Heritage Missoula Partners With Nye Imagery For First Downtown Banner Project

Local & State Media

September 30, 2020



Downtown Missoula is many things to many people. It is a crossroads and a gathering place. It is the homeland of the Salish people and a haven for artists and students. It is buildings made of local brick alongside marble and granite courthouses. It is a story of displacement, growth, and perseverance. At the root of this place is Downtown Missoula’s heritage.


In June, the Missoula City Council and the Missoula County Commissioners, along with many other public agencies, unanimously approved the first ever Downtown Missoula Heritage Interpretive Plan. With adoption complete, the Downtown Missoula Partnership (DMP) recently created a new program – Heritage Missoula – to help shape the downtown experience and celebrate the community’s distinct character by tying together key natural and cultural resources.


The first project that Heritage Missoula has produced is the Heritage Missoula Banners that can be found on Downtown boulevard banners. These banners are a partnership with Nye Imagery and a soon-to-be-published fine art book entitled, “A Corner of Space and Time: Lee Nye’s Eddie’s Club Portraits.”


An artist in the rough, Lee Nye was a brilliant, largely undiscovered photographer from Montana. He was a horse-whisperer, a veteran, a poet, a teacher, and a bartender. Most of all, Lee Nye was an artist who captured the souls of a bygone America on film like no one else of his generation.


From 1965 to 1973, he was the dynamic and artfully mustachioed man behind the bar at Eddie’s Club. Eddie’s was a rough-hewn watering hole populated by railroad workers and other common folks that was discovered by poets, professors, and college-student hippies, forming one of the American West’s most vibrant cultural melting pots. In 1965, Nye began asking the regulars, the leather-palmed working men with countless untold stories etched in their creased faces, to step outside. Using the bar’s back alley as his studio, he photographed his subjects with black and white film on a Rolleiflex camera using only natural light. The 125 images he captured represent a singular achievement in 20th century American photography.


These images are found today on the walls of the storied downtown watering hole Charlie B’s, the bar once known as Eddie’s Club. Now, for the first time, the portraits with accompanying biographies of each subject will appear in a fine art book titled, A Corner of Space and Time: Lee Nye’s Eddie’s Club Portraits. Working with Nye’s wife, Jean Belangie-Nye, designer Benjamin Ferencz scanned the negatives of the entire Eddie’s Club Collection and prepared them for print. Writer and editor Aaron Teasdale worked with Belangie-Nye to craft biographies of the subjects and Lee Nye, and wrote an introductory essay that explores the history of these unique portraits and how the Eddie’s Club Collection came to be.


The 13 images used on the banners will represent the diverse subjects Nye captured from businessmen to railroad workers to writers and waitresses. The size of the banner allows for more of the original image to be seen, revealing new details of the subjects and their place in history. This project is a celebration of beautiful works of art from Missoula’s untold history that capture men and women from a former world – and honor and promote a Missoula legacy and the heritage of our downtown.


“This is an incredibly unique project that really speaks to Missoula’s heritage,” said Jared Kuehn, President of the Missoula Downtown Foundation Board. “The imagery from Lee Nye truly emphasizes the characters of Missoula’s past, and the Downtown Foundation Board was really excited to support this project.”


This project was funded by the Missoula Downtown Foundation and supported in part by a grant from the Montana Arts Council, an agency of State Government. The Downtown Missoula Heritage Interpretive Plan can be viewed online at www.missouladowntown.com/heritage-missoula. For more information about A Corner of Space and Time: Lee Nye’s Eddie’s Club Portraits, please contact Aaron Teasdale via email ([email protected]) or phone (406-529-3126). For more information or to connect about Heritage Missoula ideas, contact DMP Program Director Kalina Wickham via email ([email protected]) or phone (406-543-4238).


Downtown Missoula: Connecting Our Community!

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