local visual artists

Jamie Betts

Jamie's photography reflects a deep appreciation of Montana landscapes and whimsical perspective on wildlife.  Her scenery is spectacular - you feel that you are "there."  Her wildlife seems to show a wide range of diverse personalities - you  feel you almost know them.

Why are the arts important in Sanders County?  Art is a form of self-expression.  It is vital people have an outlet to express emotion, as that is what art is, a personal medium of emotion.

Whistle Creek Pottery, Plains

(406) 826-3755

E-mail: Pln3755@blackfoot.net

Ellen Childress

Ellen Childress is a potter who likes working with the four elements of earth, air, fire and water.  Her work enables her to participate in the the rituals of daily living and the celebrations of significant events through creating vessels that are appropriate for all occasions from birth through death.

Why are the arts important in Sanders County:?  Sanders County has a history as a logging and ranching community populated by rugged individualists but it is much more than that. The abundance of natural beauty and interesting geological history provide inspiration for artists working in all mediums.  The arts allow for expression of a wide range of talents and perspectives. Even though the population is becoming more diverse, the arts provide a meeting place where people can find common ground in appreciation and discussion of various presentations.

The Montana WoodWright, Plains, MT

(406) 529-0239

E-Mail: tomcollins875@gmail.com

Tom Collins

I am drawn to wood carving for a few reasons. First, carving is both 3 dimensional and reductive, challenging my perspective; second, carving repurposes a once living tree, which somehow seems useful; and thirdly, the slower pace of the hand work of gouge and mallet allows time for the medium to communicate back to the artist its own limits based on density and grain. During the eight years of my carving experience I have carved in various types of wood. I have learned to appreciate and prefer the harder woods because of their ability to hold fine detail. 

Why are the arts important in our county?  I believe one of the key contributions of the visual art forms is to teach, both artists and admirers, how to see and appreciate life from different perspectives. The Sanders County Arts Council supports this teaching as well as supporting the artists and admirers. 

Art by Valia, Plains

(406) 826-4193


Valerie Curtiss

Val Curtiss began painting in 2003, using a palette knife with oils and acrylics to create bright, vivid images. After recovering from a 2005 stroke, she resumed painting in 2007, studying with Leonid Afremov in 2014.  She is a prolific painter who loves the brilliance of color and paints for pleasure.

Why are the arts important in our county?  Art is always important, thought provoking and brings joy and pleasure to not only the artist but also to the viewer.  Art can be healing, and a therapy for all kinds of ailments, and can be the savior for many people.

Art4You, Noxon

(406) 847-5598

Email: art4you@montana.com

Cinda Gazaway

Cinda Gazaway is a portrait painter whose professional career as an illustrator and draftsman have provided her with a solid foundation for her current work.  Working in oils and acrylics, she enjoys and captures the unique qualities of each of her subjects.

Why are the arts important in our county?  I believe the arts in our county are celebrated in The Paradise Center, which is a community in a nutshell as it offers information, history, the arts, and a place for family.

Rick Harter, Plains

(406) 826-2323

Rick Harter

Rick Harter has been an artist since his pre-school days.  He prefers realism in art, but also enjoys impressionism. He has created artworks in oils, watercolors, and currently paints with acrylics.  After a brief exposure to formal art training in college, he pursued and preferred art training through private art lessons.

Why are the arts important in our county?  I believe we do our youth a disservice if we send them out into the world without an education about and exposure to the arts.

Kaleidoscope Ranch and Gallery, Noxon (406) 847-2663

Email: nox2663@blackfoot.net

Mary Lou Johnson

Mary Lou Johnson began her fine arts focus in the early 1970s.  She leans toward oil painting, but also paints in watercolor and creates some clay sculptures.  Her main artistic influence is American Impressionism and her main themes are Western whether it be a landscape, wildlife, or portrait. 

Why are the arts important in our county?  Throughout history our culture is remembered most by the “art and music” of the time.

OK Photography, Plains

(406) 826-3221

Orval Kuester

Orvall Kuester has been an outdoor enthusiast all his life and has studied what makes nature “tick.”  His photography spans from the outdoor landscape to the minute details of tiny creatures that we often overlook.  His work brings all viewers closer to our surroundings and provides glimpses of what most of us will never see otherwise.

Why are the arts important in our county?  I think all artists have the power to make us aware of our world and help us appreciate what we have and where we live.

Golden Willow Gallery, Noxon

(406) 847-0137  Email: goldenwillowgallery@gmail.com

Barbara Mullins

Barbara Mullins paints and creates sculpture based on the natural world.  Preferring watercolors and clay, she now lives where scenery surrounds and inspires her. She feels that God is the creative force in the universe and instills in artists the desire to capture the beauty that surrounds them.

Why are the arts important in our county?  Art in the community can be visual arts, music, or drama and can express a wide range of feelings that are part of being human; there should always be a venue for their expression.

Ilene Paulsen Studio

(406) 303-1972


Ilene Paulsen

It has been a lifelong passion of mine to capture the beauty I see in nature and other areas of life through paintings.  The focus of my paintings can range from common everyday topics to the odd yet beautiful subjects.  I strive to give glory to God, The Master Artist.

Why are the arts important in Sanders County?  Art is important in our homes and places of businesses because it can bring beauty into a chaotic life.  It can add just the right color to give a room life.  Art can be an escape to somewhere you wish you could be and the perfect painting can bring joy and or mystery each time you observe it.

Kenton’s Art, Plains

(406) 826-7788


Kenton Pies

Kenton Pies has been a “multimedia” artist all his life.  He has used stone, clay, metal, wood and more in his sculptures.  His paintings include watercolor, oil, and acrylic.  His 63 years of work is captured in a three volume book available on Amazon books e-store. 

Why are the arts important in our county?  All my life I’ve been a participant and promoter of all types of art. I firmly believe that art enriches humanity and is an essential part of living.

Shirley Proctor, Plains

(406) 826-3112

Email: proctorshirley@gmail.com

Shirley Proctor

Shirley Proctor is a minister and an artist who creates in a variety of artistic mediums relying on inspiration from the Holy Spirit.  She creates spontaneously in different venues including outreaches, conferences, and workshops, capturing feelings in-the-moment.

Why are the arts important in our county?  As a community, with our busy lives, we need to find ways to bind ourselves together to pause, enjoy, and reconnect – the arts provide this opportunity.

Heartwood Arts Photography, Plains (404) 531-3195, Email: MTBirder@me.com


Cheri Seli

Cheri Seli is a photographer who has studied her medium since college and has taken her work more seriously over the past few years. She takes an eclectic approach to subject matter and continues to learn new techniques and explore new trends in digitizing. Her artistic goal is to capture light in contrast to shadow.

Why are the arts important in our county?  Having the performing and visual arts available in our somewhat isolated community offers residents enjoyable and enriching experiences and artists opportunities for networking. 

Rocks by Liz, Trout Creek

(406) 827-3772


Liz Smith

Liz Smith is inspired by the incredible location of her home. As a child and teenager she studied ballet, piano, violin, and cello.  She currently works with rock and copper to create both functional and decorative artworks.  Her studio is a greenhouse that enhances her connection to the natural world.

Why are the arts important in our county?  I think all types of art from dance to paint are important in Sanders County because it opens the mind, calms the soul, and allows us to grow in ways we wouldn't dream of otherwise.  

Broad Meadow Bowles, Plains, MT 

(406) 474-8756 

Brad Stacey

Brad collects beautiful pieces of wood from their natural environment and makes them stunning works of art by revealing hidden colors textures and patterns that we otherwise would never see.  His paintbrush is the lathe and in his hands, the artwork becomes not only pleasing to the eye  - it begs to be touched.

Why are the arts important in Sanders County?  I love getting together at art shows to meet and get different perspective on the people of Sanders County.

"Let the beauty we love be what we do."  Rumi

Art Studio 376, Plains

(406) 826-0500


Karen Thorson

Karen Thorson uses paint, glass, and clay to depict what is fundamental, striking, and memorable about specific subject matter at a particular moment. She strives to honor the character of a subject when choosing an artistic medium, to satisfy a sense of adventure in creativity, and to stimulate the senses of sight and touch.

Why are the arts important in our county?  The arts have been a part of humanity since primitive people beat hollow logs and drew images on the walls of caves to communicate, record history, and express feelings. The arts still serve those timeless needs.

Photographer, Plains, MT 



Douglas L. Wilks

My photography is very sharp, colorful, and vivid.  I prefer to make the subjects in my photographs stand out by using creative, careful composition, lighting, and cropping in the camera with minimal post processing done to the images. 

Why are the arts important in our county?    Visual and performing arts in Sanders County are very important for everyone, as both of them give a huge variety of things to see, hear, and enjoy in this area of western Montana.  No matter what arts you enjoy, there is a diversity here to enrich you, by engaging many of your senses.