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Missoula Giuded Art Walk

YNP Winter Tours

"In the City of Missoula, our daily efforts are dedicated to preserving the essence of our community as a unique, captivating, and character-filled space. Public art stands as one of the pillars upholding Missoula's charm. From transforming mundane traffic-signal boxes into community canvases to allocating a portion of every new municipal building's budget to incorporate an art element, our initiatives underscore our unwavering commitment to the visual arts as an integral part of Missoula's landscape.

This guide serves as a testament to our devotion to public art, inviting you to explore our collection and reaffirming our dedication. The Public Art Committee of Missoula deserves commendation for spearheading the commissioning of many of these works and for their role as stewards of these community treasures. We invite you to immerse yourself in these artistic expressions and savor the essence of our unique locale."


"Few endeavors have been as impactful as the 'art in public places' programs in introducing contemporary art to a wide audience. Yet, few have been as contentious as the placement of artworks in public spaces, igniting debates over the 'public' purpose of art.

This shouldn't come as a surprise, as qualitative assessments of art have always been elusive and subject to debate. The discourse intensifies when art is thrust into the public eye.

Art within museum walls is shielded, endorsed by the authority of established professionals, and viewed by a receptive, open, and curious audience. However, public art occupies a different realm. Defined by its surroundings, it offers immediate accessibility. The artist's personal sensibility is laid bare to the public's expectations of what art should embody. And those expectations have evolved dramatically in our changing society.

Traditionally, public art commemorated significant events and figures, illustrating shared societal goals and values. But in today's landscape of diverse politics, religions, and personal aspirations, finding common ground is a challenge. It has become evident that traditional art alone cannot mirror the pluralism of our country.

Hence, there's a need for a broad spectrum of contemporary art that mirrors the multifaceted perspectives of our society. The success of this engagement hinges on dialogue between artist and public, exploring how contemporary art can acquire public significance in the modern world.

As an artist who has contributed over 60 public artworks, I find this process immensely exciting. While each project yields an individual piece of art, these creations aspire to be more than isolated objects thrust into the public domain. They enrich neighborhoods; children playing along the river in downtown Missoula delight in Jeffrey Funk's play-sculpture, 'Returning.' Visitors to Missoula's City Council Chambers are greeted by vivid impressions of the city through Walter Hook's vibrant paintings and Mary Iverson's 'Ponder.' Through collaborative efforts between project initiators and artists, these artworks, and all public works, can become expressions of a community's ethos.

Having witnessed both successes and failures in various projects—whether community-driven or sponsored by programs like percent for art initiatives, the National Endowment, Federal Art in Architecture, or Veterans Administration—I see the spectrum of responses. Excitement, skepticism, appreciation, and resentment all underscore one positive outcome: engagement. When communities and artists collaborate, they blend art, architecture, nature, technology, and spirit to craft an ever-evolving narrative. In 1967, Congress launched the Art In Public Places Program, soon followed by Montana's adoption of a percent-for-art statute. Since then, public artworks have become fixtures of our public spaces, reflecting the diversity of contemporary art. While some projects may falter, most stand as significant achievements.

One such example began as a contentious debate but evolved into a triumph. Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. initially sparked controversy—a radical notion for the National Mall. Yet, today, it evokes silence, contemplation, regret, and healing. Its simplicity grants each visitor space for personal reflection.

In our community, we're fortunate to have a city government that's been at the vanguard of public art initiatives. Since forming the first local Public Art Committee in Montana in 1985, Missoula has amassed an impressive collection of artwork, largely sourced from in-state artists. Over these thirty-three years, our community has fostered discussions that have resonated with people of all ages. Countless individuals have volunteered their time to ensure Missoula remains a leader in public art initiatives statewide."

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