Tippet Rise Performing Arts Center takes shape near Fishtail

Montana’s majesty is a moving experience. The vastness of this state captivates audiences with prairie vistas and grand mountains upheaved from the earth. Nature’s organic brushstroke has created scenes of vastness and unconquerable beauty, earning the state its title of “Last Best Place.”

The mountains of south central Montana and their immense presence struck philanthropists and artists, Cathy and Peter Halstead. In this majestic surrounding, Cathy (an artist), and Peter (a photographer, pianist, and poet), found a home for their vision: a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing music, sculpture, and nature together.

“There is nothing like this confluence of art, architecture, music and landscape. It’s unprecedented,” said Christopher O’Riley, musical director of Tippet Rise. “There is nothing like it.”

Tippet Rise came from the Halsteads desire to combine their love of landscape with their extensive philanthropic work in the arts. Located one mile west of Fishtail on a working ranch, this arts center honors the landscape of Montana while enhancing these vistas to create something otherworldly. Across the 11,500 acre working ranch—where one will find sheep and cattle grazing the land—sculptures and performance venues dot the landscape.

Monuments to the untamed mountains, these creations by internationally known artists and architects link nature with architecture, art, and music. Abstract expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero’s “Beethoven’s Quartet” sits tall on a vista. One of two di Suveros on the property, the suspended, melodic sculpture (rubber mallets are provided so visitors and chime the structure) is almost as surreal as the panoramic views of the Beartooths and the Crazies. In homage to the mountains, Spain’s Ensamble Studio erected two sculptures (“Beartooth Portal” and “Inverted”) that feel unearthed from the seafloor: huge concrete structures teetering on the rolling plains. Appearing monolithic and unearthed in nature, these monuments to the untamed space of country span time. Tucked in the lowlands of the property, nomadic-looking architectural structures by NYC artist Stephen Talasnik frame the landscape. Down in the river valley of the property, twisting willow branches harvested from the area overtake dreamscape artist Patrick Dougherty’s replica frontier-period schoolhouse, aptly named “Daydreams.”

Three performance spaces also occupy the land. Domo, reaching nearly 100 feet long and 16 feet high, is a monolithic feat of concrete and engineering. Designed to appear as though it is hovering on the land, this structure is acoustically matched to the outdoor space and will be host to many of the organization’s live concerts. Created especially for Tippet Rise, Domo is one of three structures co-created by Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa, principals of Ensamble Studio. The music of García-Abril’s father, a well-known musical composer, will be performed this summer at Domo, bringing together the father and son’s work in a serendipitous way.

Tiara Acoustic Shell, designed for up to 100 audience members, acts like a band shell without walls. This wooden, moveable structure reflects sound from the corners, swirling it above the listener’s head.

The Olivier Barn, a third and main performance space, has been named one of the eight structures in the world to look out for in 2016 by architectural critic Jonathan Glancey for the BBC. Unassuming, the structure appears from the exterior to be a simple barn, organically nestled in the property’s valley. Alongside it runs a small stream lined with aspens, cottonwoods, and waving grasses.

More in June’s Yellowstone Valley Magazine >>>

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About Anna Paige

Anna Paige is a poet, writer, photographer, and educator and the co-founder of Billings Area Literary Arts, an organization dedicated to building and enhancing literary arts in and eastern Montana. Read More >>>