For the Love of… Another Outstanding Montana Non-profit
Art Mobile of Montana, the only program of its kind in Montana, is a statewide service offering interactive presentations of curated exhibits, quality hands-on art lessons, and teacher education. This program educates through art about the diversity of the human experience, culture, practices, customs, and history and provides opportunities for youth and adults to participate together in arts-learning through and about art. The exhibit, which changes every year, is comprised of 25-30 contemporary Montana visual artists’ works and is accompanied with presentations by the artists and resources for teachers about teaching art.
Eighteen years ago, Director of the Art Mobile of Montana, Sara Colburn taught art education at the University of Montana-Dillon. As she taught the next generation of educators, she thought about the importance of access to fine art. Youth exposed to art develop skills difficult to develop from other sources. Instead of hoping Montanans would make it to the nearest art gallery or museum, a big ask for much of the rural population, Colburn thought she could bring the art to the people. This is what sparked the creation of the Art Mobile of Montana.
After taking art to a pilot project of nine rural schools, the program grew to cover the state. For six years Sara traveled to more and more schools, community centers and events. She developed a system in which schools could request a visit, and she would drive to them. Since 2000, the Art Mobile of Montana has served anywhere from 50 to 85 schools in a year. Now, Sara takes care of the business end of the program, writing for grants to support Art Mobile’s activities, and the teaching artists (TA’s) drive the Art Mobile van around the state, and teach.
How it Works
At each school the Teaching Assistant not only sets up all 30 works of art on portable wooden walls, but gives a presentation about the art, leading an interactive discussion. Art Mobile exhibits include examples of art from a wide variety of the many cultures in Montana. Native American artworks comprise one-third of our annual exhibits. We solicit art each year and select a wide variety of styles and techniques. Students look forward to the art making sessions that usually take place after the presentations are over. Each year Art Mobile teaches several different art lessons, each one geared to the Montana State Standards and often linked to particular artworks in the exhibit.
For example, this year, Missoula artist Sally Hickman loaned 10 small abstract paintings interpreting the songs of a variety of birds. Each painting represented a particular bird’s song. Tess Fahlgren teaches a lesson from these called “Painting Sound” in which she asks students to think of a sound, then write the word for that sound on the back of a piece of art paper, not telling anyone what they chose. On the flip side, students use watercolor to visually express their sound. In this way, each student is making an abstract painting. They have fun at the end of the project when they hold up their art while the rest of the class tries to guess what the sound might be.
The Art Mobile is an amazing resource for schools all across the state of Montana. Some schools, such as Corvallis Middle school and those in Bynum and Frazer, have had the Art Mobile almost every year since its founding. Others, such as Ulm Elementary and Roy High School, welcomed the Art Mobile for the first time this year. Because many schools have difficulty keeping full-time art teachers, the Art Mobile is there to help foster a healthy curiosity and understanding of art and remind students that there are many, many wonderfully talented artists who live and work right here in our state.
EMAIL: [email protected]