Ole Nelson Q And A

Ole Nelson Q And A

The Gallatin Art Crossing (GAC) is home to many regional and local sculptors, among which Eric “Ole” Nelson is an integral mainstay, contributing his tall and well-received sculptures from the first installation to the most recent. His Hyalite canyon cabin sits in the warm glow of his neon and steel signs. The custom decor and artifacts of a life filled with friends and hard work encircle the table where he sat to answer questions concerning the Gallatin Art Crossing

Riley: Your involvement with the Gallatin Art Crossing has been anything but minimal. Considering the amount of time, work and donations you have made over its conception, what insight can you provide concerning your understanding of the program from its beginning to its current status?

Ole: The simple fact of having a local, free artistic presence in our community has always been incredibly convenient. Being able to move my pieces blocks instead of states is an easy statement, but the fact that the installation is convenient for the audience is far more important. The ready presence of the pieces makes the installation representative of the program itself as well as influencing communities, large and small surrounding Montana.

The scope of the program is impressive, with all fifty pieces being seen daily. By simply having such an expansive venue, the knowledge in the larger artistic environment ripples notoriety and involvement. These pieces could be and are readily at home in the private settings of a backyard or gallery which is one way to present such a collection, but having a large and public venue increases the readiness of presence and greater public awareness in such an incredible way.

Riley: Would you say the program has been helpful to you as an artistic member of this community?

Ole: Having the deadline for a real installation means that you are faced with the push and reality of a deadline; it provided me with a chance to stop talking and start building the ideas. It has become something I no longer scramble to finish, it motivates me the follow through and demonstrate to other entities that I am serious about my art and the method I apply, this makes it possible for me to be taken seriously by any commissioning agency. It would be one thing if my sculptures were only in my yard; an agency would be able see my art, but only that. With the GAC I can tell people the names of the various locations where my pieces reside. When I travel and represent myself, I take the GAC with me, it may seem arbitrary to some but when I tell someone about it and they visit the website, that is another set of eyes viewing not just the collection, but the artists within and any recognition involved. That association bespeaks a cultural enhancement and the sophistication of a real artistic presence that attracts artists and benefits everyone in the community. It is another layer of exposure, advertising and availability to mutual benefit. With that level of interconnection, I have extra credibility and reality when representing myself, far more than just a feather in the cap.

Involvement in the program allows me to carry the reputation and presentation of the GAC with me wherever I go or apply. My pieces are not scattered across small collections or documented in my studio, they are part of an encompassing and established installation that lends me credibility I can show. Having a tangible representation brings the rubber to the road and provides a solid body of public work to support my future and potential.

CloudRacer_OleTo have the public exhibition of the art crossing as an established and representative space goes beyond Bozeman, it goes the eyes and consciousness of other towns and programs, opening greater possibility for artists to be seen, represented and experienced. The program provides a seriousness of presence, a program extending beyond only one collection. To me, it is a community art institution, something huge for this town and me extending my own personal ability and professional presence. To be taken seriously, I need a body of work to reference that is applied, not just existent. Having the art crossing as that resource adds a deeper layer of reality and tangibility to what I do. We have many amazing, well-established artists that are throwing in their hats, snowballing notoriety.

Having direct involvement is important to me as a contributor and someone represented by that is something so important and crucial to the idea of public art: How involved is the community and is the art representative of that? Being able to engage the public with how important art like this is, and how many of these pieces are being donated to the installation, it begs the opportunity to involve more local sculpture with any new construction. Considering the involvement with governmental structures and the presence of art within new infrastructure added to this town, the GAC has brought those questions and the availability of resources to a much brighter light.

Riley: What do you think the next important steps are to the next evolution?

Ole: If nothing changed it would still be a fantastic place to exhibit, open and free in a highly travelled area, but every year the GAC finds a way to evolve and expand: take it up a notch, find more exposure for its events and infrastructure. The yearly additions improvements and expansions are another additional factor that has only helped; more pieces, more artists, more connections. Coming from another perspective on a larger scale, there is a lack of awareness of the talented sculptors in this town. A creative community consistently providing pieces present in daily foot traffic only improves that situation.

Also, the businesses love it: people are taking tours and photos, milling about and exploring-it’s another chance to bring people downtown. When someone comes to Bozeman from another community, they see this town from a fresh perspective. The community presence and restoration of historic architecture is one thing, but having a definitive program that makes and outsider’s first impression unique is invaluable. This idea creates an impression that encourages memory alongside the chances for the program itself to grow and thrive in funding and awareness. The opportunities are growing in this town; talk of new museums and installations is growing and expanding to improve our artistic community. The momentum of the GAC in variety, quantity and influence of space is amazing to see, it represents the talented people in this region but more importantly in this town and awareness is already on the rise because of this momentum. Keeping consistent with this level of change and motivation will always be necessary in my mind.

Riley: Would you say that it is an important part of a community’s identity to have such programs?

Ole: Absolutely, it is exciting to me seeing businesses reclaiming their storefront and expressing interest in investing in more sculptures to present the creative nature of this community. There is no question about importance, it is a question of how well the community’s spirit finds representation.

Art makes a huge difference in the feel of a place as well; a community open to having this program speaks greatly to the spirit of Bozeman. Art in any presence benefits community; there is no argument against this. The opposite is true: every human skill and concept benefits greatly from the presence of the idea that success can be found without formula or set structure; it allows the exploration and trial of new ideas with no wrong method or answer. For me, public art engages a space, lending energy and meaning in the same sense as architecture and public involvement, it varies the environment in a unique and meaningful way. As long as this program and others like it are well, to me, the community shall be as well.

The GAC exhibit hosts a variety of sculpture introducing viewers to many artistic approaches. The goal of the program is to add at least one piece to the permanent collection each year and expand further throughout downtown, bringing unique works to optimal locations. The entries for this year will be posted on the Art Crossing website at www.Gallatinartcrossing.com for public voting until the installation date. This level of community involvement and interaction for the art placed for the public’s benefit encourages interaction.  The involved fundraising behind the GAC incorporates a variety of techniques and entities such as community challenges and the contributions of individuals and businesses in addition to hours of work from the board and volunteers.