One of the first exhibits to open at E3 Convergence required walking through the gallery by flashlight. Growing Wildflowers in Skulls featured glow-in-the-dark paintings and cow-skull sculptures and introduced gallery-goers to artist Luke Smith, whose major experience was with live painting at late-night outdoor music festivals (hence the ultraviolet paint). Since opening in November 2013, E3 Convergence has been showcasing exciting, mostly emerging artists like Smith, but as those familiar with the Missoula arts community know, change is always afoot. Last week, E3 Convergence owner and curator Lillian Nelson announced that the gallery will mount one more month-long exhibit before shuttering for good. The exhibit, New Beginnings, which opens May 4 for First Friday, feels like a curtain call. It features 28 artists from the gallery’s past, including Smith, Anne Cruikshank, Linds Sanders, Sky Angove and Adelaide Gale Every. After the May show, there will be one last event in the space: The VonCommon Prom, a party for the artist collective, of which Nelson is a member.
“I feel like a lot of it has ended up really colorful and positive,” she says. “I’m trying to emphasize the good side of it. It’s not a tragedy. We’ll move on.”
Missoula will see several more changes in the visual arts scene in the coming year. Radius Gallery is renovating the former Uptown Diner for a move-in date sometime in the spring or summer of 2019, which will put Radius in the path of First Friday foot traffic. Lisa Simon, who co-owns the popular gallery, says the new space will triple its size and allow for a ceramics showcase room.
“We want something that really puts a spotlight on the history and cornerstone that Montana has played nationally in the role of contemporary ceramics,” she says.
Also on the horizon is the Zootown Arts Community Center’s move from the Northside to the Studebaker Building downtown. The new space will include a visual arts gallery and room for live music, both of which will showcase local talent, which means that even with E3 Convergence’s closure, there will still be a place for emerging artists to take root and thrive.
“Some of us keep going around the idea that we should just claim Missoula as the art mecca of Montana,” Simon says. “And without any need for validation, we’re going to just start moving along those lines.”