Round Up: 120 North Higgins

In the heart of downtown Missoula, Montana, a new building is dedicated to the arts

In 2014, when Lisa Simon and Jason Neal opened radius Gallery on East Main Street in downtown Missoula, Montana, their desire was to fill a gap in the region’s art market. While much of the work represented by other galleries at that time focused on traditional Western art — depictions of Rocky Mountain landscapes and wildlife — the co-owners felt that contemporary art and artists were underrepresented. At the same time, collectors and interior designers were starting to lean more toward modern pieces to align with the mountain modern architecture that was beginning to take hold.

In January 2020, Radius Gallery moved into a new space, as the flagship tenant of 120 North Higgins in downtown Missoula, Montana.The other businesses in the building, designed by MMW Architects, all revolve around art.

Their goal for Radius was to “establish a base for contemporary arts in the region, and help Montana grow an arts economy by providing jaw-dropping contemporary artworks to collectors,” says Simon. Through the years, the gallery has found success by showcasing the skills and sensibilities of artists that the owners admire, working to connect with discerning collectors, and creating an energetic forum for discussing art and its vitality in the world today.

In January 2020, Radius moved into a new space that reflects these values to the core. As the flagship tenant of 120 North Higgins in downtown Missoula, the gallery continues the work it started in 2014, featuring pieces that range from majestic landscapes and evocative abstracts to innovative, world-class ceramics, “all with the evidence of the artist’s hand, which is a hallmark of contemporary art,” Simon adds.

The building, designed by Don MacArthur of the Missoula-based MMW Architects, rests on the historic foundation of the shop once owned by R. H. McKay, an acclaimed photographer in the early 20th century whose extensive archives are housed at the University of Missoula. The two-story contemporary structure features vaulted ceilings, skylights, and floor-to-ceiling windows that face Higgins Street. And as a testament to the quality and innovation of the building’s overall design, MMW Architects was awarded the 2020 American Institute of Architects Montana Merit Award.

In addition to Radius, building owners Brian and Karen Sippy used the other spaces to house three businesses that reflect the collaborative spirit of the Missoula art scene. The couple opened Relic Gallery, which focuses on antique treasures and curiosities; an art storage facility called Art Vault; and Allez, a revolving mural program that provides opportunities for first-time muralists.

“Our mantra has always been ‘Live With Art,’” says Simons. “Bring into our homes and workspaces art that delights the eyes and excites the imagination. Our intention for the gallery, always, is that it be a place of interest for everyone, a locus of inclusion and open-mindedness in our community, and an entity that advocates for other art initiatives.” And now housed in 120 North Higgins, Radius is doing just that.     — Corinne Gaffner Garcia

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