Industrial Arts MT, a new effort from three Missoula arts entities, has formed and is looking for a potential space for their complementary activities.
The project will "fuse," to borrow their appropriately industrial term, the missions of KFGM Community Radio 105.5 FM; Wave and Circuit, an "idea space" on the Hip Strip; and Fabrication for Art: Physical Manifestations.
They're looking for a facility for either long-term rental or purchase. The ideals listed on their site are: 10,000 square feet or more, 220 volt wiring, a tall roof for the radio transmission tower, all-abilities access, concrete floors and bay doors, proximity to bike path, and a site in Missoula, preferably in a central location.
How do these all fit together? A do-it-yourself, amateurs-encouraged community-centric approach to making art.
Wave & Circuit is a storefront on Higgins where Jay Bruns, a musician and digital artist, and his partner, Joe Glassy, a musician, have hosted performances of all types as well as workshops for computer music and art-making. KFGM is the low-power nonprofit FM station that went live at the start of 2017 with an emphasis on community-member generated programs, both music and information. Fabrication for Art is the banner of metalworking artist Jesse Blumenthal, a recent MFA graduate of the University of Montana who leads blacksmithing and fabrication workshops at Free Cycles community bike shop.
Bruns said the three are a "natural fit." Both are deeply involved in local community radio. Blumenthal's work relates to the industrial history of the region; Bruns' activities are modern-day forms of fabrication; and KFGM could have more space for audio production for the community.
The shared space would also allow all of their respective activities and collaborations. Some ideas they mentioned: An intentional listening event with music or poetry could be live-streamed on KFGM and syndicated to its partner organizations. Or a group could sign up for a fabrication workshop, where they design a project, execute and document it with the audio and video production equipment.
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Blumenthal has been hosting welding workshops, where people can try their hand and test their interest and see the creativity behind industrial arts without having to invest in a full course at a higher-education price. The community iron pours he throws also show how trades are an artform whether people realize it or not, and can perhaps spur interest in a different career path or hobby. It would also help bring together trades communities and art communities in a way that's not happening currently.
His offerings, tied with his partners, could be an immersive activity that art is moving toward, with the success of places like Meow Wolf art center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or even Disney.
"We would be a unique institution in the region that way," he said.
Through Wave & Circuit, Bruns receives inquiries from locals and national independent groups that are wanting space for projects at a working-class fee.
Bruns said they've been talking about how to "make positive change in terms of small-scale venues and enabling the artists that are here instead of you know chasing those folks out because of rent and lack of platforms."
KFGM would benefit from extra physical space, too. General manager Jon Van Dyke said they don't have a lot of room to grow in their headquarters in the Union Hall. They could develop in-house audio production facilities for people to "work on, and learn, and teach."
"We all know that there's definitely something interesting waiting for us if we keep working together," Van Dyke said.
At this juncture, their main goal is seeking community partners to ramp up potential programming and a physical space for it.
"Given a blank box though tomorrow," Blumenthal said, "We have the equipment necessary to at least continue the things that we've been offering sporadically as a more permanent and consistent educational programming for the community."