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More than 400 monsters hang on the walls of two rooms and a hallway in the Zootown Arts Community Center for the fifth annual Missoula Monster project. The monster-themed show pairs art from kindergarten classrooms in three schools (this year, Lowell, Rattlesnake and Paxson elementary schools were represented) with adult artists’ interpretations.

It’s a lot of monsters: 426, to be exact, hanging on the walls of two rooms and a hallway in the Zootown Arts Community Center.

It took 18 people three hours to hang all the artwork for this year’s Missoula Monster project, and operations manager Heather Stockton said they’re already looking forward to bigger shows in the future.

“We’re going to have so much more space in the new building,” Stockton said. “I’m hoping we can expand to more schools.”

The monster-themed show, in its fifth year, pairs art from kindergarten classrooms in three schools (this year, Lowell, Rattlesnake and Paxson elementary schools were represented) with adult artists’ interpretations, creating a menagerie of funky, weird monsters, cute and strange and definitely unique.

One monster, a polka-dotted amorphous blob, was interpreted by Kezia Lovelady as a blue-skinned, spotted woman sitting cross-legged with a third eye on her forehead.

Another, Princess Talia, loves jewelry, according to her imaginer. The interpretation, made of clay, has sea-anemone-like spikes poking out of her body that hold bright rings.

“Artists use it as a fun way to work in different mediums too,” Stockton noted.

Freedom Drudge, an illustrator and comic artist, interpreted “Charlotte” as an action figure, still in the packaging, “with tortellini, reading glasses and picture of mom and dad” accessories included.

Claire Emery, a printmaker, submitted a wood-carved print board of her monster, instead of the finished print that carving would usually create.

Stockton noted there are lots of soccer-playing monsters this year, probably due to the World Cup that took place during the summer, as well as Minecraft-inspired monsters.

“It’s an interesting way to track trends.”

Artists can interpret the monsters any way they please, using only the child’s drawing and two or three details (“likes rainbows,” “eats watermelon,” etc.) to aid them.

One monster, interpreted by tattoo and piercing artist Jasmine Randa, was originally drawn in cryptic black marker, thick lines imparting a city street, with dashes of colored pencil filling in around what could be buildings. The only detail about the monster: It likes eating watermelon.

Randa came up with a two-faced green monster, its wrinkly head covered with eyes.

“Sometimes there are monsters that can be hard to interpret,” Stockton said.

The monster project has grown so much that, starting last year, the ZACC has held an opening for parents and their kids before the grand opening show.

They found parents often wanted to buy the artist interpretation of their child’s monster, but the pieces would get snapped up before they had a chance.

“There are monster fights,” Stockton said, advising interested purchasers: “Come in early.”

A few artists pre-bought a handful of monster pieces, to ensure families get theirs, Stockton said. Though, with more than 200 pieces available, there’s chances for Missoula art lovers to score out-of-the-box pieces by their favorite artists, like Courtney Blazon’s multimedia collage-like piece.

There’s also a good amount of amateur artists involved, who are attending their first show at the monster project along with the kids, Stockton said.

“You can feel the excitement of the little kids, you can feel the excitement of the artists,” Stockton said. “You just smile when you walk in.”

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Arts and entertainment

arts reporter for the Missoulian.