“Bigfork, A Montana Story” premieres

Documentary on the scenic village debuts at Bigfork Center for Performing Arts

Art Beat
Bigfork, Swimmers
Swimmers prepare to plunge in Flathead Lake, near Bigfork.

The Bigfork Art and Cultural Center (BACC) announces the second showing of the original documentary film, “Bigfork, A Montana Story,” at 2 p.m. Nov. 12, at the Bigfork Center for the Performing Arts.

VIP and advance general admission tickets ($10) are on sale now, and general admission tickets are available for $15 at the door the night of the premiere, if seating is available; call 406-837-6927.

The much-anticipated film is a collaboration between local film writer and producer Ed Gillenwater, Bigfork artist Tabby Ivy, and area resident, collector and archivist Denny Kellogg. Their last effort resulted in 2015’s “A Timeless Legacy, Women Artists of Glacier National Park,” the groundbreaking exhibition at the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, which also included a book and documentary film that recently aired on Montana PBS.

“Bigfork, A Montana Story,” is the story of the small village on the shores of Flathead Lake, and its journey to become one of the best of the last best places in Montana. The film presents the geological beginning of the area, the First People who inhabited the land, and the traders, trappers, early pioneers, and entrepreneurs who came from across the continent, traveling long distances over difficult terrain to build the town and to make Bigfork their home.

“In the late 19th century the Bigfork/Swan Lake area became a destination for adventurous folks who were fleeing ‘civilization’ or looking for a fresh start,“ explains Kellogg. “What it didn’t offer in riches, it did provide in plenty: community, independence, opportunity, and recreation, all in a spectacular natural setting unmatched elsewhere in the lower 48 states.”

The documentary takes viewers through the early days of Bigfork, with first person interviews of long-time Bigfork residents telling their family histories and stories. Extensive research unearthed photos and documents unseen for decades.

“This project was not intended to be a definitive history of the town of Bigfork, but rather to tell a narrative of place. These are but a few of the many Bigfork stories to be told. And, while these events happened here, they share a common theme of adventure, courage, and grit shown by all who came West to build a new life and chose to make Montana home,” says Ivy.

Bigfork History Digital Archive

More than two years of research, filming, recorded interviews, and data collection has resulted in an immense treasure trove of historical data. The project took almost 3,000 hours of volunteer time, resulting in 55 on-camera interviews, 3,000 video clips, and upwards of 700 photos and images collected for the project. To preserve and build upon this material, a Bigfork History Digital Archive is being established and will reside at the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center.

“We have had the privilege of gathering many personal stories and images about this beautiful area and its people,” says Gillenwater. “Only a few of these pieces of history can fit within the documentary film and book. However, everything will become part of an interactive digital archive at the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center, where the community can experience and add their own family stories to this history.”

“Bigfork, A Montana Story” exhibit Oct. 27-Nov. 17

A DVD of “Bigfork, A Montana Story” and a companion book will be available for sale at the November premiere and at BACC. All proceeds from the project will benefit the arts center. “History is so fragile and often lost. This project ensures we will capture Bigfork’s history and the stories of those who live here now and those before us,” says BACC director Valerie Vadala Homer.

In conjunction with the release of the film, the Bigfork Art and Cultural Center will host an exhibition, “The Bigfork Documentary Project Exhibition: Bigfork, A Montana Story,” Oct. 27-Nov. 17. The exhibition will feature historic photos never exhibited before, stills from the documentary film, artifacts, memorabilia, stories from area residents, and interactive features. A book signing and closing reception begin at 5 p.m. Nov. 17.

The Bigfork Art and Cultural Center’s mission is to serve as a creative, educational, and experiential hub for people of all ages. The center provides opportunities for Montana artists, celebrates and preserves the history of Bigfork and Montana, and explores new trends and directions in art and culture.

For additional information, contact Valerie Vadala Homer at 602-769-0648 or visit bigforkculture.org.