MISSOULA — "The struggling artist,” is probably a phrase you’ve heard before, but with canceled art showings and craft fairs, artists have faced a new level of hardship in the last year.
For one Missoula artist, a mix of perseverance and community backing have given her the reassurance that she'll survive the uncertainty of the pandemic.
Meeting Courtney Blazon feels less like an encounter and more like you’ve just stepped foot into one of her whimsical drawings. The Missoula artist is all art, all the time. Everything from her wardrobe to her home decor matches the eclectic style of her artwork.
That's always been the story, from studying in New York City to showing her art in galleries across the West.
“It's the only thing I've ever wanted in my life -- is to be an artist and I think no matter what I would scrape and scrap and fight for it,” Blazon said.
Blazon relies on a mix of projects for both commercial clients and private commissions -- and her income varies depending on the workload.
“As an artist, I'm used to being, I'm used to struggling a bit and I'm used to going ‘okay I don't have a check coming this month, how do I make this work’?” Blazon stated.
But when COVID-19 hit the headlines, Blazon -- like so many artists -- found herself navigating a situation she never could have anticipated.
Events such as First Friday, and the HandMADE Montana fair -- where she serves as a vendor and co-organizer -- brought financial strain and disappointment.
“Not having those was a really big deal, not just because we weren't able to hold them, but because we knew that we were letting down a lot of artists who would have been able to make their income from those fairs,” Blazon said.
With the help of CARES Act Funding, Blazon was given some peace of mind, and a new iPad she uses for a chunk of her commercial work.
“That to me was the best gift I could get, was having a tool that was optimal for my work since I use this, you know, sometimes 12-to-14 hours a day,” Blazon told MTN News.
More recently, a commission by the Western Montana Fair is lifting another weight from Blazon’s shoulders.
After applying for the gig, she received the honor of creating the entire visual concept for the next three years of the fair.
“It’s a profession that has a lot of not-so-secure moments, so to just say ‘okay I have this job for three years’ is a really nice feeling,” Blazon said.
But above all, she credits her pandemic success story to a community that showed up when it really mattered.
“I'm going to be able to continue to be an artist in Missoula, and Missoula is my home,” Blazon said. “And I want to do it here and nowhere else.” “And I love the community; and I love that it supports our local artists and I'm so grateful for that."
The fair is still a long way away, so if you want to check out Courtney Blazon's art, you can find her work at Radius Gallery in Missoula, or online here.