Visitors to the Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains may very well have noticed the beautiful artwork that lines the main hallway off the entrance. In 2007, patient Gayle Keeny had the wonderful idea to bring art displays to the waiting walls. She put action to her inspiration by working with the Sanders County Arts Council and the hospital administrator to begin what is now an on-going display of local artists’ works.
Since October 2007, Sanders County artists have displayed their work at the hospital in quarterly rotations.
Each quarter, as a new show is hung, the opening is celebrated with a reception for the artists, which is open to the public. The pictures then remain until the next opening. The Winter Quarter show, which begins in January is a student show open to kids from kindergarten through high school while the other three shows are for adult artists.
The current show at Clark Fork Valley Hospital opened Wednesday with a welcome by Lisa Eberhardt, the Chief Nursing officer, and an introduction of the artists by Joy Nelson from the Sanders County Arts Council. Both Lisa and Joy noted many positives of having the art displayed in this, perhaps unlikely, venue. Lisa noted how much patients enjoyed the healing effects of the beautiful works and Joy noted that the art had played a big role in birthing a lot of babies as moms in labor paced the hallway.
Rachel Gonzalez, a 91-year-old artist, who has 10 items displayed in this quarter’s show, has shown work in every non-student show at the hospital since that first display in 2007. Her passion for art was evident as she talked about the two rooms in her home filled with pictures. She described her system for marking her pictures to make sure that she doesn’t display the same picture more than once.
Gonzalez was born an artist and recalled how, when she was a youngster in grade school, her teacher would often have her draw on the black board. She works with acrylic, oils and watercolors and, although her work displayed in the show is all framed pictures, she chuckled as she admitted that she will paint on anything—including things like frying pans, rocks, and leather.
Sue Honts Mann is a local photographer who specializes in nature photography. She began the craft when she was in grade school and got her hands on a little “brownie” camera. After spending years and lots of money shooting rolls and rolls of film on her outdoor escapades, about 12-13 years ago her daughter gave her a digital camera and then, in her own words, she “went nuts”. Her photos show a keen eye for composition, and beauty, and are enhanced by being displayed in striking wood frames crafted by her husband, Donnie. She has been showing her work at the hospital for several years.
A few years ago, Arturo Montoya lost his wife, an artist who had been displaying her work in the hospital show. When he was going through all of her painting supplies, he decided to give art a try himself. After some classes and lots of practice, Arturo is displaying representations of his talent for the first time in the current show.