Recent Whitefish High School graduates Alex Breuer and Natali Kragh have known each other since before they were born. Their mothers were friends in college, and they were born a couple of weeks apart. Both also have a passion for art.
Their art teacher Lonnie Collinsworth says they also have an attention to detail. Collinsworth says he thought of Breuer and Kragh when Intermountain proposed a competition between the six high schools in the Flathead Valley to decorate a ceramic boot for auction at its summertime fundraiser.
“I started thinking about students that I thought would really take this on,” Collinsworth said, “because it’s quite a challenge. And so I was trying to think of students who would like to take on the challenge, and that’s how I came up with Alex and Natalie.”
Bigfork, Columbia Falls, Glacier, Flathead, Stillwater Christian, and Whitefish High Schools were each given a ceramic cowboy boot. The boot designed and painted by Kragh and Breuer took the top honor in the competition.
Breuer said they started brainstorming using the guidelines set out by Intermountain, “the initial statement was how, how to depict what it means to be a child in Montana. So, immediately we’re thinking outdoors, playing as a child, Glacier National Park, but one of the second guidelines was to incorporate our high school.”
Kragh says they sought input from classmates.
“We sent around a sheet of paper in a class that said ‘what does it mean to be a child in Montana?’ and a bunch of people just wrote down things that they loved about growing up in Montana,” Kragh said. “We took bits and pieces, we read through every single one, and we took little words, and little phrases from each quote, and pieced it together, and decided to display it prominently to show that these are actually what the children of Montana are saying about their experience.”
Across the top of the boot, the part that would cover the bridge of your foot, the words “Exploring… Surrounded by beauty… Open air… Big Sky… Hunting… Swimming… Snow… and the Great Outdoors” are painted in gold.
“One of the requirements for painting was we had to include our school colors,” Kragh said, “and so we decided to put birch and poplar trees surrounding the back in yellow and green, which is how our school even got its colors; was from the color of the trees.”
The front of the boot has a painting of an iconic part of the community, “Whitefish, Whitefish High School, really anything related to Whitefish is Big Mountain,” Breuer said, “whenever I see the mountain I’m automatically thinking Whitefish, Montana, the outdoors, that kind of thing, so, putting that on there was pretty essential.”
The boot will be auctioned off during Intermountain’s annual “Summer Roundup” fundraiser.
Intermountain was founded in Helena in 1909 with the opening of the Deaconess School. Development Manager for Intermountain in the Flathead Michelle Fetveit says it started off as a home for orphans or for kids whose families couldn’t take care of them “and just over the years it’s evolved to, you know, focus on a mission of hope, healing, and restoration for youth and families,” Fetveit said.
In the Flathead Intermountain offers out-patient family therapy, a family learning center, and operates an emergency shelter for children aged 12 and younger. The shelter opened about three years ago, and Intermountain has been operating in the Flathead for about five years, but Fetveit says many in the community still don’t know about them. She says one of their goals with this competition is making the community more aware of their services.
“I used to teach high school, and I thought, why don’t we have the high school art classes do it- just a way to get the community involved because a lot of people really haven’t heard of Intermountain, and it’s a program that helps children, so I thought- well let’s get kids helping kids,” Fetveit said.
All the boots will be available as part of the fundraiser on June 27th. The funds raised will stay in the Flathead to support the local Intermountain operations.