The 3 Rs at work in Montana
Gomez, Czelsi

The 3 Rs at work in Montana

Public Value Partnership grants between Montana nonprofit arts organizations and the Montana Arts Council champion the fact that the arts are of benefit to all the citizens of Montana and are worthy of state and federal investment. 

Public Value Partnerships utilize three tools we call “The Three Rs” to expand the public value of the work being done by Montana’s non-profit arts organizations:

   • Building relationships;

   • Creating greater relevance and meaning; and

   • Establishing return on investment (measured both as economic vitality and impact on people’s lives).

MAC believes that using “The Three Rs” strengthens participation, understanding and support from audiences, donors and funders. We’d like to share some of the best examples of these stories:


Building Relationships

Clay Studio of Missoula: We continue to build stronger relationships by including members in our committees and facility improvement projects. Key decisions in how our space functions and what we offer to our community is largely based on input from our general membership and everyday users of the space.

This past year, we entered the final stages in the rehabilitation of an outdoor garden space. A number of members have been directly responsible for, and involved in, landscaping decisions and development of this native garden area. In the autumn of 2017, one of our members dug up multiple perennials from her garden and worked with a team of members and interns to transplant the plants into our new garden beds. In addition, many individuals in our community donated Caras Bucks, which are used for discounted purchases from a local nursery. With those donated discounts, we were able to purchase young trees at a reduced rate.

Members and residents also contributed sculptures and large vessels to install around the garden, bringing a unique artistic quality to this outdoor area. In Spring 2018, we witnessed for the first time the garden coming to life, with new blooms and growth continuing well into the late summer. Due to a collaborative team effort, this former overgrown storage yard is now transformed into an attractive and pleasant publicly visible area that all members and visitors can enjoy.

Other member-initiated efforts this past year have included working with staff to create seasonal full studio cleanup days, a thorough cleaning and organization of our outdoor kiln yard, and improvements to our front entries with new welcoming door signage on our classroom entry. There are additional projects that our staff and members will be collaborating on in the upcoming year.

The Clay Studio is truly a member-driven organization. Over the years, decisions that have been made based on member input have been the most constructive in making us more effective. By directly involving members and listening to their needs in order to make improvements and grow, we have succeeded in providing a space that truly serves our community.


Creating Relevance

Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art, Great Falls: Last year, PGS partnered with a local fledgling group named The Storytellers. The Storytellers wanted to produce a show with a cast of children and teach them all aspects of theater. They choose the script “Eurydice.”

During the course of the production many artistic elements were used and taught. PGS’s 2017-2018 Artist in Residence, Sam Krahn, has a doctorate in music. He worked with members of the troupe to create pre-recorded sound to be used during the productions, thus allowing the cast to expand with a Foley artist (someone who reproduces sound effects that are added to film, video, and other media).

The Foley artist chosen for the production was a 15-year-old male, who was autistic and unable to read. Four teenagers recorded a variety of sounds, including dripping water, bangs and clangs from the boiler, and birds. This sound was transferred to audio files and other sound was developed by set props. 

The cast received lessons in theatrical make-up design and its application as well as costume design and manufacturing. The set was also built and decorated. 

The lead in the play was a talented 17-year-old actress with extensive theatrical background. She was given the task of being a director in this production.

PGS education director Sarah Justice, program coordinator Keern Haslem and executive director Tracy Houck all worked with the cast to develop the artistic skill set needed for this production and future opportunities. The entire production was a learning experience in marketing, ticket sales, rehearsals, tech specs, costumes, make-up and more. The youth were very successful in their project and the show had multiple performances.


Return on Investment

Alberta Bair Theater, Billings: Beartooth Elementary School Principal Travis Niemeyer says there are a multitude of examples of the types of outreach ABT is implementing to create a greater connection within the community to engage a variety of audiences. He believes Project Hip-Hop is one of the most effective outreach programs in Yellowstone County.

The programs consist of local dance teachers and school fitness instructors conducting workout sessions in the school gymnasiums of six Title One schools. Along with the benefits of making regular exercise part of the students’ school routine, the students have the opportunity to train with nationally known teaching artists and renowned urban street dancing companies such as Houston-based Soul Street Dance Company.

Project Hip-Hop is aimed at students in schools with larger amounts of poverty in Billings and the surrounding community who have had little exposure to urban-themed music, dance, exercise, and ideals of living a healthy life-style. Dance and music set the stage for students to create, imagine and explore ways in which they can move their bodies to create a mood, evoke emotion, make music, act, work collaboratively and collectively, and prepare for learning through physical movement, musicality and cultural awareness across curricular boundaries. 

Prior to Project Hip-Hop, specifically at Beartooth Elementary School, Niemeyer saw students build relationships that had never been considered by the students themselves. “We have seen students that do not play together on the playground and/or wouldn’t interact in an academic setting, plan, rehearse, and harmoniously dance together in front of all other participants – followed by cheering and jubilation for their combined efforts and achievement.” 

The most dramatic of Niemeyer’s examples includes two Newman Elementary students who were from two different Billings gangs. Niemeyer said by the time the Project Hip-Hop classes concluded for the season, the students were talking to each other.

“Even those who won’t speak to each other begin to come together on the dance floor and experience budding friendships that last beyond our sessions of hip-hop. Project Hip-Hop has given the students at Beartooth an experience that moves beyond dance, beyond exercise, and beyond expectation to create a community of students, together, learning, moving, and experiencing the joy of school. It is this program that gets some of our students that are consistently tardy to get up in the morning and run into school in order to get to hip-hop on time each day. Of course, learning can then begin not only on time but with a fresh spring in their step and the rhythm of community in their heart.”


(Photos): The Clay Studio of Missoula has created a welcoming outdoor space where art and flowers thrive.

Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art teamed up with The Storytellers to produce “Eurydice,” with a cast of children learning a host of design and performance skills.

Alberta Bair Theater’s Project Hip-Hop brings dance teachers and fitness instructors to Title One schools, including Broadwater Elementary (above). The program, says one principal, puts “a fresh spring in their step and the rhythm of community in their heart.”




Montana Arts Council | 830 N. Warren Street, Helena, MT 59601 | P.O. Box 202201, Helena, MT 59620-2201 | P: (406) 444-6430 | F: (406) 444-6548 |      Facebook     Twitter     Instagram     YouTube icon