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Hangin’ Art Gallery in Arlee to close

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ARLEE – After serving as an Arlee community hub for art, music and food for 16 years, the Hangin’ Art Gallery will close late this August. Owner Donna Mollica plans to retire to pursue personal endeavors.

Mollica said she wanted to announce the closing early to give others in the community the opportunity to come up with another way to use the building to serve the people of Arlee. 

“I want to have the freedom to explore what is next for my life,” Mollica said. “And I want the building itself to have an opportunity for someone or some group of people to come in with enthusiasm and excitement to build something new here.” 

Mollica said she doesn’t have plans to sell the building. 

The gallery opened on July 3, 2003. Mollica’s late husband Denny Nault bought the building in 1991 after a fire gutted it. “It was nothing but four walls that kind of swayed in the wind,” Mollica said. Nault spent his days off from work rebuilding the inside of the building. 

According to Mollica, Nault wanted to create a space without smoking, gambling or drinking, where people could gather to connect and share art. “It was really his gift to the community,” Mollica said. Mollica helped Nault open the business. Nault passed away in 2015. 

The gallery has become a center for community in Arlee. The coffee, baked goods and lunch food bring residents together. For years, the space was known for its well-attended Friday-night dinners with musical accompaniment.

The gallery is home to the Killdeer Artisans Guild, which is a group of artists who have displayed their art in the gallery for the last 10 years. The group’s summer show, “A Summer of Remembrance,” reflects the legacy of art at the Hangin’ Art Gallery. The exhibit is on display now. 

Mollica said the children’s programs the gallery provided are her proudest accomplishment as the owner of the establishment. The gallery offered after school art programs for six years, until the school’s 2009 switch to a four day school week caused scheduling conflicts. 

“I’m most proud of those opportunities for developing self confidence and self expression in the arts,” she said. 

Mollica said many of the local children who attended the programs are successful young adults today. 

According to Mollica, children’s programs were close to Nault’s heart. She said Nault wished he had the opportunity to engage with the arts as a child growing up in Havre, Montana. “He wanted to make that possible for children here,” Mollica said. However, Nault became a student of art during his retirement. He took classes from the artists who displayed their art in the gallery. 

Mollica said she has tentative plans for a potluck celebration to reflect on the gallery. She will announce more details as her plans come together. 

When Mollica announced the closure on the Hangin’ Art Gallery Facebook page, she received a flood of comments reflecting on the role of the gallery in the community. There were locals who had worked at the gallery when they were in high school and artists who said the gallery had shaped them. Some said they had made the gallery a stop on travels through the Arlee. 

“While this will leave a big void in the community of Arlee, I’m so very glad for you to be able now to pursue new adventures," one community member wrote. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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