It's ArtWalk on Friday, May 5, 2017


And we think it might finally be spring. In fact, it's apparently going to be in the 80 degree range tomorrow. We'll be featuring an uprising of new art from our artists and artisans as we bask in the warmth of this new and welcome season. Montana Avenue should be abloom and abustle with art and conversation and laughter and food and whatever pent up energy manifests as the people of Billings hit the streets after a long, cold winter. We hope you will join us at Toucan for what is always Billings' Best Night Out!

2016 Holiday Hours

Just a note to let you all know what our holiday hours are going to be:

We will be open during our regular hours on Thursday and Friday, and then we will be closing at 1:00 on Saturday, December 24.

We will also be closed on Saturday, December 31, New Year's Eve.

Other than that, it's business as usual at Toucan. We hope everyone has a lovely holiday and we'll see you soon.

It's ArtWalk on Friday, October 7, 2016

For ArtWalk on Friday, October 7, 2016, Toucan will feature paintings by Montana artist Sarah Morris. Her paintings express a sympathetic vision of the untrammeled Montana landscape and the nonhuman creatures that inhabit it. With bold strokes of color, Morris intends to preserve and transmit the passion she feels for the place she calls home.

We will also have new work by Allison O'Donnell, Christine Sutton, and Delon Slevira among all of our other artists and artisans, a roster that is more than 40 strong.

And on Friday, as well, Billings singer/songwriter Lindsey Jacobsen will be filling the great Toucan space with her stripped-down roots blues and folk rock sound. Voted Female Vocal Act of the Year at the Magic City Music Awards, Lindsey will be a great addition to the ArtWalk scene. 

With more than 30 years on Montana Avenue, 22 years on the ArtWalk, and 10 years under its current ownership, Toucan hopes to continue to provide a place where people from Billings (as well as from around the country and occasionally around the world) can experience the creativity taking place in our city, our state, and our region.

If you're in Billings on Friday,  we hope you will join us!

It's the 2016 Winter ArtWalk


The 2016 Winter ArtWalk is Friday, February 5 in downtown Billings.

Toucan will be celebrating all of the many artists and artisans the gallery represents in the spirit of finding that perfect gift for the upcoming Valentine's Day. This type of art-making – that is: making cool, functional, giftable things – has always been valued at Toucan, and finding a diverse group of the kinds of artisans who do this kind of work is part of the gallery's ongoing quest to bring unique and beautiful things, things handcrafted by humans, to the Billings community.

This, really, is the spirit of Toucan: creative people endeavoring to make the world a more beautiful place. And ArtWalk is the perfect time to connect with and take part in this very endeavor.

The ArtWalk runs from 5 to 9 pm. And there will be refreshments.

Happy Holidays and Holiday Hours!

We wish all our friends and customers a happy holiday during this Christmas week and we'd like everyone know what our holiday hours are going to be. We know there are always people who like to get in on Christmas eve to pick up that unique, artisan-made, last-minute, gift, so:

Thursday, December 24  |  10 am - 1 pm
Closed Friday and Saturday

Open regular hours Tuesday and Wednesday  |  10 am - 5:30 pm

Thursday, December 31  |  10 am - 4 pm
Closed Friday and Saturday

And then we're back to regular hours after that when we look forward to a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016!

Celebrate the Holidays with ArtWalk in Downtown Billings

Friday, December 4, 2015 is the annual Holiday ArtWalk from 5 - 9 pm in downtown Billings. At Toucan we always us the December ArtWalk to celebrate all of our artists and artisans – most local, some regional, and a few from even farther afield. Our roster currently includes more than forty talented individuals making those things that we call art or craft...or just beautiful and interesting and inspiring and cool. People can come see it all on Friday at Toucan. We'll have some refreshments too. And it look like the weather is going to be kind of amazing, comparatively speaking – maybe the best it has been for a Holiday ArtWalk in years.

ArtWalk on Friday, October 2, 2015 Introduces Paintings by Liz Chappie Zoller

For the Downtown Billings ArtWalk on Friday, October 2, 2015, Toucan will introduce work by an artist new to Toucan's stable of local and regional artists and artisans. Based in Three Forks, Liz Chappie Zoller is a contemporary western artist who creates tightly focused, “in the moment” oil paintings of the landscapes, animals and people of her everyday Montana life. Liz uses oils because she loves the lush smoothness of the medium as it glides onto the canvas, and the ability she has to manipulate both its intensity and texture. Her images, sourced from her own photography, are cropped close to create a visual tension along the edges of each piece, but this tight focus also serves to ground her in the wide open country she calls home. Liz enjoys the challenge of successfully capturing sharp contrasts, vivid colors, and the dramatic light of a specific moment - the very delicate first light of day, an intensely seasonal bite of color, and the rugged and enduring grace of the animals and people in her Montana life.

Liz earned her BFA in Studio Art from the University of Cincinnati. In 2006, she won Southwest Art Magazine's Award of Excellence/Best of Show for her entry, "Cheyenne Painted Rawhide," in The Trail of Painted Ponies National Art Competition. Currently teaching for Montana State University's Interior Design program, Liz also coaches for the Montana Arts Council Artrepreneur Program, a workforce development program designed to help Montana's artists develop a sustainable business in art. 

Liz's most recent art education includes workshops with landscape artist Frank Serrano, Native American artist Kevin Red Star, landscape artist Greg Scheibel, wildlife artist Shannon Troxler, an internship with acclaimed Native American artist DG House, and painting with Susan Blackwood's Jade Street Portrait Painters. Chappie Zoller is a member of Mondial Art Academie in Aimargues, France, and SMArts (Southwest Montana Arts).

As always, in addition to Toucan's featured artist’s work, the work of the rest of Toucan’s regular stable of artists and artisans — including paintings, pottery, textiles, glass, jewelry, stationery and greeting cards — will be on display in the gallery space during ArtWalk.

The ArtWalk runs from 5 to 9 pm in downtown Billings.

Another Toucan Project, completed

Toucan recently consulted on a home gym in a residence in Billings, Montana. Some artwork was brokered, placed and hung; and four large mirrors (4' x 6') were designed, built and installed.

The artwork that Toucan placed consisted of glass mosaics by Bozeman, Montana artist Kathy Burk. One piece, which can be seen in the photo below, depicted an aspen tree which perfectly mirrored the tree "framed" by the exterior door adjacent to its placement.

It was a cool room to work on and we appreciate our client's vision to create a unique expression of what a home gym can be.

In Conversation with Jeremy Engebretson

On April 30, 2015, as part of Toucan's "In Conversation" series, Mark Sanderson had a conversation with Jeremy Engebretson, chef and proprietor at Lilac restaurant in Billings, Montana. They talked for about an hour and half, including some questions from the audience. The conversation covered a broad range of topics, including, among other things, the creative process in the context of the kitchen, the relationship of local and national food culture, and the challenges of owning and running a business dedicated to contemporary cuisine in a place like Billings. A snippet of the conversation is transcribed below.



Let's get away from talking about the public, about customers, and let's talk about the food. You sort of started to talk about it, but just tell us about the philosophy of food that you have.


Yeah, it's a funny line we walk at Lilac. If it was a four table restaurant, and we did fifteen [meals] a night, that would be one model that we could draw from, but we have to be ready for -- I mean on a Friday, or on a brunch, if you've ever been to brunch, we'll do 120 or 130 [meals]. If you’re trying to put a protein on the menu, and approach it from an animal, as in you're buying the whole animal, which we do ... well, there's only so many pork chops on a pig. And then you're left with 140 pounds of other product, where you just can't tell people: "well, we're out of the pork chop, but we have a random pork plate for $24, if you would wish to buy that instead." That's the nature of the beast with respect to where we are. I mean, I would love to be able to buy a pig and use that pig across the board, the whole pig, and then buy another pig, but it's just not realistic with our size. At least I haven't figured it out in our supply chain -- which is weird in Montana, by the way, in Billings, Montana, specifically -- with respect to the size of our restaurant. We've moved away a little bit from the hyper-local thing, just because -- and it's because -- of supply chain, but the thing we haven't abandoned is making everything from base ingredients.


Which is commendable. It's a great concept. It doesn't happen much around here.


It's funny today, the way the food market is, that it's disadvantageous to do things that way. It's crazy to me that it's cheaper for me to buy some product and cook it -- and it tastes pretty good -- rather than buy a whole chicken and break down a chicken, which costs way more than just buying individual chicken breasts or thighs. I mean, that's crazy. And that's the fight we fight to try to do it the right way.


And that's part of the vision of the restaurant, as you've said. I mean, you can sell out at so many different levels --




-- but the integrity of that is, obviously, commendable, and is not necessarily easy.


Yeah. If the first thing you do in the morning is butcher a pig, it's an interesting day.


Right. And … it's an interesting day.


That's definitely part of the paycheck you don't take home. That's valuable.


The schedule of upcoming "In Conversation" events is on the EVENTS page of the Toucan website.

There's Lots of Stuff on the Floor

People always know when Toucan is getting ready for an ArtWalk because there is usually a lot of stuff on the floor.


The week of ArtWalk, paintings and pottery and glass, everything comes off of ledges and shelves and tables and hooks and nails and ends up on the floor.

New cards and new jewelry and new whatever else that have arrived for the season are liberated from recently received boxes and envelopes.

Everything is arranged and rearranged and arranged some more until by Friday evening, Toucan is refreshed and ready, all dressed up and made up and trembling with nervous anticipation, ready to stay open late for the hundreds upon hundreds of people who will arrive and mingle and converse over the four hours of what is one of Billings, Montana's best representations of a community of people gathering together, to look at art, sure, but mostly just getting out so as to be out together, like a, well, like a community. 

The Spring ArtWalk in downtown Billings is May 1, 2015 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

In Conversation with Jodi Lightner

On March 25, 2015, as part of Toucan's new "In Conversation" series, Mark Sanderson had a conversation with Jodi Lightner, Assistant Professor of Art at Montana State University-Billings. They talked for about an hour and half, including some questions from the audience. The conversation covered a broad range of topics, including Jodi's childhood and education in Kansas, her desire to become a teacher, how she ended up in Billings, and the nature and meaning of her work as an artist. Her work's relationship to the idea of structure in general and architecture in particular was of interest to Mark. A bit of that portion of the conversation is transcribed below.



Since I was trained as an architect, I know that an architect has program constraints, we have gravity to contend with, we have very real world things to deal with. As an artist you have a blank page. While there is something on the design side of things where we have to ultimately meet a client's needs, as an artist, it seems, you can do, well, anything.


I know, right.


On one hand that's amazing, that's the greatest freedom in the world, yet on the other hand it's got to be ... crazy-making. Or maybe that's just me.


I think that's the definition of a studio, right? Crazy-making. Everyone deals with it differently. I give myself projects. I'm ironically very structured about a lot of things. I give myself due dates. I have brainstorming sessions. It's like a business of one. I lay out what I want to do. And when I vote, I always win.


Which is the nice thing about working for yourself.


Yeah, company parties are a little bit dull, but other than that.... But, yes, I do have it very structured, where I know what I'm working toward and where I want to go with it, but I allow a lot of detours, actually, and a lot of choose-my-own-adventure routes within it, but I keep my project going in a certain direction, building what I'm building toward. I have several large projects that are always on. And whether or not they are active, they are still going. I flip between projects a lot of times, too, depending on what's coming up and where I'm trying to go with it. I think the key to maintaining a studio practice is less about passion, and more about perseverance, persistence, and conviction. And you keep those things in the forefront, and you know that this is satisfying and fulfilling, and that you're not going to give it up, and that your work will continue no matter how much work it is, no matter how many times you vote against yourself.


And you're an artist because you make art, so if you're not making art then you are no longer being an artist.



"Montreal Accessory" by Jodi Lightner. Acrylic and ink on mylar and panel. 12 in. x 24 in. 2012.

"Montreal Accessory" by Jodi Lightner. Acrylic and ink on mylar and panel. 12 in. x 24 in. 2012.


Your work is very architectural, and I find that kind of fascinating, obviously.


And I don't have any architectural background.


I know, so where does that come from?


It comes from those crazy family trips where all we got to see were historical homes. I believe this firmly. Structure is something, I've mentioned that before, that is important to me. Not just the structure in how I build my days, or spend my studio time, but also in the environment. I see these structures as metaphors for relationships and for how life operates. And they are things that people build. People design and build these architectural places that we operate within. And then there's all these architectural elements that interact within them, and then the elements that we put inside of them. And I see that as a metaphor for life, and for interpersonal relationships and intrapersonal relationships, and they've all become these symbols for me of what's happening in the world. Sometimes it's a very broad statement and sometimes it's very specific. But the architecture, you know, I think that we all get drawn to certain things, and I've always been drawn to the way things are put together.


You said you always wanted to be a maker.


I wanted to be a maker.


Architecture is one of the great making things that humanity does.


It is. There are huge impossibilities addressed by architecture. Historically, currently.


Is your work a representation of architecture, is it saying something about architecture, is it entirely its own thing that is influenced by architecture?


I think it's using architecture.




It's using it as metaphors.


I get it.


That's the way I see it.


I like that.


The schedule of upcoming "In Conversation" events is on the EVENTS page of the Toucan website.

We Had A Class

We recently had our first session of Lessons in Chalk with Jen Rahr of Deer Creek Design. The class, on March 18, was held in Toucan's Studio/Classroom space and the chalkboards were provided by Moments in Time, a Billings wedding rental business. Everyone produced compelling chalk design's under Jen's guidance and left with newfound knowledge about the potential of chalk as an artistic and communicative medium.

This first class filled up so we offered a second session that is going to be held on April 8. This session is also full, so anyone interested in taking this class in the future should keep an eye on the Academy page of, sign up for our email newsletter below, or like us on Facebook, to know when new classes are coming up.

Toucan Has A New Website

Toucan has a new website. We've updated it to better reflect the growth of Toucan. Toucan has never really just been an "art gallery." It's a place in downtown Billings, Montana that represents the creative spirit of our city and our region. Our historic space is infused with this spirit with more than 30 area artists work on display, and now we'll be offering art and design classes on a regular basis, offering some expanded creative services, and making our studio and classroom spaces available to community companies and organizations. We're introducing some new community events as well, in addition to our continued participation in the ever popular ArtWalk. Nothing is changing at the store, we're just adding some things to increase our reach and help us remain healthy and vibrant in our community. In any case, we hope you will join us. We always hope you will join us.

To better align with Toucan's being more than just an art gallery (because, really, Toucan was a frame shop even before it was an art gallery), the Toucan website is moving from to (Just google "toucan billings" and you'll find us too). A subtle change, perhaps, but one that better aligns with the spirit and future of what Toucan is and will be.

The new Toucan website is the best place to find out what's going on at Toucan. And this new Toucan Feed will be regularly updated with news and information, artwork and photos. Bookmark to check in on a regular basis.

We'll see you downtown.