Tippet Rise a great addition to Stillwater County
As a native Montanan and musician now living in Denver, I was excited to learn of the Tippet Rise Art Center and eager to visit this summer, during its inaugural season.
And while my expectations were high, nothing could have prepared me for the one of-a-kind experience that Peter and Cathy Halstead have created outside Fishtail.
Set upon 11,500 acres of ranch land and bordered by the Beartooth and Absaroka ranges, with a view of the Crazies to the northwest, Tippet Rise is stunning for its scenery, its unspoiledness, and its vastness.
It is reachable only by gravel road, nothing is paved, all utilities are underground and out of sight, and people, not signs, help visitors find their way to the small, inconspicuous parking lot. Nothing can be seen until one is literally in front of it. A five-minute walk from the parking lot takes one over a small hill to the Olivier Music Barn and Visitor Center.
From there, one can either hike or board a small, hybrid van in order to view the seven permanent art installations that comprise the visual art component of Tippet Rise. These unique, specially commissioned pieces simply rise out of the landscape, changing as the clouds move or the wind blows. Even those made of steel seem, somehow, primordial.
The musical offerings at Tippet Rise are equally astounding. Music Director Christopher O’Riley, a well known and beloved American pianist, has lined up a stunning array of international talent, programming weekend concerts of chamber music ranging from that of the old masters, like J. S. Bach, to less familiar works by living composers like Pulitzer Prize winner John Luther Adams.
The concert I heard on July 9 featured the music of Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), which seems especially well suited to Tippet Rise, as Scriabin viewed music as a gateway, a means of transcending space and time.
The program was brilliantly planned, the soloists compelling and convincing. Scriabin believed that he would one day compose a piece that would cause the world to dissolve in bliss. Indeed, amid the intimate space and superb acoustics of the Music Barn, with a view of the Beartooths to the south, I almost did.
My observations would not be complete without mention of the spirit of generosity that pervades Tippet Rise. The Halsteads are sharing rare natural and man-made beauty, not to glorify themselves, not out of a sense of “noblesse oblige,” but rather in the same way that people willingly share their resources with close friends and family. Concert tickets and tickets to the stupendous barbecue buffets they offer prior to concerts are only $10 and free to those 18 and younger.
The only special treatment anyone gets is handicapped accessibility.
Stillwater County is a place to be treasured for its beauty, its remoteness, and its people. I, for one, am grateful that it welcomed Tippet Rise, another unique treasure and a fitting addition to local culture.
Ruth Zachau Burnham