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Mayor Frank Volk from Neckargemünd’s Condolence Letter

Mayor Grant Smith from Palmerston North’s Condolence Letter

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I agree with all of the generous, kind and compassionate acknowledgements, nods and salutes that have been posted in various places about John Engen, in the last couple of days. While I met with mayor Engen on a regular basis to brief him on Missoula’s sister city relations, K-12 global competence outreach, (because he strongly believed that teaching kids about the world would also build a better, more tolerant and compassionate community, in the long-run), to get advice and guidance, John the private person, the friend, is what I treasure and miss most. 

John would ask my daughter and my son, at the family dining table, how school was going, what they learned and told them, if they ever wanted to hear about Missoula’s history, he would take the time for an in-class guest presentation. When he asked last summer what plans we had for the fall, my wife and I told him we had planned to paint our house. He offered to bring his paint sprayer, which he bought to paint his own house. He brought it over and gave us an introduction on how to use it properly. 

He loved to try food from other cultures. He was of Norwegian descent and ate Lutefisk, a traditional dried and salted whitefish, pickled in lye, once a year for Christmas, with his mother, not because of the great taste, but because he knew that he would put a smile on his mom’s face. He was really good at putting a smile on people’s faces. One time, I brought him German Blutwurst, prepared from pig’s blood, milk, fat, onions, salt, pepper, nutmeg, marjoram and cinnamon. Same thing, because it meant a lot to somebody else, he tried it. 

Speaking of food, he always placed a big order of girl scout cookies with my daughter, not for himself, but to give the sweet treats to his staff, or to the staff at local schools. Last year Meadow Hill middle school benefited from his generosity!

Some people claim to listen, but they actually mostly endure. John was a focused listener, had follow-up questions, suggestions, advice and he would get behind it. He would not just look for a solution, he would find one! At one point, I mentioned in a conversation, that it was impossible to find German Potato Dumplings anywhere in town, not even at the import stores. He listened and asked about the cultural relevance of potato dumplings to a German native, what I liked about it, the specific brand my mother used to purchase, growing up in Germany, 50 years ago. Next thing I know, he stopped by the house, with a box containing 12 individual packages, 6 dumplings to a box, not just any brand, but the one that was culturally soothing. I took photos whenever we ate them and shared it with him.

Years ago, John bought a full Santa suit from Macys, so he would be prepared if the opportunity presented itself. With an increasingly busy mayoral schedule in recent years, he asked me if I would be willing to put on the red suit and the white beard, as we had the same height, girth, and the same shoe size. Since 2019, I have followed his request and worn it with pride to the Sunrise Rotary holiday Missoula Youth Home activities and storytelling events in local bookstores.

In March 2020, John was the second guest on my monthly International Voices podcast, where he talked about cultural programs in Missoula and the importance of multicultural programming in the community, specifically the value that the two sister cities bring to Missoula. Neckargemünd in Germany has been twinned with Missoula since 1993 and Palmerston North, in New Zealand is celebrating its 40-year-old ties with the Garden City this year. So, it’s only fitting to share a tribute from the Palmerston North City Council, which closes with: We stand with our friends in Missoula this week in sadness but also to honor the life of a man who made a real difference to his home and community. In Māori language, our friends posted: Kua whetūrangitia e te Rangatira, which translates to: “take your place amongst the stars great chief”.

There are many more anecdotes that come to my mind in this time of grief, but it is time to say goodbye to my friend. I will miss your counsel, your wit, your dry humor. Your body has left us, but your spirit will remain at our dinner table for a long time. May your soul rest in peace!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Udo Fluck is the Director of Arts Missoula GLOBAL. You can read more about him here.

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The BIPOC Arts Advisory Council is excited to announce the panelists for the August 21st session of our Summer Speaker Series on the topic “Intersectionality” moderated by Joseph Grady. The topic of this discussion will be Cultural Stereotypes, and information about the panelists can be found below. This event is free and open to the public at the ZACC Show Room.

Krissy Ramirez is a Mexican artist that uses her border experiences in her ceramics art. From luscious cacti to abandoned plaster walls and bricks she uses graffiti to express thoughts in words written in a creative illegible language. She continues to make work surrounded by graffitied trains en las montañas of Missoula, Montana.

Eporu Bryan Tower was born in Uganda and has been living in Missoula for 8 years now. He is a student at the University of Montana.

He is passionate about art, reading, spirituality, spending a good amount of time in nature, positive human transformation, and spreading awareness of togetherness.

Eporu practices visionary art as a form of spirituality. Art transforms the way we see ourselves and the world. It is a way to connect to the creative force that drives all of existence.

Visionary art transcends the physical world and portrays a wider vision of awareness. What drives a visionary artist is subjective but there seems to be a profound psychic intuitive force that arises from deep within each artist.

Kau`ano Esperas is a community organizer, birth-worker, artist, hula dancer and cultural practitioner. Her ancestors hail from all corners of the globe and she descends from healers, midwives, and herbalists. Her artistic interests are many, from music, painting, photography, lei making, and dance.

Throughout her young life, Kau`ano faced frequent adversity that shaped her worldview in terms of the astounding pain that exists in this world and she often found herself wondering who to turn to for safety. For much of her childhood, the answer to that question was drawing, learning to play piano, and spending time in nature, near the ocean or in the desert.

As a young adult, Kau`ano pursued an opportunity to work and live on the Blackfeet Reservation and the time she spent there eventually deepened her connection to the land and that relationship became an agent for healing. The safe space created through this relationship with the water and mountains eventually led her back to her own family’s roots and traditions, including Hawaiian hula dance, which she shares literally saved her life when she first began studying in her late 20’s. As an assault survivor, there were many times she did not want to be present with her body and hula was the first and only thing that taught her how to be present with herself and her emotions. It is the most sacred prayer she knows how to pray and she is endlessly grateful to her ancestors for providing this path to healing, despite growing up so faraway from Hawai’i.

Kau`ano has also been involved in community organizing in the Flathead Valley by creating spaces for folks to learn and grow in their anti-racism education. She founded Love Not Hate in 2017 and has worked with organizations throughout Montana to provide resources to folks with a desire to do their part to dismantle white supremacy.

When she is not serving her communities in various ways, you can find Kau`ano anywhere in nature, near water but especially quiet corners of Glacier National Park, usually plein air painting, plunging into Lake McDonald in the dead of winter, and just being present with the land.

My name is Dre Castillo aka Andrea Castillo (they/them/theirs). I am Ashiihii (Salt Clan) born for the To’ahanii (Near-the-Water Clan) and was born in the Navajo Nation. My grandparents Gilmore and Della Graymountain of Navajo Mountain, AZ raised me. I am a bilingual, Two Spirited, Diné Multicultural Artist who resides in Missoula, MT. I left my ancestral home, the Navajo Nation, to pursue a vocation at Kicking Horse Job Corps and to get my GED, in Ronan, MT. A place where I was introduced to fine arts. In later years, I attended Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, MT to publicly pursue my passion for fine arts.

From childhood, I had always known myself to be an artist and a storyteller. With the encouragement and loving support of my traditional grandmother, she gifted to me my very first canvas, hand tanned sheep skin, that I had tied to willow branches found on the canyon lands of Canyon De Chelly in Arizona and my very first drawing utensil, Charcoal, from the embers of the fire. These two items had sacred traditional meanings to my grandmother and people of the Navajo.

Unfortunately, my addictive behavior to alcohol took me away from my passions. As an Indigenous Two Spirited Person, I struggled with my identity, addictive behaviors and had endured homelessness.

While getting my BA in Native American Studies with a minor in Women’s Gender Studies at the University of Montana, my creative passion of “Picto-Storytelling” re-emerged. I was inspired when I learned to transpose my thoughts and feelings into a visionary art form as I found sobriety and support from my surrounding community of Missoulians.

Today, I express myself in any medium I can get my paws on as I continue to work toward my dream of being an established artist.

I am currently, voluntarily, on the Art Committee, Leadership role on the Executive Strategic Planning crew, Co-Chair and Coordinating Board member of the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center and Olive Branch. I am also a current member of the Montana Artrepreneur Program hosted by the Montana Arts Council.
A majority of my focus for 2022 has been towards the Indigenous Art Markets and its potential to be something greater than it has been in recent years. handMADE Fair shows and Arlee Espapqeyni “Celebration” Arlee, Montana have been the only events I attended in recent and upcoming months.
In 2021, I virtually participated in the Indian Traders Market hosted by Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, taught, and was one of the selected artists to workshop for “Resilience Through Representation” hosted by Zootown Arts.

I have attended major art events across the Region. To list a few. 2019 “Nihima: Our Mother” won “Best of Show in Two Dimensional” “Nibikaang Exhibition” at Watermark Art Center in Bemidji, Minnesota, 2019 Western Heritage Artists Show in Great Falls, Montana. March 20-24, 2020, 2019 & 2018 Indian Trader’s Market, Gathering of Nations Pow Wow – Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2017 “The Matriarch, Honor the Mother” Original Sold at Watermark Art Center in Bemidji, Minnesota “Aazhoomon Exhibition”
Locally, I participated in MADE fairs (2022-2019), First Friday art shows, People’s Markets, created designs for The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women/ Indigenous Film Festival and served as Superintendent of the first Montana Native Arts Show at Western Montana Fairgrounds. 2017 “Awakening” received Best of Show and People’s Choice Award at the “First Nations” art competition at the UC Gallery, University of Montana.

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International Voices was inaugurated in Spring 2020.

The August 2022 episode, features our new executive director, Heather Adams.  Heather talks about her first days on the job and her vision for our organization and arts and culture in our community. 

International Voices aims at informing and educating audiences about current, upcoming, and established international programming, developments, events, activities, and collaborations about “all things cultural and global.”

We have been recently informed that the podcast reaches listeners in 10 countries! The biggest, and most consistent listenership comes from the US, Spain, Germany, Brazil, UK, Romania, NZ, Italy, Netherlands, and Austria. We are so excited! We send our warm hello to all of these listeners.  Please connect with us with suggestions, ideas and comments.  We would love to hear from you!

International Voices is a collaboration between the Missoula Broadcasting Company and Arts Missoula GLOBAL. The goal is to raise awareness for topics that focus on current events with a global focus, supported by intercultural knowledge and international relevance, with topics that range from: Environmental Sustainability, Global Public Health, Social Economic Development, Preservation of Language and Culture, Leadership Development, Global and Intercultural Teaching and Learning, Democracy and Freedom, Creativity During COVID, to Global Issues that require policy solutions.

To listen to previous podcast episodes, please visit


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