“Other people don’t really get what I do all day,” Joyner said. “It’s nice to spend a day with people who do get it.”
Jones said he moved to the Bitterroot from Frenchtown because of its growing community of artists.
“People think of Bigfork or Big Sky as places where artists congregate in Montana,” he said. “The Bitterroot Valley is kind of a sleeper, but there are a lot artists here. Some pretty big names too.”
“It’s one of the reasons I moved here,” Jones said. “This synergy of artists was attractive to me.”
That still doesn’t mean that artists get together for a work day all that often.
It wasn’t just anyone who could get these three well-known artists to set-aside a day to volunteer their creative juices for a good cause.
“We both get asked 30 to 40 times a year to donate artwork to a cause,” Joyner said. “We’re trying to make a living tool, but when someone like Linda comes along and asks, it’s a no brainer.”
With the help and support of her husband, Don, Linda Olson has been operating Bitterroot Therapeutic Riding for 17 years now. The organization provides therapeutic riding lessons to special needs children and adults at its facility just off Popham Lane north of Corvallis.
All three artists have known the Olsons for years. They’ve appreciated the help they’ve provided to local artists when they owned a foundry and to all the people who gained new confidence through their therapeutic riding program.
“I know that Linda has impacted a lot of kids, a lot of people,” Jones said. “When she asked if I could help out, I said sure.”
Jones first met Don Olson in the early 1980s when he was still a college art student. He and some other students were helping to build a foundry at the school and gone to see Olson’s foundry that was in Missoula at that time.
“He wound up doing on my first university projects,” Jones said. “If Don or Linda need anything, you can’t help by say ‘yeah.’ They’re good people…They’re some of those unsung heroes. I’m sure that the Bitterroot has hundreds of them, but they are a couple of the best.”
Linda Olson said she’s always appreciated the help provided by the community in raising the money needed to pay for scholarships for the children and adults that use their facility.
Besides the three men, local artists Loree West and Eleene Weege also painted chairs for the auction that will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. at their arena on Popham Lane.
“People can just follow the balloons to get there,” Olson said. “All of the proceeds will benefit special needs riders.”
The event includes an all-you-can eat buffet, music, petting zoo and big bounce for the kids. The cost is $30 per person and free to children 10 and under.
Olson said people will find all sorts of different items in the silent auction.
“I don’t do live auctions,” she said. “I don’t want to put people on the spot. Not everything is high end merchandise. We have 10 pounds of hamburger or a haircut for the kids. There have been some lovely things donated and some useful ones too.”
The event has always gone a long way in providing scholarships for riders.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people who come to the arena to ride don’t have any money,” she said. “They are lucky to have enough gas money to get here. The scholarship fund is for both adults and children. We’ve never turned anyone away.”