If you see three people chalking a line along Montana Street sidewalks on Tuesday, stop by and say hello.
You’ll be talking to artists from the Washington, D.C., area, getting to know Butte by marking some territory.
On Monday, they made their way down Park Street, where a little girl played hopscotch with their thin blue line, a skateboarder jumped it, and a man brought them sunscreen.
They had hoped for exchanges like that, as they strive to learn about Butte and its people.
The artists are Janis Goodman, associate professor at D.C.’s Corcoran College of Art and Design, and Tom Ashcraft and Peter Winant, both professors at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Goodman is a painter, and Ashcraft and Winant, sculptors.
They’re here for about 10 days, along with a few other artists and writers, staying at Montana Tech and working out of the old YMCA Building as guests of the Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation.
But rather than spend time working on personal projects, these three decided to hit the pavement.
“Chalk lines are one of the basic tools to delineate space,” Winant explained. And the act also makes for a great conversation starter when your real purpose is interacting with the community.
The lines may lead to some type of public art in the future. Winant said he and Ashcraft have done a lot of projects through their travels, but they take much longer than 10 days to complete.
“Think of this as laying seeds for the beginning of that piece,” Winant said.
Arts foundation Director Glenn Bodish invited the artists as just one more step toward his vision of transforming Butte into an arts community.
This is Goodman’s second visit, and she swears it won’t be her last. She’s pledged to help Bodish in his quest to bring parts of W. A. Clark’s art collection from the Corcoran to Butte for an exhibit. “Once you get here, you get hooked,” she said.
Winant and Ashcraft are here for the first time, and the place has more than met their expectations.
“There’s so much history, it’s overwhelming,” Ashcraft said.
Winant said he was a little “shell shocked” when he first arrived on Saturday.
He said he was struck by the weekend quiet of Uptown Butte and by “the powers of this place and the ghosts that exist.” “Every building is probably filled with wonderful and horrible things,” he said.
The three also commented on all the space Butte has, the vacant lots and the vacant spaces inside the buildings, spaces that could someday be filled with artists and artisans.
“I could really see this being a magnet for all kinds of art activities,” Winant said.