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

Stumptown Art Studio, Whitefish: Our specific technique? Provide something for everyone and make it easy to access us!

Our physical presence in downtown Whitefish draws in people constantly. Thousands of visitors stop on the main street going through Whitefish to admire our “Windows on Whitefish” mosaic murals, depicting life in the beautiful Flathead Valley. Our outreach programs broaden our audience to include the less mobile, and those with special needs.

This past year we began to offer “make and take” art opportunities in response to visitors from out of the area who wanted to create art but were only in town for a short time. We also expanded our adult Canvas and Cocktail classes to offsite locations including local breweries. This has brought in more attendees from outside Whitefish, as did starting an after-school art club in Kalispell.

Additionally, last year we upgraded Stumptown’s website with a portal that allows patrons to register and pay for classes online. We saw an immediate increase in enrollment – people prefer the easiest way to sign up for events (one-click shopping).


Creating Relevance

Fort Peck Fine Arts Council: The Jake Etchart Fine Arts Scholarship honors Jake Etchart, who grew up spending summers at Fort Peck Lake with much of his time spent around the Fort Peck Theatre where his family actively served as volunteers.

Jake passed away Nov. 22, 2006, of complications from a progressive neuromuscular disease. Jake’s family and friends established a theatre scholarship fund in his memory which is invested within the Fort Peck Theatre Preservation Endowment of the Montana Community Foundation. The interest from this investment provides up to two scholarships per year for undergraduate students pursuing a career in the fine arts.

The 2018 recipient of the Jake Etchart Fine Arts Scholarship award was a young lady who started performing as a community volunteer in 2015. She continued volunteering for the next two summers. In the fall of 2017 she began her freshman year at the University of Montana pursuing her interest in science and math. Even though these subjects had been her passion, she was questioning this as her career choice. She got the opportunity to be involved in the theatre at the University and soon changed her academic goals to pursuing a bachelor’s in theatre.

This past summer she was an intern for the Fort Peck Theatre, not only helping and performing in the productions, but also serving as one of the lead counselor’s helpers for 3-12 grade students in the annual Performing Arts Camp. The camp, which draws youth from Washington, Canada and all over Montana, explores all areas of theatre as professional company members mentor the youth.

The Fort Peck Summer Theatre provided her with the experience, skills and the knowledge which solidified her decision to pursue a career in the fine arts. The Fort Peck Fine Arts Council is happy to provide a place and opportunity for people to experience the arts in our part of the state which is often geographically isolated from the theatre.


Return on Investment

Arts Missoula: Arts and Economic Prosperity 5, a study compiled by Americans for the Arts every five years and released in June 2017, reveals that Missoula’s nonprofit arts organizations are a $54 million industry, which is a combination of over $20 million as direct impact from the organizations, and more than $33 million from audiences, excluding the cost of admission. This is more than three times as large as the median of cities this size, and half again as large as all American cities. 

The nonprofit arts sector is not simply healthy, but it is much larger and healthier than previously thought. It is also responsible for 1,913 FTE jobs. The medical industry and higher education, often recognized as the two largest industries in town, have 2,300 and 1,400 FTE’s respectfully. This changes the conversation in Missoula about jobs, employment, and economic vitality, placing the decentralized industry of nonprofit arts in the same sentence with Missoula’s two hospitals and the University of Montana. 

Breaking down the study further, audiences spent $25.99 per arts event on food, drink, lodging, transportation, or anything else related to attending that specific event, excluding the cost of admission. This is nearly $6 more per person and per event from the previous study, released in 2012. The increase in spending is most likely related to an improved view of the economy and one’s own fiscal confidence, which was quite low during the last study, coming as it did in the midst of the major recession beginning in 2008. 

The study also separates locals from the cultural tourist. Roughly 20% of audiences are from outside Missoula County. Yet that 20% spends over $53 per event, while locals spend just over $18. The study thus shows great potential for increased cultural tourism in Missoula. The full study can be found at

This study clearly shows that an investment in one’s community through the arts can reap great benefits. Missoula is a town that is currently experiencing a construction boom, while more and more businesses and individuals are choosing to relocate here. This is in large part because of the attractiveness of the town, and the arts play a large part in that.


Photos: Stumptown Art Studio: Young  artists enjoying a kids-only art night with a Harry Potter theme. Fort Peck Fine Arts Council: During the production of “Leader of the Pack” the theater had a car show in the parking area, with about 10 antique cars on location. (Photo by Melani Vandall) Arts Missoula:  MCPS 5th grade students participate in Drama Arts Integration through SPARK! – Arts Ignite Learning. (Photo by Jackalynn Snow) 




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