Alpine Artisans enduring amid COVID-19

SEELEY LAKE – Like so many other groups in 2020, Alpine Artisans (AAI) has found ways to function in the "new normal." AAI Program Manager Jenny Rohrer confirmed that the annual Tour of the Arts will take place as usual on the second weekend of October. AAI's 2 Valleys Stage (2VS) Director Samantha Arroyo said though the concert season will be an abbreviated one, the Stage will bring outstanding performers in December and again in April.

Rohrer said, "We're excited because in spite of the cancellation of so many of our programs that require people to gather closely together and COVID making that very difficult, about two-thirds of the artists who normally participate in Tour of the Arts were very eager to open up their studios and bring people in with proper COVID protocols."

According to Rohrer, a volunteer will be present at each location. Masks will be required and will be available for visitors who do not bring their own. The volunteers will monitor the capacity at each location, assist with social distancing and arrange for simple contact tracing information. This will relieve the artists of having to enforce COVID regulations and leave them free to demonstrate their art and enter into discussions with the visitors.

Although most of the AAI artist members in Condon have chosen not to participate in the Tour this year, Lincoln, Ovando and Seeley Lake will be well represented. The artists in Lincoln are relocating to the Montana Heritage House, 129 Sucker Creek Road, and will have four artists who have presented before plus one new one. Ovando's Brand Bar Museum will house two artists. Seeley Lake, in addition to the regular artists and venues is adding one new studio and two new galleries: Willow Creek Studio in the Double Arrow, Gallery 83 at Lazy Pine Mall on Highway 83 and Handmade in Seeley Lake at 3189 Highway 83. Detailed information will be available as the date draws nearer.

While Montana Shakespeare in the Parks did not perform this summer and three of the other groups scheduled for the 2 Valleys Stage 2020-2021 season canceled, The Gothard Sisters, a contemporary Celtic music group, and Bridge & Wolak, a music and comedy duo, will still be coming to present their concerts. In addition, Arroyo is exploring the option of bringing smaller, more local musicians to fill out the season.

Missoula County Public Schools is not permitting large groups to congregate in the schools. That means 2VS cannot use the Seeley-Swan High School auditorium. Arroyo is searching for alternate venues for 2VS performances. She said there are a couple of good alternatives, but nothing is confirmed at this point. Likewise, how the school residencies will work under COVID-19 is also in flux. Possibly the performers will do workshops in individual classrooms.

There will be no 2VS season tickets this year. Tickets for each community concert can be purchased at the venue. Arroyo acknowledged the reduced schedule will cause financial difficulty for 2 Valleys Stage, especially since there have been no group fundraising events this year. Donations are appreciated.

Arroyo said, "We would like to thank the community for their support and understanding during these challenging times and will be doing our best to ensure the 2 Valleys Stage program continues to serve our valleys and especially the kids."

Aside from re-envisioning and rearranging traditional events in the time of COVID, Alpine Artisans has also been busy updating the AAI website ( with the help of Andrea DiNino.

Rohrer said, "An organization like Alpine Artisans that represents so many artists and art supporters, needs to have a website that looks up-to-date and reflects the style of a well-established arts organization. When someone comes to our website, they need to see right away that we offer a lot in cultural enrichment to the three valleys, Swan, Seeley and Blackfoot. This website makes it easy to get to the events, to see the calendar, and to see what's available to people who might be interested in participating in the cultural life of the valleys."

Especially necessary in this time of constant change, Rohrer said the website offers information about programs temporarily on hold like Open Book Club, workshops that have been reconfigured such as Uncorked and Creative, and ongoing opportunities such as youth grants and scholarships. It also profiles and provides contact information for each of the 40 member artisans.

As an overview message, AAI president Bob Green offered the assurance, "Alpine Artisans shall remain committed to providing the quality arts experiences for our community and our students that we have always worked to provide. Obviously, this pandemic has created a unique and unpredictable set of challenges for us. Although we have found it necessary to cancel or postpone several planned events, we continue to plan with the hope that restrictions end soon. We hope, of course, that we can resume a normal schedule very soon."


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