Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

Seeley Lake resident named AAI Art Benefactor

 

April 16, 2020

Betty Vanderwielen, Pathfinder

Alpine Artisans, Inc. Program Director Jenny Rohrer (back) recognizes Sara Wilcox with flowers and a certificate after she was named the AAI Art Benefactor of the Year.

SEELEY LAKE - Each year, Alpine Artisans, Inc. selects an individual or a business that has contributed outstanding merit to the local community. This year's Arts Benefactor award was given to Sara Wilcox, founder of AAI's Open Book Club and co-founder of the In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival.

Wilcox has been involved with AAI for 13 years. She is familiar to those in Seeley Lake who frequent the Grizzly Claw Trading Company where she works both as a barista and as the Grizzly Claw's book buyer.

Wilcox's expertise in the literary world dates back to when she worked at the University of Montana Bookstore. There, she worked to create author readings, a passion she brought to Seeley Lake when she moved here permanently in 2003.

Wilcox took note when author John Maclean attracted a crowd at the Grizzly Claw for one of his book readings. In July 2007, she put together the first in the author series that became the "Open Book Club."

Wilcox said several years later the Grizzly Claw joined forces with AAI, which vastly improved the Open Book Club's outreach to the community with their large membership and media capabilities.

"Jenny Rohrer and I have worked closely on author readings for 12 years now," wrote Wilcox in an email. "Jenny and I make a great team and it has been a real pleasure to work alongside her through the years."

The Open Book Club has hosted over 100 authors in the past 13 years. Wilcox said it has provided the Seeley Swan Valley with the opportunity to meet and listen to some of Montana's finest authors including William Kittredge, Annick Smith, Pete Fromm, Jamie Ford, John Maclean and many more. It is also a way for the authors to get to know the community by visiting with community members, dining locally and whenever possible the Double Arrow Lodge and The Lodges on Seeley Lake generously provide lodging.

"I feel that we have enriched the lives of so many in the valley and also the lives of our visiting authors," wrote Wilcox. "Open Book Club has become a sought-after place for authors to read."

In 2013, Wilcox and retired librarian Michael Cropper raised the idea of honoring the literary heritage of home-town hero Norman Maclean with a literary festival. The first In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival took place in July 2015. Both Wilcox and Cropper are key to the current planning of the 2021 Norman Maclean Festival.

"It was a real delight for me to receive the Alpine Artisans Arts Benefactor Award for my work with the Open Book Club and In the Footsteps of Norman Maclean Festival. I was totally surprised by the award and very pleased," wrote Wilcox. "AAI is a marvelous organization that has brought Arts and music to the Valley. We would be a far less interesting place to live without AAI, and it has been a pleasure to work alongside the very talented and creative folks there."

 

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