Congrats: Summer 2019
Gomez, Czelsi

Congrats: Summer 2019

Helena High sophomore Josh Fisk, 16, who has accepted a place at the elite English National Ballet School in London, and will move there in September to train for three years. Last fall, with the help of ballet instructor Campbell Midgley, the artistic director at Queen City Ballet Company, Fisk submitted a video application to ENBS and in early winter received an email inviting him to attend a preliminary audition in London on March 14. After the two-hour audition that day, Fisk was handed an envelope that invited him to the final audition the next day, where he competed with boys from all over the world, including London, Tokyo, Sydney and New York. With just two-and-a-half years of ballet under his belt, and no previous dance or gymnastics experience, Fisk was the least experienced candidate – most of the boys had been dancing 5-10 years. According to the school director, more than 500 dancers worldwide applied for a spot. Ultimately, 15 boys and 15 girls were offered a place at the three-year school, Josh among them. While continuing their studies of all the core disciplines, students will also rehearse, perform, and tour with English National Ballet, take classes and receive coaching from eminent guest teachers and dancers, and learn and perform historical and current repertoire by renowned international choreographers. Students are entered for a diploma in professional dance at Level 5 or 6, validated by Trinity College London. Following graduation, students have the opportunity to convert their diploma into a bachelor of arts degree in professional practice by undertaking an 18-month distance learning course at Middlesex University. “Josh is beyond a rarity,” says Midgley. “Simply stated, he is one of the most talented and naturally gifted dancers I’ve had the opportunity to work with.” She adds that his acceptance into this elite program “is a strong indication that he is likely to succeed in the highly competitive world of professional ballet upon graduation.” According to his mom, Julie Burk, her son watched a ballet dancer on TV three summers ago and “mumbled” something about ballet to her. She scheduled a lesson with Queen City Ballet “and Josh was hooked.” Fisk wants to pursue a professional career in ballet in Europe when he graduates from ENBS.


Larry Stanfel of Roundup, whose prize-winning fairytale, “The Princess of Evighet,” was transformed into a ballet by the Coastal Ballet Academy of Foley, AL, and staged at the George C. Meyer Performing Arts Center in Gulf Shores May 17-18. Coastal Ballet is directed by Madame Rio Cordy Barlow, a former student at the Royal School of Ballet, London, and soloist with the Miami Ballet. A ballet student for 17 years, Stanfel was out of action after open-heart surgery in 2010. His teacher suggested he write an original story on which a ballet could be based. He chose a fairytale as the medium, and “Princess” won the December 2013 prize at Madame Barlow read the story in December 2017 and immediately decided to produce it. “Evighet” is the Norwegian word for eternity.


Bigfork author Leslie Budewitz, whose historical short story, “All God’s Sparrows” (Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May-June 2018), won the 2018 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. The Agatha Awards are given at the Malice Domestic convention, a celebration of the traditional mystery held in May in Bethesda, MD. “All God’s Sparrows” features real-life historical figure Mary Fields, also known as Stagecoach Mary and Black Mary, who came to Montana Territory in 1885 and worked for the Ursuline Sisters at St. Peter’s Mission outside Cascade; she later lived in Cascade and died in Great Falls in 1914. In the award-winning story, Mary encounters a young mother of white and Blackfeet Indian descent and her daughter in a desperate situation. Mary is determined to intervene and with the help of Sister Louisine, a fictional young nun at the mission, devises the perfect solution. A second Stagecoach Mary story will be published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine later this year. Budewitz also won the 2018 Derringer Award from the Short Mystery Fiction Society in the long-short category for “With My Eyes,” published in Suspense Magazine, Jan-Feb 2019. In the tale, a Seattle banker falls for a beautiful Greek woman and sees what he wants to see, until he takes an eye-opening trip to Athens.


Haley Teske, Montana State University graduate architecture student, whose imagined design to transform an Italian city’s dilapidated train station into a cultural site has won her a place among the top finishers in a national student design competition. Torre Annunziata, Italy, is half a world away from Montana. Yet Teske’s design for the train station landed in the top 10 out of more than 500 entries in the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment Top 10 for Students competition, also called COTE. Her project envisions an upgrade of the run-down railway station and the addition of a repository, or antiquarium, to display artifacts found in Villa Oplontis. The improvements are intended to help attract visitors to the economically depressed Italian community. Villa Oplontis is a luxurious Roman villa destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 which is located in Torre Annunziata. Teske, who grew up in Columbus, completed the design for a studio class taught by MSU architecture professor Bradford Watson. The institute’s COTE contest recognizes sustainable design solutions to climate change and the response to its projected impacts. Teske was the only single winner in this year’s competition. The other nine winners were group projects. Jurors for the contest said that Teske’s project “is a compelling urban design proposal that brings a different approach to viewing sustainable living within an existing, and historic, urban fabric. The design promotes public access to cultural heritage and fragile sites, while also acknowledging a dense streetscape and urban scale …”


Members of the Flathead Ellington Project, who took their passion for jazz to New York City May 8-12 to perform at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. The Flathead Ellington Project is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Erica von Kleist, a Juilliard graduate who moved from New York City to Montana after an extensive career in jazz. She created it out of a desire to foster more serious study of jazz in the Flathead and to pay-forward some of the gifts she has been given. “My whole life has been a product of studying this music,” von Kleist told the Daily Inter Lake. “I’ve had so many life experiences because I’ve dived deep into this music and I want to give that to the students here.” Participants had to already be part of the jazz ensemble at their respective high schools, had to audition and make a recording, and had to commit to practice every Sunday and to engage a private tutor; the rhythm and horn sections each had to schedule periodic practice sessions. Of the 12 students who were initially accepted, the final number that traveled to New York with von Kleist and three Flathead band directors was nine. The performance on May 10 also featured tap-dance phenom Dewitt Fleming Jr., a mentor to the group.

– Excerpted from the Daily Inter Lake, April 14


Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, which was selected for a fourth year by MovieMaker Magazine for its list of Top 50 Festivals Worth the Entry Fee. The list, created annually to help guide filmmakers contemplating their festival strategy, points out the unique merits each festival offers to help a film find its next opportunity, such as pitch forums or distribution deals, and to help filmmakers navigate their career trajectory. “Industry recognition from this particular publication, independently created and curated by filmmakers, is especially meaningful to us,” said BSDFF director Rachel Gregg. “It is further proof that Big Sky is not just another forum for exhibition, we’re fostering a vital community for documentary filmmakers.” Big Sky programs more than 90% of its selections from an open call with discounted entry fees for students, Native filmmakers and Montana-made content. Submissions for the 2020 festival are open now.


Montana artists and Governor’s Arts Award recipients Deborah Butterfield and John Buck, who were named 2019 Honorary Award Recipients by the Kansas City Art Institute (Buck’s alma mater). Butterfield
 also displays new sculptures May 17-Aug. 9 at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago, which also hosted an exhibit by the Bozeman couple’s son, Hunter Buck, titled “Impression & Memory” April 5-June 15. “I have long had the feeling that Butterfield could make one of her sculptures out of any material that you could give her – she is that masterful,” writes critic John Yau.


Karen Leigh of Kalispell, whose painting, “Hidden Meanings,” was recently selected for the prestigious Northwest Watercolor Society’s 79th annual International Exhibition. Her mixed media piece is inspired by doors and graffiti found in Brasov, Romania. Nationally known watercolor artist and workshop instructor Don Andrews, juror for the exhibition, chose 60 paintings from more than 350 entries submitted from around the world. The exhibition is on display until July 11 at Shoreline City Hall (just north of Seattle) in Shoreline, WA.


Whitefish artist Shawna Moore, whose encaustic paintings are part of a group show, “How the West Was Woman,” on display June 28-July 25 at Telluride Gallery of Fine Art in Colorado, alongside works by five other women painters “who work in and learn from the western landscape.” Gallery MAR in Park City, UT, hosts her most extensive solo show to date, “Wayfarer,” beginning July 26. The artist also teams up Montana artist Michael Haykin for “Time and Place: New Works by Moore and Haykin,” on display July 5-30 at Underscore Art in Whitefish, with a reception 6-9 p.m. July 11. The artistic peers and friends, who exchange ideas on art and an occasional studio visit, bring to this exhibition paintings that are autobiographical, with each artist exploring their chosen materials of oil on canvas for Haykin and encaustic on panel for Moore.

Helena artist Karen Luckey, whose painting, “Window to the Past” (Bannack State Park), was juried into the 69th annual National Exhibition of Traditional Realism, on display June 2- 23 in Vernon, CT.


Recipients of the 2019 Montana Tourism Awards, given during the Governor’s Conference on Tourism, held April 14-16 in Butte. Among this year’s honorees: Darby and Hamilton, which were named Film Community of the Year for their roles in supporting the production of “Yellowstone,” a TV series created by Taylor Sheridan and John Linson and starring Kevin Costner, that premiered in June 2018; and Blackfoot Pathways: Sculpture in the Wild in Lincoln, which received the Heritage and Cultural Tourism Award. This rural sculpture park celebrates the industrial, environmental and cultural history of Montana. The park invites international sculptors to create site-specific work made of locally harvested material, uniquely inspired by Montana.


Zootown Arts Community Center in Missoula, which recently received a $400,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, of which $200,000 is dependent upon a one-to-one match. That means that every donation to the building/renovation project counts for twice as much. Additionally, due to some cost-saving decisions and in-kind support, Zootown has reduced the project budget for its new building from $4.25 to $3.5 million. After 10 successful years in a leased space on Missoula’s Northside, ZACC plans to move into the Historic Studebaker Building on West Main Street in September. The larger, more accessible space includes a black-box theater, more classrooms, artist studios and practice rooms, a community art gallery, children’s creative center and a free community arts-supply closet. Visit to learn more about the project.




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