This year, the eighth annual Last Best Print Fest is paying tribute to James Todd, one of the state's most celebrated artists and printmakers.
Todd, 80, has shown his distinctively rendered portraits and themed series around the world and the United States. This month, viewers can see them at nine different venues around Missoula. If you pick up a special print tour bingo card and get it stamped at each location, you can enter to win a new print by Todd. The card, available at the venues, has a map, or you can print one out at zootownarts.org.
The Radius Gallery is showing "Montana Ghosts." Le Petit Outre is displaying his Native American portraits. Matrix Press at the University of Montana, where he was a longtime professor, will have his "Seven Deadly Sins" series at its print shop on the third floor of the School of Art building. Clyde Coffee is the spot for surrealist drawings. Fact & Fiction is showing portraits of authors from "The Last Best Print Fest" anthology. Noteworthy Paper and Press has his portraits of jazz artists. Betty's Divine has a (presumably fashionable) print called "Tattoo Armour."
The Montana Museum of Art & Culture is displaying works from his "Looney Toones" series, in which he adapted drawings from his childhood into sometimes abstract and stunning color prints.
The Zootown Arts Community Center, which puts on the festival, is showing his portraits of printmakers.
This year, 40 artists participated in the portfolio exchange. They sign up and submit 12 prints on the theme "Lost and Found," and in return get a randomly selected portfolio of 12.
Those are showing in the ZACC's gallery, with an opening this Friday. Starting at 3:45 p.m., printmakers will be giving demonstrations and there will be a silent auction.
If you bring a T-shirt, you can have it screen-printed with a Todd "owl man" design in black ink. (Hint: Don't bring a black shirt.)
Proceeds of a silent auction of the prints will go toward the ZACC's print shop, which is open to the community — artists need only bring their own paper and ink.
Patricia Thornton, the festival organizer, said about 80 artists use the shop over the course of the year. It can be an important resource for young students, she said. After they graduate, they lose access to UM's equipment.
On Wednesday, April 18, at Clyde, they're doing a live screen-printing event at Clyde Coffee in conjunction with the International Wildlife Film Festival.
The Todd prints will be up around town until May 4, when there's a closing reception at Radius and a drawing for the winner of the Todd bingo.