New Art Tour debuts in Ennis

Chamber of Commerce project allows visitors to take in art offerings

ENNIS - Ennis’s newest art project has arrived just in time for the summer tourist season. 

The Chamber of Commerce and many of Ennis’s downtown art galleries are distributing brochures to promote the Ennis Walking Art Tour, which allows visitors to take a self-guided tour through all the art to be found around town. The brochure features six galleries and a number of individual artists, telling the stories of pieces like the signature trout statues found around town and the artists who created the pieces. 

Chelsee Mahsman is the leader for the project and coordinated with the participating galleries to put the brochures together. Mahsman is also the owner of Right Angles on Ennis’s main street, so she sees the importance of encouraging tourists to explore town.

“It’s something people can do outside, that doesn’t cost them anything, that allows them to familiarize themselves with all the art we have around town,” Mahsman says. There was an attempt to put together a similar brochure several years ago, but the effort never really got off the ground. So Mahsman took it upon herself after joining the Chamber of Commerce this past February.

“I kind of made it my first directive as part of the Chamber,” she says. “I love art; it’s a huge part of my life and I knew right away this was the project I wanted to create.”

It’s great for local businesses outside the galleries as well, says Halley Perry at the Ennis Chamber. When visitors stop in to explore, they’re more likely to stay longer and make purchases that contribute to the greater area economy.

“Our art economy is starting to boom, and it’s the goal of the Chamber to help promote the arts and the businesses in the surrounding area,” Perry says. “Tourists use the brochures to walk around town, and they’re shopping in the local stores and getting information from the Ennis Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.”

It took Mahsman about six weeks altogether to pull the brochures together and get them printed. Each of the featured galleries paid $20, which helped cover the printing costs; the rest of the expense was covered by the Ennis Chamber. The fact that it was a group effort is what makes the project so unique, she says.

“Rather than the idea that the galleries are in competition with one another, this is a really great cooperative. It brings them all together collectively.”

One of the most commonly asked-about art projects in town is the half-dozen trout sculptures located in various locations around Ennis. Marked independently on the map, the school of fish was initially painted as a fundraising effort headed by the Rocky Mountain Economic Development Council back in 2008. 

While there are six trout in town, there are 12 in total, located around the Madison and Ruby valleys. Each was painted by a different artist, then auctioned off to benefit the charity of the artist’s choice. Many of the sculptures were then donated back to their beneficiaries, such as Madison Valley Public Library and the Ruby Valley Hospital in Sheridan.

Also featured in the brochure are pieces like Ennis’s iconic fly fisherman statue, the Cowboy Soldier at the Veteran’s Memorial and the mustangs outside Ennis High School. To learn the stories of those pieces and many more around Ennis, brochures can be picked up at the Ennis Chamber of Commerce, Right Angles or any of the brochures participating galleries.

Galleries and artists featured in the Ennis Art Walk Tour:

• Gallery 287

• Cattleman Gallery

• Right Angles

• Artists on Main

• Black Jack Ranch Gallery

• RiverStone Gallery

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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