Laura G. Barrett

 Laura Grace Barrett
The Laura Grace Barrett Living Arts Foundation Fund is dedicated to supporting ideas and projects that create opportunities for arts, culture, entertainment, education, and the general enrichment of life, foremost in the immediate Bigfork area, but also to nearby regions.

Born in Froid, Montana, in 1930, Laura was raised on a wheat farm, which she left at the age of 16 to attend the University of Montana. She worked as schoolteacher in San Francisco, after which the bright and beautiful Laura became a stewardess for Pan American Airways. There she met Jim Barrett, and the couple married and moved to Los Angeles and had five children. 

The care of her family did not temper Laura's passion for the arts. She taught art classes and worked to develop community art programs. She wrote and directed her play “Garden of Pleasure,” which was performed at UCLA. In 1969, the suburban Laura created a cross-culture art cooperative with her inner-city friend Pauline.

Laura’s farming roots served the family well when her husband expressed interest in an agricultural project. Laura was 100 percent for getting the family back to the land. Laura and Jim founded Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, California. Quickly, their 1973 Chardonnay won the landmark Paris tasting of 1976, catapulting the winery to fame.

Jim and Laura went their separate ways in 1977. However, Laura never gave up on the dream of a family winery, maintaining her ownership and making significant contributions to the continued success of Chateau Montelena. Laura’s memoir of the early Montelena journey is titled “What is More Real Than a Dream?”

In 1980, the unattended Laura caught the attention of another Mr. Barrett: Jack Barrett, the plumber. Laura and Jack were married in 1984. By 1986, they moved to Bigfork, Montana, where Laura’s creative, idea-generating engine coupled with Jack's practical knowledge to create Bridge Street Gallery and Wine Café and Restaurant.

In 2010, Laura was diagnosed with cancer. She bravely endured surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Laura handled these events as bumps in the road on the way to her destination. With her diminished health, Laura’s resolve to accomplish became even more fervent. The dynamic duo of Laura and Jack started Collage Gallery of Fine Art in Bigfork in 2014. After Jack passed away in Mexico in March 2016, Laura adjusted and kept moving. She traveled to Cuba in March 2017. Laura continued to work on her memoirs, poetry, and artwork. Finally, Laura developed a charitable foundation to support the arts. Laura died on July 20, 2017.

Montana Community Foundation

33 S. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 2A
Helena, MT 59601
(406) 443-8313 (406) 443-8313
Email MCF

Stay Connected