photo by Seth Kroft

Weaving a Path of Creativity & Exploration at ArtWalk

May 2024

by brooke wagner

The year was 1989. The postage stamp cost was $0.25, and the #1 hit song on the Billboard charts was “Look Away” by Chicago. In Billings, a group of local artists dreamt of a place where the community could explore Downtown after hours and experience firsthand what the thriving art scene had to offer. Fast forward 30 years, and “ArtWalk” has become one of the area's most popular gallery stroll events. ArtWalk invites community members to visit local galleries like Anderson Art Studio and Electric Storm Gallery, as well as businesses like Proof Donuts and Thirsty Street Brewing. Showcasing mediums from beads to books, soldering to sculptures, and everything in between, each step on ArtWalk weaves a path of creativity and exploration. 

Jill Jussila-Patterson has been the community liaison for the walk since June of 2023 and says, “The main focus is just getting the community involved in Downtown and introducing them to the fact that art isn’t just high-end - it’s for everyone!” Jussila-Patterson holds a degree in Fine Art from MSUB but is thrilled that you don’t have to be an art expert to appreciate ArtWalk. There is truly something for everyone at each month’s events, which are held on the first Friday of February, April, June, August, October, and December from 5:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.  

Far from the cost of buying a priceless work of art, most of the events offered around ArtWalk are free. Live music invites patrons to enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. ArtWalk often includes interactive stops on the stroll with gallery talks, street dance performers, and food and drink offerings. Local, regional, and even national artists are featured, and many attend the walk, engaging participants in conversations about their inspirations and techniques. Many stops include a way to get in on the action, no matter if your best artistic attempt includes stick figure drawings. Activities such as ornament decorating, candle pouring, and impromptu painting lessons are just a few options that past attendees have enjoyed. Even if you’re not an artist at the beginning of the evening, you will surely feel like one by the end! 

Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ArtWalk takes these words to heart, transforming familiar “everyday” places in town into a tapestry of new horizons. As the traffic dies down at the end of a long week, the lights come up on attendees who meander through the various “loops” offered on ArtWalk. No matter the weather, patrons find a way to enjoy paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and even newer offerings like wood-burned hats. If someone can dream it, the community can appreciate it and allow it to open their eyes to new creative possibilities.  

Jussila-Patterson is excited to celebrate ArtWalk’s 30th anniversary in 2024 and to unveil the new logo and poster designed by well-known Billings artist Mark Ryan. Collaborations with local schools are also in the works, as art students can have their pieces featured in the stroll. June’s event is shaping up to be one for the record books, featuring pop-up shops with vendors offering permanent jewelry, custom art pieces, and Native American cultural works. With the turn of every corner, visitors will experience a journey of exploration and a new appreciation for the eclectic and thriving art community in Billings and beyond.  

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of Simply Local Magazine

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