Courtney Christopher grew up in Polson, graduated from the University of Montana in business and spent eight years in the U.S. Marines before he decided to pursue something he knew would never pay the bills.
"I had designs to be an artist in high school, but mom and dad were a little bit questioning about whether you can make a living doing it," said Christopher, now in his fourth year as an art instructor at Hellgate High School.
Christopher retired as a major in the Marines in 2002, then went back to UM to pursue art and education, far off the career path he had already set for himself.
Once entrenched in Missoula art education, Christopher's creative pulse quickened. Never had he shown any of his work in a gallery setting - and, he learned, most other MCPS art teachers hadn't either.
"So now I'm sort of settled into this groove, so I need something to motivate me," said Christopher, who has arranged the first-ever MCPS Faculty Art Exhibit, which opens Friday downtown.
Christopher is one of seven artists in the show, which also features art instructors from Big Sky and Sentinel high schools.
For a military man from Montana, Christopher has an edgy, abstract style in multiple media that is conceptual, even a little political.
Take his painting "event/inertia," a colorful helix that starts off light at the top, then descends into a black morass.
That is Christopher's take on the "positive feedback loop," in which events and human action become more forceful and directed the more they're supported by their outcomes.
In other words, experimenting with drugs can make you a hopeless druggie. Opening up doors of education can make you a lifelong lover of knowledge.
And that's just one painting.
Christopher has seven works in the show, including a study in ceramic portraiture ("Lunacy," 30 faces of cast in hyper-emotional states, signifying the emotional gamut one runs through in a month) and conceptual painting ("A Philosophy of Knowing," a giant castle representing Christopher's philosophy on education and epistemology).
Christopher worked with other MCPS instructors to get the exhibit launched, and now plans to make an MCPS faculty show a regular annual event in Missoula.
Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.