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  11 December 2017  |  Vol: 4 facebooktwitterrss  
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Local Advocate Seeking Home for Grassroots Artists

Art on display at the Cottonwood Club's Harvest Ball

“Excuse me, but could you get off my painting, please?” asked the artist, referring to me using what I thought was a wall as a backrest. I immediately apologized and jumped away from the wall; upon further inspection, I realized that the entire wall was a painting. There was also a pink lounge chair nailed to a neighboring wall, and I began to realize that every surface of the basement in the old Gallatin Valley Seed Company building was meant to serve as a display for someone’s art. So began my evening, along with a pint of Bozone Brewery’s Harvest Ale, at the Cottonwood Club’s Harvest Ball.

An underground venue for artists of all kinds, the Cottonwood Club is not a gallery, a business, or a nonprofit organization. It’s a DIY, bring-your-own-art setting for all mediums of art: sculpture, music, jewelry, performance, ceramics, film, cupcakes, pottery, poetry, clothing—anything goes. Artists are encouraged to show up and display their work without having to worry about screening, fees, or reservations. Admission is free, with donations accepted and appreciated. The result is a fascinating show—which happens about every six weeks—that also establishes a forum for artists to gather and sell their work.

ThePhoto of Dalton Brink, Cottonwood Club founder Cottonwood Club was founded in May of 2009 by Dalton Brink (pictured right), a most captivating and witty individual originally from Memphis, Tennessee. Brink—who comes across as brutally honest, yet kind, political and opinionated, yet warm—was disappointed by the lack of avenues for local artists to show and share their work when he arrived in Bozeman, having grown up going to what he describes as “little DIY, cheap, unsupervised venues in Memphis, where one could find an alternative art and music scene.” What he found in Bozeman were tourist galleries where the rent was expensive and unrealistic for most artists, as well as limited places for his band to play. Feeling that his own work, as well as some of his friends’ efforts, didn’t fit into the current mold of commercial art, he decided to create one in which they would.

Named for its original location on East Cottonwood Street near Plum Street, the Cottonwood Club’s Harvest Ball on Saturday night marked its last show at the Gallatin Valley Seed Company building. For the second time Brink’s club is being evicted from Potter at work at the Cottonwood Club's Harvest Ballits space and is in need of a new one. The Cottonwood Club has been renting this spot since 2010 and, being a donation-based club that takes no commissions, Brink has poured a vast amount of his own money into cleaning up the space as he found it (“no lighting, no walls, trash everywhere”). He gives much of the credit to his friend Jay Schmidt, a retired MSU sculpture professor, without whose time and efforts the Cottonwood Club would not be possible. Brink has relied primarily on Facebook and word of mouth to make his club known; he has not advertised beyond a few KGLT DJ friends plugging the club on their shows. “It’s a balance between getting a lot of people exposed to this while keeping it underground and relevant to us, and without it turning into a Sweet Pea,” Brink says.

Child dressed as red dragon at the Cottonwood Club's Harvest BallSaturday’s event featured some special guests, including artist Jesse Albrecht, nationally renowned musician Jason Lytle, and Reid Perry, a Montana native and songwriter who’s more than capable of covering Johnny Cash, as he was when I arrived. Among the interesting crowd at the Harvest Ball, I mingled with a cowboy, a yellow Labrador, a kindly Belgradian couple, a drunk frat boy, and a four-year-old dressed as a red dragon. There were artists hammering ceramics into the wall for the first hour, and two TVs mounted to the ceilings, screen-down, whose screens featured…I’m not sure what, but it was highlighted by a blue strobe light. ‘Anything’ definitely goes here.

Print art at the Cottonwood Club's Harvest Ball

Something else that occurred during the Harvest Ball was the vandalizing of Brink’s car. He came outside Saturday after wrapping up the evening to find that someone had slashed all four of his tires, broken the windows, and spray-painted obscenities all over it. Due to the damage, he’s postponed his plans to depart in two days for an extended road trip.

Brink was disheartened, but still envisions the Cottonwood Club as moving forward. “When you say and decide that you’re an artist, there’s a very real responsibility that comes with that. In these times that holds more truth than ever before. We’re killing our planet, each other, the government is changing dramatically, our financial system is collapsing. As an artist, you have a responsibility to take these concepts and turn them into something the audience can learn from. My vision for the Cottonwood Club is a war on the egotistical, parasitic thinking that calls itself ‘art’ without addressing these things. Even though we get shut down over and over…once an idea like this starts, no one can kill it. Maybe someone else will start up another one.”  -TBM

Photo of Katie Thomas for alternative newspaper bozeman magpieNative Bozemanite Katie Thomas ( covered for the Magpie another character-filled, grassroots fundraiser for Park County's Stafford Animal Shelter in a May feature article titled, "The Fur Ball."

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