Group looks to create more artistic landmarks in Missoula

2014-01-18T20:00:00Z 2014-04-02T16:39:03Z Group looks to create more artistic landmarks in Missoula

The XXXX’s are one of the most iconic pieces of public art in Missoula.

The favorite installations in town? At this point, Kia Liszak chooses the painted traffic signal boxes, but she and other new members of the city’s Public Art Committee are poised to bring a fresh slate of cultural landmarks to Missoula with a focus on local artists.

“I’m hoping to create some new favorites,” Liszak said.

In the summer of 2013, Mayor John Engen appointed Liszak and Ted Hughes to the committee, and theirs are the most recent appointments to the group charged with developing Missoula’s public art collection. Liszak is director of the Zootown Arts Community Center, which sees some 5,000 people through its doors annually. Hughes is an art historian, painter, and museum registrar at the Missoula Art Museum, where he’s worked the last five years.

Engen, who makes most of the appointments to the committee of nine, said he selected the new members in part because he believes they’ll create strong ties to the many artists who call western Montana home: “We have so much talent in this community, and we pride ourselves on being a community of artists.”

The newest members of the committee were attracted to it for a variety of reasons.


Last year, the city renovated the XXXX’s, and artist Taag Peterson worked on bringing his own “Crossings” sculpture from the 1980s back to life.

“I found myself enjoying the process and was hoping I could bring kind of a hands-on contribution to the group,” Peterson said.

Doug Olson has gone through the Public Art Committee’s submission process as an artist himself, and he wanted to help other local artists learn about the art calls in Missoula and take advantage of them. He said former committee members left “a great platform for us to take off from,” and new members are energetic.

“I’m ecstatic about the way it’s going so far,” Olson said.

Hughes had been looking into the ways the city of Missoula was improving the lives of its residents. He read about the Missoula Economic Partnership, the plan to end homelessness, and all the people using their expertise to move Missoula forward.

“I was inspired by that, and then I learned about the opening for the Public Art Committee,” he said.

It fit his own expertise. Hughes, with a master’s degree in art history and an understanding of the local arts scene, decided he could contribute to the administrative role of the committee.

Liszak works with volunteers at the ZACC, so she understands the power of volunteer boards. She’d wanted to learn more about the Public Art Committee and its decisions, and she’s always on the hunt for interesting pieces of public art herself.

“It doesn’t even matter if you yourself really like the piece,” Liszak said. “You develop an emotional relationship with it anyway. And I think it’s just really extremely important for a community to have those things.”


One focus of the new group will be to build a strong bridge between the Public Art Committee and local artists.

The committee will issue interesting art calls this year, Olson said. One includes a call to reuse steel hunks and other relics at the Old Sawmill District, and he’s telling all of his artist friends about the opportunities.

“I’m talking those up to everybody, and hopefully, everybody will apply for them,” Olson said.

Hughes is looking at ways other communities with strong cultural elements support art. In Kelowna, British Columbia, the community of some 100,000 has adopted a cultural plan, and it promotes itself as a cultural center. The plan brings together the different strands of art in the community, and Hughes said the Public Art Committee here could play a role in a similar plan for Missoula.

“There is so much stuff going on here that it’s mind boggling almost, especially in a town of 70,000,” Hughes said.

Liszak wants to see a public art project where the entire community is invited to participate, and she sees the Missoula Mandala Project in Caras Park as a model.

To Peterson, success will be if people in Missoula continue talking about art long after pieces are installed. He wants mature, developed work that challenges viewers.

“If it doesn’t stretch any boundaries or if it isn’t challenging to people’s perspectives or what they’re used to seeing, then perhaps it doesn’t remain interesting for as long,” Peterson said.

Mayor Engen has some ideas for ways the committee can move forward, too.

He’s grateful former members Joan Jonkel and Dana Boussard didn’t lose faith when the program “was limping along,” and in the future he hopes to relieve the volunteer members of some of the administrative work they do. “Today, they write the art call, receive the mail, work with the artists on the contract.”

Eventually, he would like to put financial resources toward staff support, a project that he said could take place more quickly with help from the council. Engen also would like to see a portion of the One Percent for Art funds reserved for locals; the program sets aside 1 percent of capital project construction costs for art.

Engen also appointed to the committee veteran members Peter Lambros, chairman, and Kathi Olson; the Missoula City Council appointed Linda Richards and Jeff Rolston-Clemmer; Marilyn Marler is the council representative.

Reach Keila Szpaller at @keilaszpaller, at or at (406) 523-5262.

Copyright 2015 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. ds
    Report Abuse
    ds - January 20, 2014 10:03 pm
    I like the cats. I like the boxes. They all make Missoula a better place to live. The regime that best exemplifies unadulterated utilitarian architecture is postwar communism. Surely that's not what you have in mind?
  2. Wrongfully Evicted
    Report Abuse
    Wrongfully Evicted - January 19, 2014 6:35 pm
    I have been a resident of Western Montana since 1963
    I am a semi-retired Architect and have three degrees
    I designed the green kiosk located in Cara Park for Geoff Badenoch and have a letter of recommendation for my labors, the kiosk is being used improperly and was never completed.

    "These pieces belong to the public, and we hope the public will be forthcoming in loving them and taking care of them and helping us"

    Seems to me, maintaining the painted X's are making bank to someone in fix it fees, poorly spent and unwise.
    I have a better idea I wish to propose and I'm prepared at moments notice with my design I arranged for Pater Lambros years ago. I have a feeling I would get one negative vote to replace those X's.
    I also think my proposal would bring the community together, provide them something they do like, and bring worldwide recognition to that circle.
    I think my only opponent would be racism, hate or prejudice.
    My proposal would never need be removed, does not require any paint. Its made of bronze, copper and silver, but certainly can be all bronze.
    My sculpture would teach people where we are, what this place means, and how we got here to this place a river runs through. Perhaps a pond, no fish, does contain water and light.
    I will accept no city or county funds to construct it, I will apply for an art grant, or take donations. I will need help from a metalsmith. I have been taught the craft of metallurgy but know nothing about bronze.
    I do have buildings Ive lined in copper, copper will add the proper color where needed,.
    Illumination will be required, and I can make it create it's own electricity by flowing liquids, which will light the eyes.
    My idea is about an iconic event which has happened in Missoula Montana, long long ago.
    It will, I hope, bring a healing to that event, be respected by all mean something wonderful to the community in which I love, have many buildings I helped place within.
    There is a very deep meaning to my proposal and it could make you cry, someone will cry i promise. They are good tears today and no pain will be brought from this.
    You will be happy to move those X's, and I mean no disrespect for their designer, but it's time to show something different. I think we can think about moving those X's to the corner of 3rd and Clements road, so people know to make the curve and quit running into the house when they cant drive straight. Well maybe I am kidding there, a good place for a dead end abstract with no meaning. X's are X's, crosses are real crossings,and a railroad only needs one X.

    I am responsible for the artwork in the 1983 KGVO Jerry Lewis Telethon "Let Freedom Ring for America's Babies."
    and all the houses under the Arlee water tower which a good friend inspired in me, and a very honored man and his father allowed me to complete. Thanks to Oscar, Bill, George Tom, Rick and Jerrell. p.s. and judge Wally.

    I can be ready at moments notice to show my sketches, and bring licensed support to that meeting. You can contact the Deputy City Clerk to locate me, or those who work downstairs. There will be weapons in the artwork, but not a single gun ever needed.
    Furthermore, I Love Missoula and I wish to live the rest of my days here in peace.
    Completing this could mean a great deal to my life, but it will never be about me.
    If I am not chosen, I am ok with that, a supreme power may overrule.

    You will ask, how do we fill it? I will have answers, I run an electro-magneto-generator atop a mountain where their are no wires to supply it. It drives itself, and maintains itself. My idea you will love and it will be pretty, show sorrow but bring happiness when understood. or
    repaint those X's and continue to lose money
    I have a ballgame to watch, my 1998 work there makes the seismograph go off. What can I do for Missoula in 2014?
  3. Wrongfully Evicted
    Report Abuse
    Wrongfully Evicted - January 19, 2014 5:50 pm
    Maybe we need an english lesson before we learn about what art is.
    The X's were called iconic. Let's define
    A picture, image or representation. Of what?
    An image of Christ or saint painted on wooden panel or done in mosaics. Well they aren't that
    A sign or representation that stands for something. Hmm I got 4 DUI and I'm out?
    A small computer graphic image. NOT small at all standing taller than a Nephilim
    Sacred to the Eastern church

    Well they are not that either, so what do they stand for?
  4. libertarian
    Report Abuse
    libertarian - January 19, 2014 12:53 pm
    The art at the new parking garage was about 65,000 dollars and the cats at the old parking garage ran about 16,000 dollars.
  5. Run - A- Mook
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    Run - A- Mook - January 19, 2014 10:06 am

    Old puzzlewit, the following is a Arabian Proverb that I
    read many years ago. I have changed the ending words
    many times to fit the situation, in this case it was not hard.

    He who knows and knows, he knows. Is a wise conservative - follow him:
    He who knows and knows not he knows. He is asleep - wake him:
    He who knows not and knows, he knows not, He is a child- teach him:
    He who knows not and knows not, that he knows not, is a progressive
    puzzlewit - shun him.

    You have now had your lesson in art, you may return to your grannie's
    basement. And hopefully never to be heard from again.
  6. Wrong Way Corrigan
    Report Abuse
    Wrong Way Corrigan - January 19, 2014 9:30 am
    Missoula is a strange case because we have some really good artists and some really bad public art. Missoula could do better. I have hope for the new people.
  7. Objective observer
    Report Abuse
    Objective observer - January 19, 2014 7:13 am
    I'll bet mm could tell the difference between a logging operation and a forest fire.
  8. PelosiGalore
    Report Abuse
    PelosiGalore - January 18, 2014 11:42 pm
    Very vague on how much money this currently costs and how much more they are looking for. Shouldn't that be reported in the story. Then we will know how much money we take away from other projects that do more important things, like saving lives. Four X's in the middle of the street is art? OK, whatever.......but I would rather the money went towards vaccinations, food for seniors, cancer research, or AED's in public places. But those aren't as sexy as "ART."
  9. libertarian
    Report Abuse
    libertarian - January 18, 2014 11:15 pm
    Art is fine but it's not an essential government service that need to be funded with tax dollars.
  10. Run - A- Mook
    Report Abuse
    Run - A- Mook - January 18, 2014 11:11 pm
    O.K. Ill play your silly game. What?
  11. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - January 18, 2014 8:34 pm
    I always thought the "X's were a snow plowe landmark or something....ok what do I know about art in this elitist town...
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