What does a “creative” person look like? Is it someone with a paintbrush or pencil in hand? Are they eccentric? Are they weird? A creative person might be all of those things, or they might be an ingenuitive problem solver, someone who recognizes and fills a niche in their community, or someone who develops a clever remedy for boredom.

In this unconventional sense, rural Montana is teeming with creative folks.

“I think anytime people are isolated, creativity flourishes,” says Craig Edwards of Big Sandy. “It’s different than artistic creativity, and it might seem counter-intuitive, but when people have to be more self-reliant, creativity is a necessity.”

Edwards is a creative person in both senses of the word. As a photographer, he captures his unique perception of Montana. As a farmer, he must be inventive when challenges come his way. Montana’s ag producers might not seem an imaginative lot, but find one with an equipment breakdown at harvest, and you’ll see what creative inspiration looks like. A farmer’s livelihood is good motivation for thinking outside the box.

The same goes for small business owners. Attracting customers is an ongoing challenge in a town the size of Big Sandy. The businesses that keep their doors open day in and day out are community-minded and clever. They’re not where people have to go; they’re where people want to go.

Even in local service projects, Big Sandy gets creative to get things done. A notable example is the Pep’s Bar combine mural which faces U.S. Highway 87. Titled Community, this painting commemorates the 2014 harvest, when local farmers came together to cut grain for a neighbor undergoing cancer treatment. Funding for the mural was provided by local businesses and individuals.

“There’s a sense of extended family here. People don’t just live together. They work together. They’re very supportive of one another,” says Edwards of his town. “That’s what makes a community a home.”