A Brief History of Artists Along the Bitterroot

Often the genesis of an organization begins with one or two individuals but in Artists Along the Bitterroot’s case it began with two groups of artists. Early in 2008 friends and colleagues, Bobbie McKibbin and Barbara Michelman, began a conversation about selling work directly to the public from their studio. They also wanted to enhance the public’s ability to engage with the visual art world, and to feel more comfortable about visiting studios, galleries or museums. They opened that door by inviting the public into their work place. The result was a Holiday Open Studio Show with three artists that ran for one weekend in November 2008.

Shortly after, several artists, including Cynthie Fisher and Kathleen Sheard, who had also been thinking along the same lines, approached Michelman and McKibbin. This group gathered to discuss their ideas and goals and then founded Artists Along the Bitterroot (AAB).

One of the founding goals of AAB is to provide opportunities for the public to learn more about the complexity of an artistic endeavor. By visiting an artist’s studio, people have an opportunity to see first-hand some of the factors an artist considers in crafting a new work and how each studio is uniquely suited for a particular art form. A studio that creates iron art is very different from a studio where an artist works in fabric, glass, paint, or clay.

In 2009, 2010, and 2011, the organization established the Studio Tour and Sale in the early part of June. It began with fourteen artists and each year the number grew. Membership by juried application now includes over 30 artists and represents a very wide variety of mediums. Each year approximately 30 members participate in the Tour and studio locations are open from the north end of the Bitterroot Valley in Lolo to the south end of the valley in Darby.

In 2009 the tour was advertised through word-of-mouth, a tri-fold brochure, and a few advertising venues. Each subsequent tour expanded the printed materials, widened the geographic distribution, increased the advertising, grew the mailing list and increased the number of guests visiting the studios. The growth of AAB is directly tied to the amazing sponsors who have supported our efforts through the years.

Our web presence in 2013 at www.artistsalongthebitterroot.com enables the public to contact any member year-round. The organization was formally organized and received 501c3 nonprofit status in 2014.

Each year members offer for-fee workshops in a variety of mediums for the professional as well as the general public. Samples of free educational brown bag lectures include such topics as photography, mixed media printmaking, fiber art, and collecting art. Other educational outreach programs include support of the Duck Stamp Ceremony at the Lee Metcalf Refuse where children received art materials and had an opportunity to learn from volunteer AAB members. All free outreach programming is presented on a volunteer basis. We welcome your support to expand educational programs through a tax-deductible donation at:

The 9th Annual AAB Studio Tour and Art Sale expands to three weekends in 2017:

June 2, 3, & 4,
June 9, 10, & 11
November 3, 4, & 5

Join us for a rare opportunity to go behind the scenes!