Arts Missoula’s longtime executive director to retire in June | Arts & Theatre

Stella McDaniel

After 18 years, Tom Bensen is preparing to retire from his publish as govt director of Arts Missoula, the nonprofit community arts company.

“Missoula is a amazing location to be operating in the arts,” he mentioned, citing the volume of electrical power, creative imagination and assist for the arts.

Bensen said he’s arrived at the ideal time of his lifetime, and in fact postponed it due to the pandemic.

“It was not a good strategy to disrupt the firm for the duration of that,” he mentioned.

He’ll move down in June, following his substitute has been employed and they have a monthlong transition.

“Tom served the Missoula local community with robust leadership and enthusiasm,” Board President John Calsbeek wrote in a assertion.

“We will miss his thoughtful and constant management, but belief he will keep on to be lively and engaged with the neighborhood,” he wrote.

‘Bowled over’

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Bensen’s path to Arts Missoula in fact began with Very first Night Missoula, the yearly New Year’s Eve celebration that just marked its 25th yr.

He recalls attending the very first a single and owning an knowledge that ended up shaping his specialist job.

“I was fully bowled in excess of by the strength and enthusiasm for the arts in this neighborhood, and I hadn’t genuinely noticed that just before,” he stated.

He became associated with 1st Night, then a individual nonprofit, and worked his way up to the director’s submit. Sensation prepared for a change professionally, he was hired by Arts Missoula, then recognised as the Missoula Cultural Council, in 2004. The two businesses ultimately merged, since Very first Night time didn’t seem to be practical as a standalone entity.

Its most public-dealing with activities are general public functions like GermanFest or New Zealand Day, both equally relevant to sister-metropolis relationships, but behind the scenes its function has broadened commonly more than the yrs.

Its mission assertion now is “connecting artwork and lifestyle by means of training, advocacy and community.”

Quite a few groups have arrived at out to Arts Missoula over the decades to get the job done as associates, and “as a end result, the business has developed, alongside with the city rising,” Bensen explained.

They served start SPARK! Arts Ignite Studying, a software that grew out of a Kennedy Heart Any Offered Youngster initiative that brings artists into Missoula County Community Educational institutions.

“The SPARK! initiative is a definitely distinctive collective effect method that includes a full great deal of distinct companies, entities, folks, artists, lecturers, administrators, and which is been a authentic thrilling factor to be a aspect of from the commencing,” he said.

It now functions as administrator of the community art plan, an region in which he sees “potential for development.”

As a result of an incubator software, Arts Missoula also acts as a fiscal sponsor for fledgling initiatives until they had been ready to implement for their very own 501(c)3 status. Present examples contain the Montana E-book Festival, the Montana Location Tunes Association and All Metropolis Jazz.

Bensen is also happy of the nonprofit’s international cultural applications. Udo Fluck, a longtime University of Montana professor, arrived on board as their director of world-wide and cultural affairs. He delivers their applications specifically into the educational facilities, and to the public by the Planet Perspective Movie Series, which hosts totally free screenings at the Roxy Theater.

“It’s really easy to be Missoula-centric. This forces us to search outside of Missoula to see what else is heading on in the huge extensive globe. And there is a good deal that we can learn from other cultures,” he mentioned.

Arts Missoula also maintains the city’s two sister-city partnerships with Neckargemund, Germany, and Palmerston North, New Zealand these include things like cultural exchanges. All through one trip to New Zealand, a Blackfeet artist, Willow Kipp, created a mural there and there are ideas to carry a Maori artist below to do the similar.

Amongst the a lot less-glamorous but vital functions include “herding cats and amassing info.”

They helped aid Missoula’s participation in a study, “Arts and Financial Prosperity,” from Americans for the Arts, that quantifies the financial affect of nonprofit arts and tradition marketplace in communities about the U.S. The reports, which need to start out all over again shortly, have helped present knowledge to display the significance of the myriad artists and arts corporations on the nearby economic system.

“I’m genuinely proud to see the place Missoula stands in terms of other communities. It really is extraordinary how substantially the arts contribute to our regional economic climate,” he mentioned.

This calendar year, Arts Missoula started a Patron Fund that dispersed a spherical of 3 $2,500 grants to Missoula artists with no strings attached.

The job opening will be posted sometime this month. Interviews get started in March, and the executive director will start off in April. Then Bensen will stay on for an additional month to clearly show them the ropes.

Just after the transition, he’s “not going everywhere tranquil nonetheless.” He’s also hunting forward to volunteer function outside the house of the arts world.

“I have not truly been capable to volunteer my time for nonprofits that aren’t concentrated on the arts,” he reported.

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