Art Residency on Flathead Lake

I had the pleasure of being accepted, along with a few other creatives, to Open Air’s residency at the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Station at Yellow Bay this past week. I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into, and it sounds ridiculous, but I had never been to FLBS even though I have spent plenty of summers on the lake. Somewhere along the line there was a disconnect. As a visual artist perhaps I can bring some more knowledge to the space to those of us who haven’t visited.

My spring cohort will be displaying our work in Missoula for August’s First Friday.

The Bio Station was founded in 1899 by a botanist and naturalist named Morton Elrod. Elrod was certainly a prolific individual as a pioneer for the flora and fauna of Western Montana. He was instrumental in the development of the University of Montana and became head of the biology department. He is shown here with his side hustle of collecting wildflower seeds in Glacier National Park.

The Bio Station was founded in 1899 by a botanist and naturalist named Morton Elrod. Elrod was certainly a prolific individual as a pioneer for the flora and fauna of Western Montana. He was instrumental in the development of the University of Montana and became head of the biology department. He is shown here with his side hustle of collecting wildflower seeds in Glacier National Park.

The Bio Station is home to a very colorful freshwater lab that was built in the 80’s. We really enjoyed touring and seeing how much work they do and how they work with people all over the globe. Their website does a much better description than I could… “The Freshwater Research Lab (FRL) at FLBS is an ecosystem science facility providing both grant/contract and fee-based analytical services. The FRL offers analyses on water, soil, air, biological, and radiochemical samples.”

The Bio Station is home to a very colorful freshwater lab that was built in the 80’s. We really enjoyed touring and seeing how much work they do and how they work with people all over the globe. Their website does a much better description than I could… “The Freshwater Research Lab (FRL) at FLBS is an ecosystem science facility providing both grant/contract and fee-based analytical services. The FRL offers analyses on water, soil, air, biological, and radiochemical samples.”

The Bio Station has a taxidermy collection we were able to peruse, so many specimens from cranes to hummingbirds!

The Bio Station has a taxidermy collection we were able to peruse, so many specimens from cranes to hummingbirds!

Having the opportunity to stay out here for a week in a cabin with my family was amazing. We lucked out on a few sunny days where I was able to work outside. Here is one of my painting sketches of a woodpecker from the FLBS taxidermy collection.

Having the opportunity to stay out here for a week in a cabin with my family was amazing. We lucked out on a few sunny days where I was able to work outside. Here is one of my painting sketches of a woodpecker from the FLBS taxidermy collection.

Electric Pinecone Study  (flashe, gouache on wood panel)

Electric Pinecone Study (flashe, gouache on wood panel)

One of my favorite parts of the week was spending evenings at the water’s edge with the other artists and sharing our experiences. As an artist with limited availability to mingle with other artists, this was invaluable and refreshing!

One of my favorite parts of the week was spending evenings at the water’s edge with the other artists and sharing our experiences. As an artist with limited availability to mingle with other artists, this was invaluable and refreshing!

Here are a few facts about Flathead Lake I learned this week:

  • Flathead Lake is the 79th largest of the natural freshwater lakes in the world, and it is one of the cleanest.

  • FLBS is one of the oldest active biological stations in the US

  • Average surface temperatures of the Lake range from 2.3°C (36°F) in mid-January to 13.5°C (56°F) in mid-June to 20.3°C (68°F) in mid-August.

  • Public lands around the Lake include a National Wildlife Refuge on the North Shore, six State Parks (including Yellow Bay which is on FLBS property) managed by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP), and nine Fishing Accesses managed by FWP or the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

  • The first wagon trail (1880s) from Polson to Somers followed the West Shore of the Lake and was steep and hazardous. In places, wagons were lowered by ropes.

  • Wildhorse Island, one of the State Parks, is the largest island in the lake at 2,100 acres, and rises 1,200 feet above the Lake. It is noted for herds of wild horses and Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. Native grasses and flowers are abundant.

    (these facts are from FLBS’s amazing website)