by Jaci Webb/Billings Gazette
photo by Casey Page
Kira Fercho’s expressive oil paintings have been the top sellers at the Yellowstone Art Museum’s Quick Draw event for years, and the value for all of her works keeps increasing.
Meanwhile, folks have been admiring Kevin Rose’s abstract acrylics and his culinary art — both are on display at Lilac’s restaurant, where he has worked for several years.
Put the two artists together and you get a dynamic new gallery in downtown Billings, Western Art Forum. The plan is to spruce up the space recently vacated by Gene Rockman on the corner of North 27th Street and Second Avenue North and turn it into a gallery that shows both modern and Western works. It will open on June 2.
The collaboration between Fercho and Rose began two decades ago, when they were emerging Billings artists. Since then, Rose has stepped in to help market Fercho’s works on occasion, prompting her to ask him to manage the new gallery. She was a bit surprised when he agreed.
“Kevin is going to be the face of the gallery,” Fercho said. “I’d like to step back and be in my studio full time. I miss hard-core studio time where I'm painting for three days straight without showering.”
Rose is a nice fit for the gallery because he's smart and he understands people, Fercho said. Selling art is not like selling cars, it’s about getting to know the customers and trying to understand what their needs and tastes are.
“Art is an investment. It’s something you have to fall in love with,” Rose said. “These are going to be legacy pieces and they’re going to have them a long time.”
The gallery, which will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, will represent 15 artists. Fercho will continue showing works at her Big Sky gallery, which will be renamed to Western Art Forum for branding purposes. She will also continue to have paintings at the Frame Hut in Billings.
The space for the new gallery is something Fercho has been eying since she was 12.
“I would drive by with my mom and look inside and say, ‘That should be an art gallery,’” Fercho said.
Property owner Bill Honaker has been enthusiastic about the gallery and stepped in to build an interior wall just a day after Fercho suggested it.
The large windows and the ‘50s-era brickwork outside give the building a distinct look. Fercho has plans to stagger floating walls in front of the windows so passing cars and pedestrians can window shop. Beyond a space to show art, though, Fercho and Rose hope to build a gathering place for art lovers.
“Billings has such an active downtown,” Rose said. “We want to be part of the entertainment scene.”