Arts wishes for 2012 

Hope springs eternal with a flip of the calendar

It's time to stop looking back. As the holidays slip past, resolutions begin to take shape and students start to sneak back into town, now is the time to take stock of the current arts scene and highlight what's next. Call it a wish list—a few of the things we're desperately hoping for or eagerly anticipating. If and when these happen, 2012 will shape up to be a very good arts year.

A new home

The Montana Museum of Art and Culture includes more than 11,000 works of art and is considered one of the best publicly-owned collections in the Pacific Northwest. For 118 years, Montana's only state-owned museum devoted to art has only been missing one thing: the actual museum.

Right now the University of Montana-based collection is spread between several campus buildings and storage space. A year ago, UM emerged as a potential buyer of the Macy's building on Front and Higgins, with the MMAC viewed as a main tenant, but the deal fell through. A Virginia-based developer purchased the downtown building instead. Alternative locations for MMAC have been considered over the years, and Director Barbara Koostra says the latest proposal involves an on-campus building that would house the collection and serve as a UM's welcome center.

2012 would be the perfect time to finally give this prized collection the commitment and showcase it deserves.

Long Wait over

Deciding on the greatest Montana band ever is a barroom debate that has yet to be settled. Mission Mountain Wood Band certainly has its devotees. I once heard a passionate argument for death metal duo Black Jesus Vomit based almost entirely on the name. For many, though, the answer is Silkworm.

The post-punk indie band first formed in Missoula under the name Ein Heit. In early 1990, original members Andy Cohen, Joel Phelps and Tim Midgett moved to Seattle, joined with drummer Michael Dahlquist and went on to become one of the more formative groups of their era. "Their utter lack of attitude or affectation made them the left-handed albinos of '90s guitar rock, and their no-nonsense approach managed to wrangle the respect of nearly every big-deal no-name rock band of the past 10 years," wrote the Boston Phoenix in naming Silkworm the state's "all-time best band."

Director Seth Pomeroy and producer Shawn Girvan have been working the last six years to bring Silkworm's story to the big screen. Couldn't You Wait?, named after one of their more popular songs, covers everything from the band's modest Missoula beginning to its tragic end in 2005 after Dahlquist was killed in a car accident. Among those interviewed for the feature film are fellow Missoula rock legend and Silkworm producer Steve Albini, Pavement's Stephen Malkmus, Gerard Cosloy and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. One scene reportedly involves a long-lost Ein Heit interview. "Andy must be 14," said Midgett of the scene after viewing the rough cut.

Pomeroy says Couldn't You Wait? is currently being submitted to film festivals. "We'd love to show it in Missoula and I'm certain we will," he adds, but as of now no date has been set.

Next act

Last year was not kind to local theater. Montana Actors' Theatre, the company in residence at the Crystal Theatre, went on hiatus and shows no sign of returning. Montana Rep Missoula cut back its schedule to just two shows and chose to stage both at the Masquer Theatre on UM's campus rather than at a downtown venue. The result was a dearth of regular downtown theater in a town that's shown it can support it.

Things are expected to change in 2012. The void is being filled by new acts and some new venues. Sketch comedy from the likes of Teresa Waldorf and Rosie Ayers and a new theater troupe headed by David Simmons and his wife, Marilyn Rice, occupied the Crystal Theatre with separate events in December. The Top Hat and Downtown Dance Collective have also stepped into the picture, hosting independent dance performances, live theater and burlesque shows. With Montana Rep Missoula expected to return to the Crystal for its 2012-2013 season, and the new faces gaining traction, the future of local theater could be bright.

Blood on the big screen

One of the most talked about arts stories of 2011 involved the pre-production and shooting of Winter in the Blood, the feature film adaptation of James Welch's landmark debut novel. The production is full of local connections both behind and in front of the camera. Montana natives Alex and Andrew Smith (The Slaughter Rule) wrote the screenplay and are directing. It was shot on location in and around the Hi-Line, including the Fort Belknap Reservation where Welch was reared. The cast features a number of local actors such as Chaske Spencer, who grew up on reservations in Montana and Idaho and most recently appeared in The Twilight Saga, and UM graduate Lily Gladstone.

The film is currently in the editing process and slated for a 2012 premiere. If it stays on schedule and meets even a fraction of the early expectations, it'll surely be one of the biggest arts stories of the year.

Sold to the right bidder

The sale of the Wilma Theatre should matter greatly to the local arts scene. The 1,100-seat, 90-year-old venue hosts more than 50 concerts a year, two major local film festivals and dozens of other community or special events. Every night it screens alternative movies that would otherwise get passed over by the two mainstream theaters on North and South Reserve.

Whether the new buyer comes from Missoula or out of state, it's imperative that the Wilma's role in the community be at least maintained or, at best, enhanced.

Return of the stadium show

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It's been more than five years since the Rolling Stones performed inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium and 13 years since Pearl Jam kicked off its 1998 North American tour in the same venue. It's about time someone else stepped to the base of Mount Sentinel and treated more than 23,000 attendees—plus those enterprising onlookers atop Sentinel and Jumbo—to another stadium-style show.

But who's up for it? That speculation makes for almost as much fun as hearing Keith Richards mumble mid-set about wanting to move to Big Sky Country.

It'd have to be an act with considerable stature, preferably with some cross-generational pull. The act must also fit Missoula's particular artistic sensibilities. In other words, you have as much a chance of catching Lady Gaga in a pair of Dockers as you do of seeing her perform here.

Taylor Swift and Kenny Chesney, both of whom out-grossed Gaga's ticket sales in 2011, would appeal to the local country crowd. U2, last year's top grossing act, would certainly suffice and is no more unrealistic than the Stones. Can't you just hear Bono preaching about the plight of bison and the demise of the American dream as a lead-in to "Bullet the Blue Sky"?

Other candidates: Prince and Bruce Springsteen. The wildest suggestion belongs to Indy calendar editor Jason McMackin, who notes Van Halen (with David Lee Roth, but not, unfortunately, bassist Michael Anthony) recently announced plans for a 2012 summer tour. Specific stops have yet to be released, meaning Missoula still has a chance to make the cut. One can only wish.

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