|The HeART of
UM's Cultural Outreach Across the State
People who havent spent much time in Montana often imagine the state to be a vast
cultural wasteland, a place where rodeos and cowboy poetry constitute high culture. The
rest of us know otherwise. We know that Montanas many treasures include fine
museums, top-notch theatrical companies and fantastic music festivals. We know that in
Montana, its possible to have the best of all worlds.
As the states cultural center, Missoula often is the place where those worlds
collide. UM in particular is a magnet for students who seek to discover and enrich their
talents, as well as for teachers who want to share their gifts. The ripple effects are
felt across Montana.
In its comprehensive, 10-year review and recommendation for reaccreditation of the
University, the Northwest
Association of Schools and Colleges commended UM for its dedication to cultural
The University of Montana-Missoula appears to be committed to artistic and
cultural activity throughout the campus and throughout the state, the report
The sound of music
The School of Fine Arts, despite
severe funding problems noted by the report, was singled out for its excellent artistic
education and highest quality exhibitions and performances, many of which are
shared with residents across the state.
Outreach is the nature of who we are and what we do, says Tom Cook, music
department chair. We have a faculty that is very aware of the importance of outreach
in terms of service to Montana citizens and recruitment.
UM music teachers travel across the state to serve as guest conductors at festivals, as
judges at competitions, and as clinicians at workshops for K-12 students and teachers.
Several are members of the String Orchestra of the Rockies, a select group of musicians
from throughout the state.
Our faculty members are very active, Cook says. They spend a great
deal of extra time and effort off campus.
Music students also are busy with performances in Montana and the Northwest. Student
ensembles include the University Symphony Orchestra, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Big Sky
Winds Marching Band, Opera Theater, Percussion Ensemble and Steel Band.
Even [K-12] students who are not musicians are positively impressed when the jazz
band performs in Libby, Cook says.
All the worlds a stage
Montana schoolchildren also benefit from the Department of Drama/Dances Montana Repertory Theatre. A
professional touring company that brings Broadway-style productions to communities across
the state and country, the Montana Rep includes a strong educational outreach program.
While a cast of 12 professionals and graduate students performs hits like
Its a Wonderful Life or the recently opened Diary of Anne
Frank from Bozeman to Billings and from California to New York, a smaller Montana
Rep troupe goes on the road to Montana high schools and libraries.
For a few days in each community, children learn to write poetry, turn those poems into
scripts and stage their own plays.
Whats neat about it is that it gets the kids writing and they realize
anyone can write poetry, says Greg Johnson, the Reps artistic director.
Its not something only famous people can do.
Even if kids arent artistically inclined, he adds, its an
excellent tool for getting over shyness and learning how to talk in front of others.
The cast and crew of three an actor, director and technical director then
present a professional production, such as this years Belle of Amherst.
Dancing with parts of speech
Kids get to learn about nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives in a completely new way when
they catch a performance of the Montana
Transport Company, UMs modern dance troupe.
In the production Moving Words, Mo-Trans uses dance to explore grammar
while engaging kindergartners through sixth-graders with audience participation. The show
tours to elementary schools throughout the Northwest, to provide not only entertainment,
but also alternative means of learning.
Maybe the kids will say, Oh, I get it, because Ive seen
it, says Amy Ragsdale, Mo-Trans artistic director. Maybe theyll
suddenly understand what an adverb does.
As one of the few touring dance companies from Montana, and the states only
modern dance company, Mo-Trans also performs dance concerts for grownups and families.
Each show includes pieces from choreographers both local and global, and travels to towns
large and small across the region. The love of dance, pure and simple, is the
troupes main inspiration.
This is an art form that has been passionately inspiring for some people to be
engaged in, Ragsdale says. They become dancers, and its the great thing
in their lives. Our hope is that when we go to, say, Conrad, some of the kids will see it
and think, Wow, maybe I could do that. Maybe it will suggest a possibility
theyve never thought of before.
Mo-Trans also presents dance and movement workshops for senior citizens in nursing
homes, people with developmental and physical disabilities and women recovering from
Theres a liberating effect, Ragsdale says. Our hope is to
really have an impact on the community, to reach as many different populations as
The Universitys art department
brings visual enrichment to Montana residents through exhibits of student and faculty work
both in the campus Gallery of Visual Arts and in shows that travel across the state.
Art students and faculty members also travel to elementary, middle and high schools to
present workshops on everything from creating one-of-a-kind books to painting murals. The
workshops give schoolchildren a chance to explore their artistic sides and try out
It gets their creative problem-solving process going, says Jim Bailey, art
department chair. A lot of kids prefer a hands-on experience. Here they are learning
by doing versus just thinking about doing. Theyre putting theory into
Many of UMs art faculty members also donate their time and expertise to other
statewide concerns, such as Montanas historic preservation board or the Montana
On the frontier of education
To be truly educated, one must have exposure to art in all forms, says Maggie
Mudd, director of UMs Museum
of Fine Arts.
The museums mission is to collect, display and preserve works of art for the
education of students, for scholarly research and for public enjoyment. With a permanent
collection of nearly 10,000 works of art, the museum serves as one of Montanas main
depositories for collections from around the state, such as those of Henry Meloy and Fra
I think its interesting that even at that early period of time, people in
Montana intuitively knew that exposure to art was a basic component of an educational
experience, Mudd says. A good university de facto included an art
Other works in the permanent collection range from those of important Western artists
like Edgar Paxson, Joseph Henry Sharp and Ralph DeCamp to the international greats Pablo
Picasso, Marc Chagall and Robert Motherwell. The collection even includes a Rembrandt
A vital component of the museums work is keeping the history of art and
collecting in Montana.
We have works given to us by very outstanding and interesting historical figures
in the state, Mudd says. So what we carry in the collection is also a
tremendous bank of history. Its an archive not only of the art but also of all the
history that swirls around us.
Many of the works in the collection are displayed in the museums Meloy and Paxson
galleries on campus, as well as through traveling exhibits and loans to art centers
The permanent collection has benefited the state through loans and lots of
them to museums and galleries that make them vibrant centers in their own
communities, Mudd says.
Upcoming Museum of Fine Arts shows include the Nelson Chang collection of Chinese
antiquities and Shelterbelt, an installation by Montana artist and wheat
farmer Gary Horinek. A traveling exhibit of work by long-time Montana art educator Jerry
Rankin will visit Butte and Miles City.
I think everything we do is outreach because of the public nature of what we
do, Mudd says. Our shows are productions. They are open to the public, but
happily, theres no box office. People can just come.
For more information on cultural outreach, contact the School of Fine Arts at (406)