In the rear view 

A dozen defining art-world moments for 2006

Every year a few events stand out from the crowd—benchmarks, milestones, telltale signs or, sometimes, something simply too awesome or unusual to be forgotten. So herewith we remember the moments that defined the year that was in arts and entertainment.

British Invasion

No single event of 2006 garnered more pre-hype and post-fawn than the Rolling Stones’ surprising Oct. 4 performance at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. In fact, buzz still echoes over the two-hour, pyrotechnics-filled, larger-than-life spectacle: Rockin Rudy’s continues to dedicate a corner to Stones merchandise (including—shameless plug alert—copies of the Indy’s concert poster-like cover the week of the show) and YouTube is stocked full of shaky amateur video capturing show highlights (personal favorite: the wall of fire that almost engulfs one startled fan’s cell phone during footage of “Sympathy for the Devil”). Unlike so many entertainment events, this historic show actually lived up to its hype, and, based on its resounding success, may pave the way for similar showstoppers in the future.

Grand MAM Opening

Were it not for four aging Brits and a six-story stage, the arts story of the year would have to be the September opening of the new Missoula Art Museum. Even with the Glimmer Twins and Co. burned into our retinas, we’re not sure it’s not. The crown jewel of downtown, MAM is now more than 17,000 square feet—almost double the size of the old space. Architect Warren Hampton’s melding of the renovated 103-year-old Carnegie Library building with a futuristic addition makes it as beautiful to look at as the art inside. What’s more, despite the $5.3 million expenditure required to make it all possible, MAM remains free to the public.

Oil Painter Infestation

While the new MAM’s opening was huge for the local arts community, the title for most impressive art show belonged to the Oil Painters of America (OPA) national juried exhibition hosted by the Dana Gallery in May. More than 200 paintings filled the local gallery’s walls while some of the nation’s most decorated contemporary oil painters, influential collectors and respected art historians intermingled with regular Missoula folk. It was an unprecedented show for Missoula and a well-deserved coup for the Dana Gallery to host such a prestigious international affair. Based on that success, OPA plans a return engagement in 2007.

Passing of a Poet

Patricia Goedicke’s influence on Missoula goes beyond accolades and awards. For more than 25 years she taught poetry at the University of Montana, and once she retired in 2003, she continued to teach one graduate workshop a year out of her living room. Goedicke was known for her tireless and distinctive mentoring style, described by friends as a keen mix of sassy and intimidating. When Goedicke passed away in July at the age of 75, Missoula lost an irreplaceable figure.

William Kittredge’s New Chapter

Well established as one of Missoula’s best storytellers (and one of the definitive voices of Western literature), UM professor emeritus William Kittredge had one thing missing from his resume: he’d never written a novel. In September, Knopf published The Willow Field, a sweeping epic teeming with Kittredge’s trademark treatment of the Western landscape. Although the novel received mixed reviews, longtime fans finally had a sustained narrative to fill the one soft spot in Kittredge’s storied career.

Colonizing Missoula

Initially created to workshop local writers, the Missoula Colony, hosted by director Greg Johnson and The Montana Rep, expanded in its 11th year to include top talent from Ireland’s Gaiety School of Theatre and NYU’s Goldberg Department of Dramatic Writing, while continuing to showcase work-in-progress scripts from the usual local suspects. The result was a week of theater that offered audiences a welcome surfeit of outstanding original work—Roger Hedden’s The Count, for example—to digest. The Colony will probably be dialed back next year, making 2006 a rarity to remember.

Lowbaggers Lament

It happened with little fanfare or notice, but Cine 3’s July closing was a damaging blow to a certain segment of Missoula’s cheapskate population. As the only discount movie theater in a town where money always matters, the Cine 3 represented local moviegoers’ most affordable big-screen option—not to mention 15 percent of local movie screens.

Raven Nevermore

The Raven Cafe’s tenure as one of the area’s best music venues was short but substantial. From the time the coffeehouse first erected a corner stage in February to its closing in October, the Raven helped to solve the often frustrating task local promoters face in finding venues to host affordable live music. In addition, with the help of organizers Jon Markley and Mike Gill, The Raven also cultivated some of Missoula’s most promising local bands, such as regulars The Victory Smokes.

The Ascension of Saintonge

Under the guidance of gallery director Kerri Rosenstein, Gallery Saintonge presented one of the more stirring collections of exhibits offered by any downtown gallery this year. Never shy about pushing boundaries at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography-owned gallery, Rosenstein mounted exhibits such as Mark Story’s Living in Three Centuries, Hamilton resident Raymond Meeks’ A Gathering, Missoulian Sam Manno’s From the 7th of May and, most notably, local stalwart Geoff Sutton’s A Diary: 33 and 1/3 years.

Wilma Welcomes Hip-hop Back

Who would’ve thought it would take a couple of local MCs to bring hip-hop back to the Wilma? After a nearly two-year moratorium on rap in Missoula’s historic theater, RBIZ and JaeO played in November to more than 600 screaming fans in support of their new CD, Tha Takeover. The show—which featured Minus My Thoughts in accompaniment throughout and the University Choir in support for four songs—was more than a one-night success. According to RBIZ (Ryan Bradshaw), the Wilma is now open to booking more touring hip-hop shows early next year.

Risky Theater Biz

Missoula is fortunate to boast local playwrights and directors daring enough to try original work far from ordinary. This year’s productions were exceptional more for the risks they took than the final product: Montana Rep Missoula’s March production of Barret O’Brien’s Breach featured non-actors in primary roles; The Candidatos played against type with November’s multi-dimensional, ultra-heavy Pushcarts; the Mercury Theatre updated Orwell’s classic 1984 to reference modern-day politics; and in the most charming original production of the year, Missoula Oblongata took DIY theater to an imaginative new level with The Wonders of the World: Recite. Despite their flaws, all were risks worth taking, and all bode well for the independent scene’s future.

Destination Missoula

Al Franken broadcast his Air America radio program from MCT in January; legendary comic book artist Jim Lee made an appearance at Muse Comics in June (and then watched Superman Returns with fans at the Carmike); Garrison Keillor broadcast his iconic “A Prairie Home Companion” from the Adams Center in September; and, one week earlier, Tony Hawk (and friends) christened the new MOBASH Skatepark in McCormick Park. All of these memorable visits were ensured by the ingenuity and doggedness of locals who organized each event. It’s a testament to where we live and those who live here that each flourished.

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