Yellowstone Art Museum Golden Anniversary - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Yellowstone Art Museum Golden Anniversary

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Thursday night marks the kickoff of the Yellowstone Art Museum's 46th Annual Art Auction exhibit, but this year actually marks the 50th anniversary for the museum.

"I'm proud that we're the first contemporary art museum in the state and the wider region. To have reached the half century milestone, I think that says a lot about perhaps the non-stereotypic expectations that people in the area have for art," says the museum's executive director, Robyn Peterson.

The museum opened in 1964 in what is now the south end of the building.

"The Yellowstone Art Center was founded and first occupied the old Yellowstone County jailhouse, and until the late 90's, that was the only facility that it had," says Peterson. The newer, larger facility opened in 1998.

"We're proud of to be able to present contemporary art, yet at the same time we're preserving an historic legacy, not only in the way that we build or permanent collection of art, but in the fact that we're continuing to practice adaptive reuse of an historic building."

One of the most thrilling - and daunting - parts of moving the museum into its second half century is the ongoing opportunity to introduce new, up-and-coming artists to a wider audience.

"It's fun and scary, because sometimes, you know, we don't have the benefit of historic hindsight," Peterson says. "When you're dealing with contemporary art, you don't know what's going to stand the test of time. You do your best to bring forward what you think is the most solid, most exciting, most thought-provoking material - but you don't know. That's kind of exciting.

The art auction exhibition starts on Thursday night at 5:30 PM.  The works will be on display until the auction on March 1.  Between the live and silent auctions, the exhibition includes around 200 pieces, including both paintings and sculptures. The auction is the Yellowstone Art Museum's biggest annual fundraiser.

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