Preparing Boys for Life.

Big Timber Arts Roundup

Bob Burch ’72 and his wife, Susan, have hosted The Big Timber Arts Roundup at Hobble Diamond Ranch in Montana since 2001. The Roundup brings students from select area schools to work alongside students from Montana high schools for five days. Their task: to depict in photographs, poetry, prose, watercolor, or a Shakespearean scene the beauty, the passion, the loneliness, and the fear that mark the human condition.


Susan and Bob Burch '72

The Big Timber Arts Roundup is 15 years old and during that time, more than 1,000 students, actors, artists and teachers have participated in what has become a great celebration of Montana and the arts. We've seen marvelous theater, recited sublime poetry, and listened to students' stories read aloud to audiences gathered in a Montana cow barn. We've experienced the joy and excitement of meeting people with different backgrounds and experiences than our own, and have gotten to know them best through their art. This little experiment, conceived on the banks of the Yellowstone River, has become more than any of us had ever imagined. Like all magical ideas that are born and blossom into reality, so many people deserve the credit for The Roundup's success and longevity – cooks and writers, cowboys and Shakespearean actors gathering together each fall in the hope that something special will occur. Like a blazing western sky, a mayfly hatch or the bugling of a bull elk, special things do indeed happen in Montana, and one of them has been the Big Timber Arts Roundup.

Like a blazing western sky, a mayfly hatch or the bugling of a bull elk, special things do indeed happen in Montana, and one of them has been the Big Timber Arts Roundup.

When eighth Headmaster Joe Cox, Susan and I conceived of the Roundup, we hoped to have a lasting impact on a few of the many dozens of students, and to gift them with our love of the west and its freedoms and wildness. We wondered if some day, one or two of the students would look back and say, "My three days at the Hobble Diamond changed my view of the world and myself and I'm better for it." It seems we underestimated the power of art and the eye opening grandeur of Big Sky Country on the attendees. We receive letters each year from students and teachers who express what we could only hint at; Montana has changed them and opened their horizons, made them determined to pursue their art or their passion, and it is a feeling and an experience that will stay with them forever. For this we are thankful.

-Bob Burch '72


I packed my watercolor, paint, paper, and brushes into my bag and embarked on adventure into the wilderness with my friend. We hopped the cattle fence and climbed the hills of Montana. After 20 minutes, we had earned the perfect spot. Looking over a valley - while painting and listening to music - will be one of my most cherished memories.

I packed my watercolor, paint, paper, and brushes into my bag and embarked on adventure into the wilderness with my friend. We hopped the cattle fence and climbed the hills of Montana. After 20 minutes, we had earned the perfect spot. Looking over a valley - while painting and listening to music - will be one of my most cherished memories.

In school, our art classes are constricted to forty-five minute periods. Every day at the Hobble Diamond was dedicated to creating art. I was surprised at how much I painting I accomplished in three days.

Our days were filled with art and the lessons of Diana Brady, professional watercolor artist. Mrs. Brady also introduced me to the art of landscape painting. I had never done a landscape painting outside of beaches and other tropical scenes, so the Montana landscapes were new to me. I had always avoided them because I was afraid of the paintings being boring and only green. Once in Montana, I found that I was completely wrong, and my paintings ended up being some of the most colorful art I've ever done before. The Big Timber Arts Roundup in Montana changed my life.

– Devin (pictured above)

Big Timber Arts Writing Workshop

Montana is often referred to as the Big Sky Country, and this is no exaggeration. Hailing from the city, I found Montana truly mesmerizing. Words can't really describe a typical night sky in Montana. The stars are larger than life, they glint in all directions. Shooting stars are common place, they whizz through the Milky Way, something I heard about and now was close enough to touch.

Each day I would sit there resting my back against its wide trunk and just write. I pushed my pen to the paper and felt the ideas just flow. I felt free, unbarred, and unrestricted.

As a writer, you dream of having the time to write outside of the pressures of the prep school world. My peers were also outside of time; their passion danced about me and across my skin. I found my special place under a large tree. Each day I would sit there resting my back against its wide trunk and just write. I pushed my pen to the paper and felt the ideas just flow. I felt free, unbarred, and unrestricted.

In a small cabin with a crackling fire, professional artists listened to our work. Their feedback shaped my pieces and opened up new horizons of expression. By the final day, I found myself not wanting to leave such a magical place behind. I would recommended this once in a lifetime trip to any aspiring artist who is really serious and loves their craft.

-Tyler (pictured above)


At the Hobble Diamond Ranch, I worked with Barbara Van Cleve – a photographer who captures life in Montana. Barbara's energy and passion flows into you. She helped me to capture the earth and the sky. The stars in Montana were extraordinary, on the last day I laid down in field – it was freezing – to stare at the stars for an hour. I took the stars back with me to Philadelphia.

The stars in Montana were extraordinary, on the last day I laid down in field – it was freezing – to stare at the stars for an hour. I took the stars back with me to Philadelphia.

The exchange between kids from Montana and Philadelphia changed the way I thought about high school life and art. I still taste the passion in the air that was ebbing out of every artist. This experience was life-changing.

– Taj (photograph above)

The Haverford School Group Big Timber Arts Roundup

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