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Arts Missoula (AM) is the designated arts agency of the Garden City and many residents in the Missoula community know that. Since spring 2018, the office is also home of the Global and Cultural Affairs (GCA) program, which promotes intercultural awareness and global competence development through four branches: Students and Teachers in K-12, Diversity and Inclusion Training for Organizations and Employees, Community Programing, and the management of Sister City Connections MSO has with Neckargemünd, in Germany (near Heidelberg, since 1993) and Palmerston North, in New Zealand (since 1982). There is reason to believe that fewer people know that about Arts Missoula!

Born and raised in a suburb of Wiesbaden, Germany, where arts education has a long tradition, dating back to the times of reformation, art instruction is firmly anchored in the curriculum since 1880. I came to Missoula in 1989 to do my undergraduate and graduate work at UM, before accepting a leadership position in 2003 to develop the largest intercultural and global training offices at UM. In this capacity, I designed and taught semester-long courses and individual seminars for students, faculty and staff in various academic colleges, schools and academic departments on campus. When I accepted the AM position to oversee GCA, the obvious question was, “What does “culture” (and intercultural/global awareness training) have to do with “art”? 

Well… throughout history, art and culture of various kinds and forms, have been part of the evolution of our societies. Moreover, art influences society by changing opinions, instilling values and translating experiences across space and time. Additionally, art allows people from different cultures, and different times, to communicate with each other. It does that through a universal language, connecting directly to people’s heart and body, sometimes more than to the mind, which enables art to communicate more effectively and efficiently than any other form of communication. Furthermore, art and culture give people a sense of community, of belonging and self-acceptance. One might even go as far as believing that “there can be no art without culture and no culture without art.” There we have it, inseparable! 

Art can also provide a supportive environment for culture, as well as promoting intercultural awareness and global competence development in a unique way. Don’t take my word(s) for it, as Arts Missoula’s K-12 global and cultural programming branch has doubled every year since 2018 and its research and development has been recognized and shared, nationally and internationally in publications, conference presentations and professional trainings. In addition to offering hundreds of seminars every year, GCA hosts a FREE, monthly international film series at the Roxy, and produces an internationally-themed podcast, to name but a few of its programing highlights. For more information, please visit the GCA webpage.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Udo Fluck, Ph.D., is the Director of Arts Missoula’s Global and Cultural Affairs program. You can read more about him here.

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Our schools should be a reflection of the community they serve. Missoula amongst other things is a vibrant artists community. I feel so strongly about arts in our schools because they are what kept me in school. I was fortunate to attend an arts immersive public school in Milwaukee. I struggled to find interest in the majority of my academic subjects. I was a trouble maker and a class clown; the vice principal was my first long term relationship. Drama class, art class and walking to the gym on the 4th floor for dance class – those were my sparks! That’s where I shined.

Every child deserves to have something they are excited to go to school for. Every child has gifts and talents to share with their classmates and community, because every child is great at something. Creating a well rounded learning environment increases the likelihood more kids find their spark and get the chance to shine. The arts also have some other amazing powers every child can benefit from. An alternative to words, each art form offers its own language of expression. Artists are creative and critical thinkers, questioners, innovators and leaders – not followers. The arts are common ground bridges across all cultures, classes and belief systems, they push us to reimagine what’s normal or status quo. The arts are so important because they celebrate standing out rather than fitting in.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Becca Nasgovitz is a SPARK! Arts Ignite Learning board member.

SPARK! Arts is a collective impact initiative administered through Arts Missoula.
Read more about SPARK! Arts here.


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