By Brad Reynolds
Everyone loves art. Finding time to appreciate it—that’s the tricky part.
In a state where agriculture is the number one industry, the workday, for many, is a sunup to sundown affair. There’s no time for galleries when you’re haying, harvesting, or herding cattle. So how are you to enjoy Montana’s cultural treasures?
Pamela Harr’s answer: put art out in the open.
“Glendive is a 24/7 art museum,” says the community’s illustrious bronze artist, whose life-sized works are on public display. “People can pull into town at any hour and enjoy these sculptures.”
Eight life-size sculptures of Harr’s work speckle the town, with the ninth on the way and a tenth adapted from the work of her late husband, Harvey Rattey. The couple met at the 1976 Charlie Russell Art Show in Great Falls, both of them established bronze artists by that time. When they married in 1977, they pooled their resources and opened their own foundry, Bridger Bronze, which they operated for twenty years in Bozeman.
The couple enjoyed their time in southcentral Montana, but Harr says that Glendive called to them.
“We kept coming back here. We’d had shows here. We loved this town,” she remembers. “We finally sold the foundry and moved to Glendive—and I’m just so glad we did!”
When Rattey passed in 2015, Harr wanted to do something to benefit the community he loved. She adapted two of her works into life-size sculptures, cast in bronze, to be donated to Glendive. Waiting for the School Bus, which depicts three canines and the inscription “There are no bad days when you come home to a dog,” was placed at the Dawson County High School. The Price portrays the first white woman to cross the Rockies on the Oregon Trail, Narcissa Whitman, clutching the body of her daughter (who drowned in 1839). This artwork, dedicated to pioneer courage and sacrifice, was given to the city and put on public display at Gazebo Park (known locally as “Our Park”).
Not long after, Harr was commissioned to sculpt a life-size bronze memorial to Ty Milne, who had owned the local John Deer dealership and been the president of the Greater Glendive Community Foundation.
In 2019, a lion sculpted by Rattey was reworked into a tribute to community volunteers, made possible by Glendive’s Lions Club and numerous donors.
“This sculpture trail has become a community affair,”
The Heart of the Lion was placed on a four-foot-high concrete base designed by Rhett Coon and his high school shop students. It was installed by Mike Newton and his crew from Fisher Industries. Cross Petroleum has hauled several of these bronzes to Glendive from the foundry, as have volunteers with nothing more than empty pickup truck bed.
“I’ve received really great help from all sorts of people,”
With support from local businesses, city officials, and community members, Harr completed her most recent contribution to Glendive: four bronzes on the Towne Street Bridge.
“There are these great pedestals at each of the four corners. I thought those would be a perfect place for sculptures,” explains Harr.
The City filed an encroachment permit with the State to make it so, and Harr set to work on the project. Height and weight limits for the pedestals made life-sized adults out of the question, so four works depicting children—each with a small animal—were selected.
“This is such a great community, and I love all the art it has to offer,” says Harr.
In addition to her bronzes, eighteen other works—including painted murals, mixed media, and metal art—contribute to Glendive’s cultural landscape. Community pride is bolstered by their presence. Travelers are beguiled by these works to stay.
According to Harr, this community art collection won’t stop growing any time soon. Another project is currently in the works: a sculpture plaza in front of the courthouse, showcasing an eight-foot-tall version of Ground Tied, a bronze depicting three children ahorseback, struggling to reach the reins.
“It will be one of the highlights along the Downtown Master Plan’s Walking Trail from Merrill Avenue to the historic Bell Street Bridge and riverfront,” says Harr. “It’s going to be a gem.”
Tax-deductible donations can be made to help complete this project. For more information, visit bridgerbronze.com
or call (406) 687-3743.