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Author's Note:

Some people we meet during our lives seem larger than life. J.P. was one of those people to me. I didn't know him well, but he made a big impression on me as a teenager with his ten-gallon black hat, tall figure, and witty stories. I met J.P. at the Bigfork Inn, in Montana, during the 1970s. My parents, who owned the inn then, purchased several of his bronze sculptures, and I marveled at his talent in capturing Western subjects with such detail and finesse.


Over time, our family lost track of J.P. A couple years ago, I was visiting my parents in Bigfork and admired a Kelley bronze on display in their home. I asked, "Whatever happened to J.P. Kelley?" No one knew. I thought that was unfortunate, since of all places he should be remembered Montana is at the top of the list. J.P. Kelley is one of the fine artists in the Flathead Valley who experienced firsthand a magical chapter in the art world, and whose legacy has endured to this day. In high school, I attended classes with the children of several other prominent local artists of that era, including Fred Fellows, Elmer Sprunger, and David Shaner. Bigfork was somewhat of an artist colony, in those days. Also, my stepbrother worked at the renowned Ace Powell foundry at the time many of J.P.'s bronzes were cast there. J.P. is part of the fabric of my life in one of the most fantastic places on earth. Montana. I am honored to help tell his story.


If anyone wants to view the art catalog or family history at one of these repositories:


Amon Carter Museum. Forth Worth, Texas

Buffalo Bill Center of the West / McCracken Research Library. Cody, Wyoming

Cisco's Gallery. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Frame of Reference Fine Art. Whitefish, MT

Geronimo Springs Museum. Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Hillsboro Historical Society. Hillsboro, New Mexico

Hockaday Museum of Art. Kalispell, Montana

Hubbard Museum of the American West. Ruidoso Downs, NM

Kingston Schoolhouse Museum. Kingston, NM

Montana Historical Society. Helena, MT

National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture. Spokane, Washington

ProRodeo Hall of Fame & Museum of the American Cowboy. Colorado Springs, Colorado

Western Heritage Center. Billings, Montana

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