For the fifth anniversary of Montana Gallery, owner Tyler Murphy decided to go on a road trip. He's visiting artists who have made contributions to the success of the gallery, collecting art to bring back, while also painting with them and documenting their stories through film.
On Friday, June 2, Murphy will tell the story of how Montana Gallery came to be, as well as show the footage he's been collecting from the road in an anniversary celebration to coincide with the June ArtWalk. Murphy’s art from this adventure will be on display, as well as a curated collection of paintings from Karyn Mehus, Peter Tolton, Daniel Keys, Kenneth Yarus, Richie Carter, and more.
Murphy has built his business on connections, trial and error. With help from his father, Murphy began Montana Gallery in Red Lodge, where he was living at the time. For Murphy, Red Lodge proved to be a challenging environment.
"I was spending too much time at the bars," he said. "I got really good at pool, but that was not really where I wanted to be spending my time." He was also trying to make ends meet by painting, running the gallery, and a coffee shop combined. He needed to find clarity.
Murphy took a break from the gallery for a summer. "It was healthy to step away and reassess," Murphy said, "— to know that art and the gallery aren't the only things that make me."
When a unique opportunity presented itself, Murphy relocated the business to Billings in 2016. A friend of his, Lenny Howes, identified a unique space in downtown Billings on Second Avenue North. Howes opened Ebon Coffee Collective at 2712 2nd Ave. N., subleasing the coffee machine Murphy was using at his space in Red Lodge. With the burden of running a coffee shop off his plate, Murphy could focus on the business of art and subsequently opened next door.
The space presented a unique opportunity to pair an art gallery with a coffee shop. Working in conjunction, both support one another in special events, dinners and tastings, providing meeting space, among others.
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"If the door is open, and no one is in there, and people need to have a place to meet, I hope people will take advantage of it," Murphy said.
Murphy also hosts Story Nights each month, inviting the public to come together and share stories in an improvisational or scripted manner. The evenings are intimate and revealing, bringing people together to share.
Amongst the rigors of running an art-centric business, Murphy makes time to paint. He enjoys landscapes and plein air painting: the act of painting outdoors.
“I’ve always been interested in representational art and art where you’re looking at something and trying to replicate it,” Murphy said. He’s long been fascinated caricatures, which requires patience and the ability to observe something in front of you, and then cartooning the way they look.
Of plein air painting, Murphy said it’s quite a challenging art form. “It takes a lot of practice before someone gets good at that particular form of art, and it’s incredibly satisfying when you create a good plein air painting.” Though it’s subjective to each artist what constitutes a good painting, Murphy said it involves capturing the feeling of a moment.
“Good plein air paintings convey an idea of that time of day and where you were at, maybe more so than a really good photograph can,” Murphy said.
Join Murphy and crew for their fifth anniversary celebration, taking place from 5 to 9 p.m. on Friday, June 1 at Montana Gallery, 2710 2nd Ave. N.