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.