Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon: Revisiting artists' collective legacy

Cory Walsh

You can’t see the significance of something while it’s happening, once every couple of weeks, year by year.

That’s how artist Leslie Van Stavern Millar described the legacy of the Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon, a collective of Missoula artists that has met regularly for life-drawing sessions since 1989.

Pausing to gather a fuller scope can help you “identify something that you’ve been involved with, and so much immersed in, that you aren’t seeing what the real repercussions are,” Millar said.

That’s what’s been happening at the Montana Museum of Art & Culture, which has dedicated both its galleries to an exhibition, “Focus on the Figure: The Pattee Canyon Ladies Salon, 1989-2022.” An accompanying symposium on Nov. 11 had artists, models and experts talk about the legacy.

Together, the members carved a space for regular practice, camaraderie and exhibitions of their work while developing individual careers that have been noted by museums and galleries here and around the country.

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The exhibition was put together in a “community curation” model new to the MMAC. The museum staff worked with the late Nancy Erickson, Stephanie Frostad, Kristi Hager and

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