LINCOLN — With a rich mining and logging history, Lincoln has become a destination for hunters, back-packers, fans of sled-dog racing and, most recently, patrons of the fine arts.
On the edge of the town, you’ll find a place like no other in the state, Blackfoot Pathways Sculpture in the Wild (BPSW).
Inside the award-winning sculpture park, there are more than a dozen large art installations surrounded by towering Ponderosa Pine trees.
Becky Garland, president of the board for BPSW, said since they opened six years ago, it’s become quite the destination. But they’re beginning to run out of space.
2020 will mark the end of regular installations to the sculpture park.
“That’s kind of where our future is. We grew so fast I think we’re going to give ourselves some time to let the roots dig down deep and then see where it goes,” said Garland.
But that doesn’t mean Sculpture in the Wild is going to stop growing. This year they’re introducing more live events, ranging from musical performances to Shakespearean readings.
New sculptures will eventually be added once the current ones reach the end of their life spans.
“We have some true temporary art pieces in the sculpture park right now that will last just a few more years. So we’ll let them live their life out,” noted Garland.
Since its founding, BPSW has become a community hub and sees travelers from all over the world.
“Last year we had 30,000 people through here. We have a counter so we can monitor how many people are coming and going, and that’s a big deal for the little town of Lincoln,” said Garland.
That translates to about twice the population of the town of Lincoln visiting the landmark each month.
MTN News caught up with a couple of women from Australia and New Zealand that were touring the park. The women were in the state visiting a friend when they heard about BPSW and decided to visit. Both said they thought the art was absolutely amazing and would recommend anyone visiting Montana to make sure they saw it — high praise for a state with both Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.
BPSW got started by a chance meeting at Seattle’s Pratt Fine Arts Center with Rick Dunkerly of Lincoln and Kevin O’Dwyre of Ireland. The two were both artists in residence and became fast friends.
“Kevin came to Lincoln several times to work in Rick’s workshop,” explained Garland. “While hanging around Lincoln, Kevin explained he had done something similar in a small town in the midlands of Ireland where he comes from.”
The two found inspiration in the old Delaney Sawmill Teepee Burner just outside town and then began rallying the community.
“This place was a buzz. I don’t think there was a person in Lincoln that didn’t know this was starting,” said Garland.
After 18 months of work, BPSW opened to a crowd of 300 people to celebrate the occasion.
“And every year it gets better. Every year people come to Lincoln and love the place. So it’s proving itself over and over again, and it is a magical place,” added Garland.
BPSW has received several accolades over the years, most recently being recognized with a Montana Tourism Award for Heritage and Cultural Tourism and earning a Lewis and Clark Heritage Council Historic Preservation Award.
The 2019 artists in residence are Stuart Frost of Norway and Alison Stigora of the United States.
Their residency begins in September and each artist has three weeks to complete their large installation before it is premiered to the public.
Garland said she always knew the sculpture park would be something big, but she never expected it to be as popular as it is has become.
“It’s really wonderful to have the international flair to it. It makes it desirable to so many people to come and see what the international environmental artists are up to,” said Garland.
If you ask Garland what BPSW truly represents, she’ll tell you at its heart it represents the people of Lincoln.
It represents logging, mining, tourism, and character all wrapped up together in the wild.
Find the full summer 2019 schedule for Sculpture in the Wild below.
-Reported by John Riley/MTN News
Blackfoot Pathways Sculpture in the Wild 2019 Summer Events Schedule
- Music in the Wild Unplugged Summer Music Series: July 4 – August 1 Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.
- Shakespeare in the Wild: August 8 at 7:00 p.m.
- This is Montana with Rick Greatz: August 15 at 7:00 p.m.