Bozeman Art Museum (BAM)

Sarah May  |   Tuesday Jun. 1st, 2021

Just west of 19th and Main, tucked in the corner of a small brick shopping strip hides a world of discovery and inspiration. At only 1,795 square feet, the Bozeman Art Museum (BAM) provides a passageway to a world of rich art history and community hub. The long narrow walls have displayed the works of Charlie Russel and John Niento. Albeit tiny, the Bozeman Art Museum is home to some pretty big art.

After opening its doors in January of 2020, the Bozeman Art Museum is an up-and-coming vibrant landmark on the Bozeman map. Recent exhibits have included the art from Steven Huston and Russell Chatham. What started as a seedling of an idea by Linda Williams in 2012 and was brought to life in 2016, the Bozeman Art Museum has quickly grown into a reputable up-and-coming museum in the global art scene.

Back in 2012, Williams noticed how our town seemed to have it all. Surrounded by spectacular mountain views, ski hills just 16 miles outside of town, a robust life on Main Street, amazing museums and an ever-growing population, Bozeman had it all, except an art museum. When Williams realized Bozeman was the only major Montana city lacking an art museum, she decided to do something about it. When she first took her idea to the City Commission, her expertise was questioned and her idea was shot down. Williams took this “no” as fuel to her fire and enrolled in school where she earned her master’s in Art History, Theory, and Criticism, earning the credentials needed to get the art museum going.

By 2016, the art museum was boots on the ground in establishing what they hope to be a world-renowned art museum here in town. The immediate support of the Bozeman community has them rejoicing as they optimistically look to one day have a large permanent home on the Bozeman map. Through local financial support to donated showcases, the Bozeman Art Museum is seeing support from all levels. With a supportive network of Bozeman museums cheering them on, it’s no surprise to anyone when they hear of the early success of the museum.

In true Bozeman form, the art museum started by putting the community first during its grassroots stage. With Erin Jones Graf, a rural Montana native, as the chairperson, the museum is bringing fine art skills to the Gallatin and Park County rural schools, an initiative which is a homegrown passion of Graf’s. Growing up in rural Montana, her access to the arts was limited and it wasn’t until high school that she discovered her artistic passion. She is a firm believer in exposing young kids to art skills and not making them wait until high school to engage in the art world as she did.

Through its school outreach program, the museum has served over 2,500 students in its short tenure, exposing kids to fine arts in rural Montana and creating workshops for the Bozeman homeschool community. While inspiring young minds and giving them the tools for artistic expression is a high priority for the museum, serving the creative adults of Bozeman is part of the equation as well.

Through in-house workshops and painting sessions out in nature, artists of all levels can learn from the best while discovering their artistic voice. The heart of the museum’s board is to inspire those of all ages and stages of life to fall in love with art and create their own along the way. For those who lean a little more to the academic side with a passion for learning, art history lectures are hosted at the Museum of the Rockies and Bozeman Public Library throughout the year.

The art museum is more than just a home for inspiration and fine art. The impacts of museums on a community are innumerable. More people visited an art museum, science center, historic house or site, zoo, or aquarium in 2018 than attended a professional sporting event. According to the American Alliance of Museums, the impacts a museum has on a community include the following:

• The economic activity of museums generates more than $12 billion in tax revenue, one-third of it going to state and local governments.

• Seventy-six percent of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities such as visiting museums. These travelers spend 60 percent more on average than other leisure travelers. Museums and other nonprofit cultural organizations return more than $5 in tax revenues for every $1 they receive in funding from all levels of government.

• Museums spend more than $2 billion each year on education activities; the typical museum devotes three-quarters of its education budget to K-12 students.

• For every direct job at a museum, an additional job is supported elsewhere in the economy. This is a higher rate than many other industries.

While the Bozeman Art Museum has a long way to go before its dreams are brought to fruition, if the early stages of the development are any indication of the future impact the museum and its supporters will have on the community, Bozeman will be a better place because of the museum.

If you’re looking to learn more about the Museum, you can visit its website at to see summer hours, workshops, lectures, and get the info. on upcoming exhibits. Admission is free, but if you believe in the Art Museum and all it has to offer our community, you can become a supporting member for only $25 a year. The Museum is located at 2612 W. Main St. Suite B.

Running through July 10, the Museum is paying tribute to the place it calls home with the Brush With The Wild: Wildlife and Sporting arts exhibit. The museum looks to host a number of national workshops timed with its Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters Reunion Exhibit in July and August. This September, a Native American exhibit will be showcased.

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