2 downtown Billings art galleries have new spaces to show off

2014-07-25T00:30:00Z 2 downtown Billings art galleries have new spaces to show offBy JACI WEBB jwebb@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Moving is never easy. And for art galleries, the complications are two-fold. First, you have artwork to move, then you have to move your clients to the new place.

Two well-established downtown art galleries, Catherine Louisa Gallery and Jens Gallery & Design, have new spaces to show off during ArtWalk on Aug. 1.

Catherine Louisa Eithier has quickly gathered major Montana artists to her gallery since she opened on North Broadway next to Rock Creek Coffee Roasters in 2011. Her first exhibit featured family friend, Freeman Butts. Not a bad start for a new gallery.

One of her biggest-selling artists is former rancher, Davi Nelson, whose panoramic oils capture the wide-open spaces of Eastern Montana.

“People who come through want to take a piece of Eastern Montana with them,” Eithier said.

The new gallery is just down the street from her former location. The new space is at 103 N. Broadway, which is in between two popular downtown clubs — Hooligans Sports Bar and the Crystal Lounge.

During the World Cup, you could hear fans cheering at Hooligans even though there is a design firm between the gallery and the bar, but most of the time things are quiet there. And the best part is Eithier has three times more space than her former gallery had and it’s already filled from floor to ceiling.

Eithier will have an opening reception during the Aug 1 ArtWalk and plans major exhibits in coming months, starting with Jerry Cornelia, Sept. 3-17, and including shows by Jean Albus, Gordon McConnell and John Hull.

Among her first artists was Montana’s heralded Crow painter, Kevin Red Star. His large paintings of Crow warriors with black and white striped or blue faces are immediately recognizable and Eithier said many clients come in just to view his work.

McConnell, a well-established Billings artist, was soon to follow. The former curator at the Yellowstone Art Museum was instrumental in bringing in other new artists, not because McConnell actively recruited them but just his name and his solid reputation in the art world lured them in.

“Gordon has been so over-the-top supportive,” Eithier said. “I get as many people enjoying Gordon’s work who don’t know him as those who do. Those who know Gordon, collect him.”

Eithier’s artists are a veritable who’s who list of Montana artists, including Billings sculptor Phoebe Knapp, Joliet metal sculptor Charlie Ringer, Whitefish oil painter Rob Akey, and YAM curator Bob Durden.

“There are so many artists who only show out of state and we have no opportunity to buy their work here. That is the only intention for the gallery – to show their work.”

Just a block west of Catherine Louisa Gallery is the Jens Gallery & Design on Third Avenue across from the Alberta Bair Theater. Owner Connie Jens didn’t want to completely vacate her old gallery, which is in the lower level of 2822 Third Ave. N. So she is moving some art to a new gallery next door at 2824 Third Ave. N., and adding more artists. Recent Rocky Mountain College graduate Jessica Surechief came in as an intern and she will run the original gallery while Jens operates the new space.

The Jens Gallery has been running since 2008, offering a diverse range of artwork from photography to jewelry, pottery, paintings and cards. Her artists include her husband, minimalist artist Gerald Kindsfather, popular Billings jeweler Shirley Shirley, Billings art teacher Jenny Moller, and Bozeman sculptor Tina DeWeese.

“Kenny Alefteras, a multi-media glass artist, is showing at our grand opening in September,” Jens said.

Jens is excited about having a bigger presence with the new gallery. She put Kindsfather to work, resurfacing the walls, painting the walls and the high ceilings, and using many re-purposed items, including desk lamps for gallery lighting. The space was previously used for the Women’s Museum, but you’d never recognize it now.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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