SLAM festivals adapt to bring art to the community – Explore Big Sky



BOZEMAN – Sandra Wright Sutherland from Bozeman sits at her stand at the Support Local Artists and Musicians Festival, surrounded by her life’s work, consisting of a stack of books with 30-year-old photography and colorful oil paintings. It’s a warm summer afternoon on Saturday, August 7th, and the former art student, teacher, road cyclist, and 30-year-old velodrome racing cyclist began painting during the pandemic and began interpreting her photographs with a vivid palette.

“It’s a fun sport, a really colorful sport,” said Sutherland. “I used to do black and white photography, but in cycling races there is just too much for black and white. So the color was what I always liked best. So now I can do what I like to do, namely paint pictures of color and shape – that interests me particularly. “

Sandra Wright Sutherland is a former velodrome cycling photographer who turned her craft into color painting. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

In her stand, Sutherland is in the company of her paintings and her book “KEINE BREMSEN! Bicycle Track Racing in the United States ”which shows the lives of many famous gold medalists in front of and behind the scenes. Her whole life has been in this tent, she says.

Sutherland isn’t the only stand at SLAM that lives and breathes their craft – that’s what the 10-year non-profit festival wants to support. Callie Miller, executive director of the nonprofit, founded the organization believing that local artists and musicians should be hailed as professionals, hailed for their contribution to the community.

The event takes place the same weekend as the city’s historic Sweet Pea Festival for the Arts as a free option for families. In its conception, it was a way of counteracting Sweet Pea with its popularity and ticket prices with an inexpensive alternative.

“You feel very different when you have your coffee from a nice cup after talking to the person who made that cup,” Miller said during a telephone interview with EBS. “It’s enriching in ways that we don’t always think of, and SLAM is committed to promoting those connections.”

Art lovers from all over the Gallatin Valley strolled between the three SLAM festival locations in the historic district of Bozeman. After a 2020 with a virtual and customized SLAM due to pandemic restrictions, the nonprofit is back, taking care of the health of the community in a unique twist.

While SLAM festivals usually took place exclusively in Bogert Park, the 46 artist booths were spread over three locations this year: Bogert Park, Story Mansion Park and Emerson Lawn. The new layout not only allowed artists and guests to adhere to Ministry of Health guidelines, it also provided a new experience for those adventurous enough to get anywhere by bike or on foot.

“The response was super positive,” said Miller on the day of the festival and watched intently as the guests walked onto the Emerson lawn. “The artists really appreciate that.”

At 11:30 a.m., only half an hour after the opening, all three locations were full of art enthusiasts.

At each location, guests toured a variety of artwork, watched live art displays, took local bites from a variety of food trucks, and some even received their COVID-19 vaccine.

The Bozeman Community Oven on Emerson Lawn was full of kids when BCK teachers signed up families for a do-it-yourself ornament demonstration. BCK’s director of education and pottery teacher Megan Sprenger says that through demonstrations and hands-on activities at an event like SLAM, the kids understand how much work goes into much of the art on display.

SLAM featured unique graphic t-shirts by Renata Strauss of Made Graphic Design and sister Joanna Anderson. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

“The children really want to have fun and to be able to touch and experience clay, gives the production a whole new meaning,” said Sprenger. “I think the community can touch and play, it really helps them understand a little bit about the process of how the people in the community do their jobs here too.”

From weird profanity sewn onto tea towels by Thread Parade, to elaborately crafted topographical posters of mountain ranges in the area by Allison Throop of North Fork Mapping, to graphic t-shirts by Renata Strauss of Made Graphic Design, this year’s SLAM had it all something for the local art lover.

“It is very important to support this community because it really enriches all of our lives in ways that we are not always aware of,” said Miller. “Every time we have the opportunity to do a public art installation, this is the community we would draw from. Having these relationships not just at the community level but also in our daily lives makes a really powerful difference. “

If you were unable to attend this year’s SLAM festivals, you can shop on artist websites at or donate to the non-profit organization.

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