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Connecting Art, Nature and Philanthropy at Tippet Rise

November 27, 2018

As part of our blog series featuring client engagements, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors is highlighting the impact of organizations and individuals we’ve worked with to create thoughtful, effective philanthropy. Tippet Rise Art Center was created by the trustees of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, who engaged RPA for advisory services through every step of conceptualizing and building the art center.

Across the country, there have been countless stories of art breathing new life into urban communities. There’s no doubt that art centers have played a significant role in urban development in cities across America and around the world. But what happens when an art center opens on a working ranch in a rural area?

Surrounded by rugged mountain ranges in rural Fishtail, Montana, the Tippet Rise Art Center exists at the intersection of art, music, architecture, and nature. Opened in 2016, the Center hosts world-class artists and musicians for cultural events that draw visitors from near and far.

TIME recently named Tippet Rise as one of their 100 World’s Greatest Places, featured alongside must-see cultural destinations such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Vietnam’s Golden Bridge. The accompanying article notes that it is “both thrumming with art…and humbling in the wide-open vistas and vastness of the landscape and sky.”

But to fully appreciate Tippet Rise, look beyond the stunning landscape and cultural offerings. Look to the people in the community who now view Tippet Rise as a valued addition to a region that was once characterized primarily by its rolling hills and ranchland.

Peter and Cathy Halstead at Tippet Rise Arts Center

               Building the Center

The center was founded and established by artists and philanthropists Peter and Cathy Halstead. As trustees of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, the primary funder of Tippet Rise, they understand the power of community engagement through philanthropy.

When they dreamed of creating a haven for music and art with the natural landscape as the backdrop, they turned to Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors for help in turning that vision into a reality. RPA acted as a trusted advisor through every step of the process of building Tippet Rise from the ground up.  As the grantmaking staff of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, RPA developed relationships with the arts, education, and community organizations that are an important part of the region’s fabric. Grants to a range of local organizations demonstrated the Foundation’s commitment to the community and respect for the institutions that predate Tippet Rise. RPA also organized a series of community receptions, barbecues, and concerts to welcome local residents in to Tippet Rise as it was being created, and before it was open to the public.

Engaging the Community

Stephen Talasnik, Satellite #5: Pioneer, 2016

From the beginning, the local community has always been top of mind in this project. Before beginning construction, the Halsteads built relationships with residents by supporting independent businesses and learning about the area’s culture. When it came time to break ground on the Center’s buildings and commissioned sculptures, they purchased local materials and engaged local contractors, to ensure that the Montana economy would directly benefit from Tippet Rise. Today, most of the art center’s employees and volunteers are local residents.

Whereas ticket prices to events in cultural hubs can skyrocket to hundreds of dollars a seat, Tippet Rise pricing embodies the value of accessibility. Each ticket for all events is only $10. For visitors under 21, tickets are free. This value is recognized in the community – Cathy and Peter Halstead love to share a story that they were once stopped by a woman who thanked them for their contributions, amazed that she paid only $10 to see her one of her favorite classical pianists at Tippet Rise. Previously she had paid over $100 a seat in a major city.

The Halsteads also strive to bring the Center’s programming to the next generation of artists and musicians across the country. Combining their commitment to youth engagement with their passion for art, the Halsteads fund multiple programs for young artists through the Sidney E. Frank Foundation. This year, students from three of these grantee programs (Connecticut College, San Diego Youth Symphony, and Oakland Symphony) had the opportunity to visit Tippet Rise and experience the cultural richness that it has to offer. As many of these students come from marginalized or low-income backgrounds, the visit was more than just a field trip – it inspired talented young artists to reflect on a potential career in the arts.


Mark di Suvero, Beethoven’s Quartet, 2003

What’s Next for Tippet Rise

The Center has wrapped up its third season of chamber music concerts, featuring performances by Pedja Muzijevic, Jeffrey Kahane, Anne-Marie McDermott, David Finckel and Wu Han, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble. Throughout 2018, 7,602 guests traveled from near and far to visit Tippet Rise for tours and events.

Despite the end of the music season, Tippet Rise continues to showcase visual arts through the fall. In late October, there was an exhibition featuring sculptures and models by renowned artist Stephen Talasnik, who also has a sculpture as part of Tippet Rise’s permanent collection.

The Center will soon boast a new addition to its outdoor architecture: a pavilion designed by world-renowned architect Francis Kéré. Scheduled to be unveiled at the opening of the summer 2019 music season, the 1,900 square-foot structure will provide a new area for guests to gather between performances.

Although Tippet Rise was opened to the public only two years ago, it has established itself not only as a celebrated cultural destination, but as a cornerstone of the Montana arts community. As an advisor to the project through every step of its conception, launch and current operations, RPA is proud to be involved in Tippet Rise’s work at the intersection of art, accessibility and community development.


Written by Melissa Blackerby of the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors Communications Team. Photos by Peter Halstead.

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