Is Big Sky an artsy area?

By Tallie Lancey
EBS Columnist

If the health of a community can be measured by its engagement in the Arts, then Big Sky is fit as a fiddle.

Abraham Maslow’s developmental psychology pyramid teaches us that humans must achieve their basic needs first: food, shelter, clothing. Eventually, as we mature, we ascend his hierarchy. So it goes with the development of Big Sky. As a fledgling village, we started with a few bars and condos (and ski runs). By now, we’ve installed sophisticated wastewater infrastructure, a K-12 school, a medical center, a pair of stoplights, three groceries, and our very own resident highway patrol trooper. In the developmental trajectory of Big Sky, we’re ready to attain self-actualization, to borrow Maslow’s notion.

More than 25 years ago, a small group of folks were arguably ahead of their time when they brought a symphony orchestra to perform in Big Sky. That small group evolved into the Arts Council, which is now best known for its weekly outdoor concert series. But Music in the Mountains isn’t their only gig. They’re responsible for the Classical Music Festival, the Auction for the Arts, ArtVenture, the Madrigal Dinner, public art projects, and bringing the Telluride Mountainfilm Festival to Big Sky.

Complementing and enhancing those offerings, the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center inspires audiences to participate in art. WMPAC hatched in more recent history but quickly established itself as Montana’s premier venue and presenter. The center’s namesake, a part-time resident of Big Sky, represents the ultimate union of artistry and outdoor recreation. Within its walls, groundbreaking works are created, community theatre events are heralded, children are inspired to get onstage themselves, and world-class performances consistently sell out.

The two non-profit groups have intentionally complimentary missions, schedules and offerings. Their collaboration elevates the arts for the benefit of the entire community. Their combined efforts to educate Big Sky’s youth will have lasting effects. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

In addition, and perhaps less apparent, we are a community of impressive photographers, pianists, ceramicists, jewelers, musicians, poets, actors and dancers. Our local galleries are chock-full of gorgeous pieces. Big Sky contains immense talent. We are well positioned to be a figurative headwaters of cultural creation.

In a place where it’s easy to feel isolated on a cold, dark, wintry night, the arts are all the more important. Art, with a capital A, gives us meaning, understanding and connectivity. If that sounds touchy-feely, then keep in mind that only 5 percent of the Big Sky Resort Area District resort tax goes to the arts. Cultural events are a major economic engine, which makes people happy too.

As we kick off a summer of endless recreational adventures, you’ll likely find yourself sitting in the Town Center Park, surrounded by friends and strangers, enjoying a scene curated for you by our various cultural institutions. You’ll see a trash can wrapped with artwork, professional ballerinas dancing unabashedly, kids from summer camp crafting, and Tony-winning actors eating local artisan ice cream from a food truck. You’ll muse on the experience and be grateful that Big Sky’s arts ecosystem is alive and well.

Are you wondering why something is particularly unique to our community? You want to know and I’m eager to learn. This column commits to answering your burning questions about why Big Sky exists the way it does. Ask me at

Tallie Lancey is a broker with Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty and serves on the boards of Big Sky Community Organization, Top Shelf Toastmasters, and the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center.

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