Friday, June 24, 2016

Tippet Rise: Philanthropists' love of landscape and the arts creates world class venue in Stillwater County

This photograph was taken in the fall as one of the first large sculptural pieces was being installed. The piece is
"Proverb," by Mark di Suvero .  This June, July and August, concert goers will hear music indoors and around the sculptures.


Editor's Note: Today we offer the first of a two-part piece on Tippet Rise Art Center, which opens for its summer season with a roster of world class concerts. Today, we look at the genesis, background and development of the multi-million dollar arts and nature project.  Next Friday, we explore the programming, breadth, management and international scope of Tippet Rise.
Tippet Rise landscape offers color in all four seasons, and provides backdrop
for what Tippet Rise organizers call "music coming from the center of the earth."


HIGH ATOP the plateaus where sheep and cattle ranchers have long ground out a living, and native people fished and hunted centuries before, a brilliantly conceived center for the arts and music is open for its first season.
Imagination, location and deep pockets are principal players in the new Tippet Rise Art Center near Fishtail, Montana.
Peter and Cathy Halstead had a vision for a place
that would break down barriers between art and nature.
The finely tuned enterprise in the majestic Beartooth Mountains includes concert spaces for world class musicians, outdoor museum pieces with multi-million dollar commissions, and meticulous, "green" architecture with methods to make it an environmentalist’s dream.
 Big Sky Journal piece features Halsteads and Tippet Rise
The 11,500-acre creation has been introducing itself to small groups for several months and began to officially welcome the public in June.
AFTER SCOURING land in Hawaii and Colorado, Tippet Rise benefactors Peter and Cathy Halstead came upon the  property they’d dreamed of.  They fell in love with the Fishtail property, seeing its potential for a magnificent nature-driven “gallery” with indoor and outdoor concert spaces.
Alban Bassuet shows off the Patrick
Dougherty schoolhouse, Daydreams," which
transcends boundaries between land
art, sculpture, and architecture.
Tippet Rise is the result, an innovative brain child of these two creative people with money to indulge their fantasies.  
Located on hills and valleys which inspired painter Isabelle Johnson, Tippet Rise – like its former inhabitant -- is an original. It encourages participation.  Neither festival nor retreat, it incorporates elements of both.   It is the Halsteads' personal homage to the arts, taking their philanthropy and love of the arts to a grand level in an inspiring setting.
As creators and bankrollers of the non-profit Tippet Rise enterprise, the Halsteads opened heart, mind and check book, hiring cutting edge talent to shape their vision.
Peter is an accomplished pianist with an enviable collection of Steinways many of which he has moved to the property. He dreamed of weaving classical music with landscape. Cathy, a painter with a fondness for grand sculptural pieces, shares Peter’s love of the outdoors. The two wanted their concert space to extend the landscape, to merge nature’s art with man’s creations.
THEY COURTED internationally recognized acoustician, designer and venue planner Alban Bassuet. Naming the acclaimed Frenchman “executive director,” they charged him with bringing together performers, audiences, sculpture and musical pieces in a spectacular natural setting.
An Isabelle Johnson painting of her family ranch. The land
is now host to an acclaimed new art center.
Bassuet supervises design, construction and programming, drawing from his “players” like a maestro rehearsing a premiere.  He drives the property, confers with contractors and engineers, studies architectural plans, makes decisions.
With the premier season in swing through its finale Aug. 21 – Bassuet is basking in glory. He thinks it "fitting, almost ordained" that Tippet Rise ground inspired a beloved Montana painter long before the Halsteads eyed it.
Painter Isabelle Johnson, photographed in the
1940s, inhabited and painted Tippet Rise land. 
Isabelle Johnson, born in 1901, lived on the land for decades, painting it with a modernist’s zeal.  Her style is compared to an earlier post-Impressionist pioneer, Paul Cezanne.  She died in 1992, leaving paintings testifying to the countryside’s beauty.  Bassuet and the Halsteads believe it fitting that music and sculpture celebrate the land Johnson loved, ranched and painted, and that her family ranch land hosts a novel arts center. 
“Is there a budget?” a guest asks.  “Not really,” Bassuet smiles. “It’s about the Halsteads’ belief that art, music, architecture and nature play key roles in the human experience.”     
THE HALSTEADS' fortunes come from investments, banking, oil and alcohol.  (Does Grey Goose vodka ring a bell?  Sidney Frank, Cathy Halstead’s father who died in 2006, founded the company.) The two grew up with philanthropy, art and reverence for the land.
Arts boosters Bruce Keller, Christene Meyers and Corby 
Skinner, backed by an Alexander Calder sculpture at Tippet Rise.
Hiring an enterprising Frenchman to champion their project was shrewd, for they found someone whose artistic sensibilities parallel theirs.  Their bold ambition – creating modern art in a rugged landscape -- works.  The sculptures look made for the place, rising against a backdrop of sagebrush and volcanic rock, both constants in Johnson’s paintings.   
The Halsteads’ dream included the desire that people be free to “move about the land, appreciating it as an extension of their enjoyment of the arts,” Bassuet says.  “They insisted each piece occupy its own space.”  With sculpture commissions in the millions, the Halsteads wanted viewers to concentrate on each piece individually– without seeing another work.  For that, a large expanse of land was a necessity.   
The renowned Ariel String Quartet opened the debut Tippet Rise season
with pianist Nikolai Demidenko, left, on the Brahms Piano Quartet. 
COMING UP:  Next week's blog celebrates the programming, artwork and expertise represented in Tippet Rise, from the world renowned sculptors and musicians (NPR's Christopher O'Reilly is program director) to cutting-edge architects, the ranch manager who keeps a working ranch, the "green" caterers and the education co-ordinator who works with museums and school expeditions on outreach programs.  Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us Fridays when we post for the weekend.


  1. New England Arts LoversJuly 1, 2016 at 4:16 PM

    What an extraordinary gift to all of us. We are coming from New Hampshire! Know several of the artists. Bravo, bravo.

  2. Columbus choristerJuly 1, 2016 at 4:23 PM

    Magical place. So proud of our state and county.

  3. Columbus choristerJuly 1, 2016 at 4:24 PM

    Magical place. So proud of our state and county.

  4. Maryland Music LoversSeptember 15, 2017 at 1:18 PM

    This is an extraordinary find.
    Thrilled to happen upon this piece so we could book tickets for 2017.