Notice these yet?A week or so after the popup art project was complete, Liz McRae climbed up to see how things were holding up. Some of the poles had leaned a bit, but she decided the angles added to the effect.

Pop goes the easel

Al fresco art appears on Big Sky hillside

The mysterious white flags showed up on the Thursday before the Mountain Film Festival came to town. Fluttering in the wind, the simple works of Big Sky-style public art have slowly been catching folks’ eyes as they look east from the Town Center toward the Hummocks and Uplands trails.

The art’s appearance was unexpected—just as local artist Liz McRae and her partner in pop-up-art “crime” Molly Carrico intended for their project. 

“It was sort of a sneak attack,” McRae said of the project installation. “My main thing is, as all these buildings pop up, I want to make sure that art pops up, too. It’s pretty important to me. We’re experiencing all this growth with our infrastructure, and development, but you have to have that soulful element also. So this is my way of contributing to that.”

For McRae, part of the fun that’s come out of the project is hearing people’s reactions when they notice the sheets waving in the wind as they’re going about their business. 

“It kind of makes you want to walk up and be amongst it, you know?” she said of that first glimpse.

Some shopping was required for the big art installation day—McRae and Carrico purchased PVC pipe, metal bars to support the pipes in the ground, and of course the bedsheets that became flags waving in the wind. 

Before lugging them up the hill, the duo performed a blessing on the sheets. That may have come in handy, since as McRae described, climbing up the ladder to get the sheets and poles in their correct positions was slightly dangerous. 

“We almost died,” she joked. “It was hilarious. We were on top of ladders throwing these 20-foot PVC pipes around, climbing up dead trees. But no one died, and it was a great adventure.”

McRae has been asked several times what it’s called, but for now, the popup installation does not have a name. 

“Really, it was more about creating a kind of space,” she said, returning to the idea of making room for art and creativity as Big Sky grows. This expansion isn’t something she’s opposed to, but rather wants to expand upon. “You walk around, and there are all these new places being built. Like, when you build two buildings, all of a sudden there’s this alleyway created. That space never existed before these buildings were there. So it’s the same with this art, you can walk up there and get that perspective of our town. It creates that new opportunity.”

One of the aspects of the hillside flags is their impermanence—maybe they’ll stay up through the winter—working with the darkness and light of the snow on the barren winter landscape. Drawing inspiration from prayer flags, McRae envisions the possibility of adding more each year. Looking forward, she hopes that the popup project could become some sort of annual adventure in art.

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