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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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Everyone is an artist 

An artist creates.

Everyone creates.

But not everyone is conscious of this, not even the artist.

Having taught, mentored, and coached thousands of people all over the world in everything from dancing and choreographing to making more money or improving their relationships, I’ve seen that one of the biggest gifts a person can realize is that they are always creating their experience of life, whether they choose the title of artist or not.

Why does this matter to you? Because most people have an intrinsic desire to improve their life experience, to create more… connection, freedom, prosperity, joy, health, or love. But they don’t consciously see their own creative acts within that desire.

(I won’t go into a ton of mindset advice here. You can check my blog, Instagram or Facebook, or my website for press interviews to dig more deeply into that!)

For many years, I’ve asked the question, when did we start seeing art as separate from everyday life?

My passion, as an artist, teacher, and healer, has been to help us remember that we always have the power to make our lives a song, a dance, or a poem. Artistry does not exist “over there.”

Indigenous shamans and medicine people were known to ask a person these questions if they became unwell, depressed, or dis-eased:

When was the last time you danced?

When was the last time you sang?

When was the last time you told a story?

When was the last time you sat alone in silence?

Our creativity is medicine. Social sculptor and professor Shelley Sacks (a student of Joseph Beuys) introduced the idea of “aesthetic” as a counter to “anesthesia.”  Art has the power to unnumb us, to wake us up to a sensorial experience beyond our current perceptions of reality.

Everyone is an artist.

When we wake up to our own creative power, we ignite possibility, transformation, and an evolution of our human experience. 

The artist journeys into the unknown, guided by curiosity. She challenges us, introduces new perspectives, and confronts us with delight or inspiration. She creates (or mirrors our own) chaos, so we can discover a new order.

Rhythm, timing, quality, color, shape, sound, and space are the tools the artist employs to usher us into the unknown – the only place where creative transformation occurs.

Isn’t that what we’re here to do? Evolve, transform, engage, and create more beauty in this dynamic universe. 

You may be thinking, well, that’s not what I do at my job or when I’m taking care of my kids.

However, this subtle and profound act of creation is always present and worthy of remembering. Yours may not look like a canvas, novel, or dance, but we can ask ourselves, what kind of world do I want to create today? 

Or even at a more basic level, what experience do I want to have when I talk to my loved one tonight? What experience do I want to create while eating my next meal? How can I make the next hour of my day feel like a poem?

All these little choices matter and add up over time.

When we unnumb ourselves and see that life is our creation – where we have so much more choice than we may have realized, and where aesthetics are more than just frivolous – we free ourselves into a divine dance of life.

We lead and are led, and the guidance comes from deep within.

The artist knows this.

We all know this.

May all artists continue to create touchstones and reminders for the beauty, wonder, mystery, and expansive nature of our existence. This is where transformation abounds and love knows no limits.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Boulé is a dance artist and teacher who was based in New York for 21 years and currently calls Missoula home. Her research in energy work, somatic practices, spirituality, and mindset provides the framework to create aesthetically enlivened experiences that remind us of the potential of what and who we are. She is a “Bessie” Award-winning performer, having collaborated with Miguel Gutierrez (2001-16), Bebe Miller, John Jasperse, and Deborah Hay, amongst others. Boulé has received commissions and presentations from The Chocolate Factory, Danspace Project, Triple Canopy, Baryshnikov Arts Center, The Kitchen, Summer Stages Dance @ICA Boston, River to River Festival, American Realness, The Met Breuer (with Okkyung Lee), and ISSUE Project Room. Awards include the Distinguished Legacy Award from the University of Illinois, NY Foundation for the Arts Choreography Fellowship, Boekelheide Creativity Award, Jerome Foundation Travel & Study Grant, and residencies from LMCC’s Extended Life Dance Development Program, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, MacDowell, Yaddo, Bemis Center, Movement Research, and Dance Ireland. She’s also the founder of Michelle Boulé Coaching, offering online group and private coaching, retreats, and speaking, and has been featured in The New York Times, New Yorker, Dance Magazine, Bloomberg radio, KTLA, The Today Show, and Thrive Global. amongst others.

Image used in graphic taken by Chance Jackson.

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Earlier this year, Arts Missoula found out that our building was being put up for lease. So, after many years in our 327 E Broadway space, we’ve decided to take this opportunity to look toward the future and find a space closer to the main artery of downtown Missoula.

We’re SO excited to really lean into the advocacy portion of our mission, and be an accessible resource for the Missoula community in our new location. We want people to walk into our space and know what Arts Missoula does, and what the arts in our community look like.

As our team temporarily moves remote while we look for the perfect space, we want to emphasize that we’re still available and we’re going to keep showing up for things! We’ll be out there at arts & culture events around town–making connections and making sure we’re visible as the official arts agency of Missoula.

Beginning July 19, 2022, we will no longer be in the Watercolor Computer Training building. If you need to get ahold of us, you can find the staff’s emails here or call 541-0860.

Also: a big thank you to Todd and Denise Loran of Watercolor Computer Training for hosting us in your building for all these years! We appreciate you so much.

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The BIPOC Arts Advisory Council is excited to announce the panelists for the July 24th session of our Summer Speaker Series on the topic “Cultural Identity in the Arts” 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.

Shadow Devereaux, also known by his stage name Foreshadow, is a Salish & Blackfeet hip-hop artist from the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. His sound is described as a blend of modern trap rap and boom bap that includes descriptive lyrics which illustrate his own life experiences. Although he has his own style, the timbre, texture, and tonality of his compositions can be described as having influences from the likes of his idols Mac Miller and J. Cole. As a child growing up on the reservation, Shadow found his passion for music at the age of seven when his father gifted him a cassette tape recording of Tupac’s greatest hits. As he listened to this cassette religiously, he became more enamored with hip-hop. Later, at the age of fifteen, Shadow recorded his first ever rap song. Since then, he has remained motivated to make a living through an art form that he truly loves. Among Shadow’s myriad of accomplishments, his major feats consist of sharing a stage with well-known musicians such as Waka Flocka Flame, Machine Gun Kelly, Yelawolf, Deltron 3030, Tech N9ne, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Although his list of musical accomplishments is quite impressive, his most meaningful achievements include keynote speaking to a graduating class of high school seniors, organizing a show for the youth on his reservation, and collaborating on a youth music project titled “Healing Through Music.” Shadow’s passion for music, his family, his supporters, and representation for Native American youth continue to be the driving forces behind his unwavering devotion to creating music.

Mitchell McCabe, originally from the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, currently resides in Missoula, MT. He recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (CMHC). As a quadriplegic, he faces many challenges daily that require significant mental strength. He lives independently and manages his own care by living a self-directed lifestyle and strives to be as independent as possible.

He has gained valuable life experience as he sought to discover his own path and establish a satisfying career. The challenges he deals with on a daily basis as a quadriplegic, clearly influences his decision to not only succeed educationally, but to grow as a person. Through his own journey, he now knows that he is passionate about helping individuals who need assistance to overcome their own obstacles. He wants to help others find the success that he, himself has found.

In his free time, Mitchell likes to escape into the world of Art. Art is his passion, which he finds to be uplifting and freeing. The type of artwork he does, resembles that of his traditional culture and Montana’s beautiful landscapes, from the high mountains to low plains. He tends to use pencils, charcoal and ink, more recently changing direction in his style by engaging in painting. He is hoping to find a unique style that is eye-popping, leaving people in awe. Since he draws with his mouth, he wants to bring out another perspective of shock and awe!

Stella Nall is a multimedia artist and poet from Bozeman, and a First Descendant of the Apsáalooke Tribe. She graduated from the University of Montana in 2020 with a BFA in Printmaking, a BA in Psychology and a minor in Art History and Criticism. She now lives and works in Missoula, where she is involved in the community as a member of the WMCI Indigenous Art Advisory Committee, by playing in the local band Cry Baby, and by frequently
sharing her work through exhibitions, publications, murals, and interactive installations which invite community participation. Her work lives in murals across the state, as well as in numerous public and private collections, including The Montana Museum of Art and Culture, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, and The Institute of American Indian Arts Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.

Josh Taira (Daruma Party) an illustrator, designer, and podcaster based out of Missoula. He watches a ton of anime, plays lots of FFXIV, and has an insatiable hunger for tuna onigiri from Japanese 7-Elevens. Recently, he’s been listening to a lot of Get Played! and thinks you should, too.

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I’ve been painting for many years and I’ve finally come to the conclusion that when it comes to creating a painting, Nike has it right –  Just Do It! 

Just do it. Just open those tubes of paint. Just grab your favorite brush. Just situate a blank canvas on your easel. Just disrupt its emptiness with a grand flourish of a confident brushstroke.

Sounds easy enough, right?  

Well, anybody who creates, knows that it’s rarely that simple. So, when that seems too daunting, I lay a blank canvas on the floor and pour paint onto it. Then I spritz water on it, sprinkle on some salt and sparkles, splash some isopropyl alcohol around, tip the canvas this way and that and, viola!, I have a colorful, sparkly mess. From there, I begin the all-important enhancement phase.  

Once my sparkly mess is dry, I stare at it until a scene forms in my mind. It could be a forest glen, jagged mountain range or a far-off nebula. Whatever the case, I willingly and blissfully go wherever it leads me. I begin to emphasize (and/or add) the pine trees, mountain peaks or stars. 

Now for the boring technicalities: I set out the paints that will complement the background colors. I focus on balance by not over-populating one side. I try to remember the rule of thirds – putting standout objects on the intersections of the two horizontal grid lines with the two verticals. And I put the focal point where it will have the most impact. (Not that I’ve ever been one hundred percent certain about where that is. Sigh.) 

I suppose the first half of this method sounds haphazard and disorganized but it gets the creative process underway. And it can help train you to be more spontaneous and loose. If you’ve been striving to become more “painterly”, this method may help. 

And it’s fun! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jill Logan is a local acrylic painter and self-published author. You can see more of her work on Instagram, or purchase work on her Etsy.

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I began my new role as Executive Director of Arts Missoula on June 1st, 2022 but today, July 1st,  is the first day alone in the office.  I’ve done my major tasks for the day and my focus shifts to my little nook in the back of the office.  With NPR on in the background and the summer sun shining in through the window, I’ve taken all the files from Fiscal Year 21/22 down to storage.  New beginnings… I’m cleaning.  Compressed air for the keyboard and Clorox wipes for the surfaces… It just feels good to do your own cleaning when cozying into a new space.   I’ve rummaged around the storage room and found a beer stein from a GermanFest past and a globe, which I have always wanted and have never purchased for myself.  I watered the plant which I’ve decided to name Seymour.  I smile.  I’ve found my place.

You may know me from the Downtown Dance Collective which I founded and ran for 13 years.  I am a SPARK! Arts artist and chances are, if you have had a middle schooler, I’ve taught them dance.  Or maybe you’ve tapped or jazz danced with me through the University of Montana.  Or maybe you’ve seen me at a Missoula Children’s Theatre or Community Theatre in a performance I’ve directed, performed in or choreographed. Or maybe you’ve seen the Autism curriculum I created for Heartism – An Austism Community Center in Corvallis, MT.  Or maybe you’ve seen me dance Flamenco.  I was a cat once in CATS the musical.  Electra.  She was just a run of the mill alley cat with lots of panache and a nice collar.  I’ve helped dozens of organizations with their fundraisers…Living Art Light Show and Off the Rack with Blue Mountain Clinic, to name a couple of favorites.  I’ve directed, choreographed, organized, founded, funded, marketed, produced, taught and tapped my way through 20+ wonderful years here in Missoula, Montana.    

The pandemic hit and like every other living soul on the planet, my life changed over night.  I locked the doors to the Downtown Dance Collective on March 13th, 2020.  Of course, I didn’t know then that I would never open those doors for business again.  Funny too.  The crash bar stuck so bad that day. I could barely get it locked.  It seemed even the building was sad that day. Many months past and I despaired.  What could possibly replace the joy and love I experienced at the DDC for so long?  How would I ever make the impact on the community I love so much.  How would I ever string enough work together to eek out a living?  I couldn’t answer those questions very well for quite a while.  I filled my time with about 300 jobs.  Lots of teaching online, producing and editing videos…  I catered with Bravo Catering.  Thanks Ryan!  And I even worked at Showcase Pet Grooming. Thanks Kathy!  Thanks to Sienna with SPARK!, Ashley and Shauna with Montana Dance Works, Heidi and Rob at the University of Montana,  Jessica and Suzanne with Heartism, (Thanks NEA Grant!!), John at John R Howard Fine Art and Meagan at Studio M. If you employed me and I forgot you, I am sorry.

I managed to make it all work.  But something was missing… A friend of mine told me I was the very definition of resilience.  But, ya know something.  I was tired of being so resilient.

And then one fine day, this job came up.  ED at Arts Missoula.  Holy heck I could hardly believe it.  As you probably already know, these types of job don’t come up very often.  I was thrilled to apply, though I knew it would be tough.  I could name at least 25 people I thought could rock this job.  But, in the end…well, you know already.

I am so honored and I am so grateful to the board and to the staff that chose me. Thank you Magda, Udo, Sienna, and Breanne.   I am so looking forward to working with you.  Thank You Tom.  You have been so kind in training me this month.  I have big shoes to fill.  I look forward to carrying the baton forward and carrying on your 18 years of work.  

And I am so ready to serve you, Missoula.  I am a passionate advocate of the arts and I promise to work my ass off; rejoining the ranks of the many passionate souls who make this beautiful community we call home a vibrant and arts-filled place to live.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Heather Adams is the Executive Director of Arts Missoula. You can read her staff bio here.

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Leo, a worlds smallest rooster with the world’s best high step. So he arrived one chilly morning, carefully packaged and still frozen. Before meeting Leo, I had knowledge about the species of ayam, Serama. That’s the wonderful aspect of working with birds…there are so many species to learn about! Maybe not as many as insects and fungi, but enough to keep one busy their whole lifetime. 

As I folded back the flaps of cardboard and lifted open the styrofoam lid…the most handsome, compact Rooster revealed himself through his smoky plastic windscreen. My fingers pressed down on him through the ziploc bags, still frozen cold. Good news!

He will be a challenge… I wasted no time and jumped in the river. Everything flows, every new technique to be learned is upstream. I researched on how to cast Leo’s wattle, comb and skull. I found no source online to describe such a casting process in detail enough to begin with confidence. I took what scraps I could find from and decided to go through with trying it myself. Sure, I could have had the all skilled, award winning Taxidermist, Tony Finazzo cast Leo’s head for me…but I wanted to have the experience all to myself with Leo. I get close to my bird friends, especially former pets who I have a glimpse into their true past.

Leo was hatched from an egg and lived a full life with Serama.mama and her flock. Born an American Serama Ayam. The smallest species of chicken in the world, with some Serama hens weighing only 4-6 ounces. Leo is actually on the “big” size. Class C. I’m most honored to be preserving his valiant samurai spirit. Let a samurai affirmation remind us, “If you embark on an uncharted path, infinite secrets will appear at the end.”

I washed Leo and prepared his skin for mounting. Now the casting part. I chose to cast his head because it would be prone to shrinking after a couple years and would be a tasty treat for insects to bite into if found. In Taxidermy there are many different ways to get the same result but I weighed the pros and cons of such options before deciding to cast it. 

I carefully skinned out his skull with attached wattle and comb, injected the fleshy bits with water to plump, pinned, inserted eyes and froze overnight. Next, I took a wood board with a 6″ diameter, 12″ length of PVC pipe cut in halves and secured it to the board with hot glue. Then I found two rubber bands and placed around the PVC halves to create a watertight seal. I placed a screw in the center of the diameter of where the PVC pipe would attach to the board and placed the PVC back over onto the board. Hot glued seams and placed rooster head righted up, mixed silicone, then poured into the PVC pipe until covering the rooster head with about .5″ above the wattle. Let the silicone cure for 4 hours in 60 degrees indoors. 

Next, remove the rubber bands around the PVC pipe and open the two halves. Using a ruler mark the centerline on the top of your silicone cylinder with a sharpie. Take an exacto knife and slice carefully in half, using the sharpie line for a guide. Take out your rooster head and wash silicone mold out with cold water. Let mold air dry for a couple of days.

Next, place your glass eyes inside your mold where they belong using pins to hold in place. Rubber band your two halves of silicone mold back together and set on level surface with pour spout on top. Mix your two part resin, and pour quickly. Place your finger over the pour spout while picking up your mold and rolling slowly as well as turning upside down to ensure coating of your mold in all areas. Set mold back down on level surface with pour spout on top and wait for the resin to cure. 

Take the rubberbands off your mold and remove cast head. It may take a couple tries to get a good casting. It took me 4 times of trial and error. You may have to plastic putty some areas of your cast head if they are not coming out thanks to defects in your mother mold. I had areas on the waddle and comb, as well as a couple air bubbles along the eye ring to plastic putty.

Let your plastic putty dry and sand if needed. Then paint your head and I decided to use Leo’s actual beak. So I glued that back on. Then coated entire head with a lacquer for protection. 2 coats, let dry overnight.

Next, I put together Leo’s body and pose. I let dry for a day then attached Leo’s head with an extended cure time super glue. 

I hope this helps you if you’re curious how to create a cast head for your Taxidermy bird.

Watch the first video of an 8-part series documenting the process below.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kimberly Spence is the founder and artist behind Flock Taxidermy. She was taught the skilled craft by a Taxidermist on staff at The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Kimberly takes time to quietly listen to every bird’s story, while learning, respecting and hoping to connect their great journey with us. You can find her and her work on Instagram here.

Note from Arts Missoula staff: the above blog post was written by Kimberly in 2018 and originally published under the name ‘Serama Samurai’ on her website:

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Photo credit: Udo Fluck

UPDATE: The Missoulian featured Arts Missoula and our work with our Sister Cities. Check it out here.

On Friday, June 17, the University of Montana Chamber Chorale performed in Missoula’s sister city Neckargemünd, Germany. The UM Chamber Chorale is currently on a Europe tour. You can hear more about the importance of that tour by listening to the June 2022 International Voices podcast episode here.

The episode is hosted by Udo Fluck, Arts Missoula GLOBAL Director. He speaks with Dr. Coreen Duffy, Conductor of UM’s Chamber Chorale, Dr. James Randall, Director of UM’s School of Music, Chorale Member Saxon Holbrook, and UM Chorale Students: Mira Smith, Spencer Price, Kylar Sprenger, and Sophia Boughey, about their local community voices being heard by international audiences, their feelings of being musical ambassadors, their expectations and anticipations, and about their excitement of performing in Neckargemünd.

Udo joined the UM Chamber Chorale in Neckargemünd. While there, Udo had a city sightseeing tour, a meeting with Neckargemünd officials, and then attended the concert (pictured above) in a church. While there, Udo talked with Neckargemünd officials about options to celebrate the upcoming 30th anniversary of our twinned cities in 2023. More details to come regarding those celebrations!

From Udo: “Mayor Volk provided a very nice introduction and acknowledgment of the 29 years Missoula and his city have been connected. I followed with a short speech and introduced Coreen Duffy, the conductor of the UM Chamber Chorale.”

Click here to watch the entire recording of the Chamber Chorale performance.


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