The Crisis of Modernism in "The Last Best Place"

Jim Todd
University of Montana-Missoula

[Note: Professor Todd, in a paper presented at the Eighth Annual Conference on Liberal Arts and the Education of Artists, writes of the tension between regional art and international trends, especially as it affects academic art departments in Montana universities. The problem is acute in Montana because we can still walk and ride the same ground where Charles M. Russell worked only a few years ago. Generations have been affected by Ned Buntline, Buffalo Bill, Zane Grey, Clarence E. Mulford, Max Brand, E.E. Halleran, Frank Gruber, and Louis Lamour.

America is a young country aesthetically: the baroque had already become rococo before the Declaration of Independence was signed. James Jackson Jarves was the first to bring a large collection of respectable European paintings to the New World in 1860. By that time, according to J.C. Furnas (The Americans: A Social History of the United States, 1587-1914), the American eye had already been damaged by Currier and Ives prints, sentimental subjects whose "composition and draftsmanship are usually banal to clumsy" and the coloring "at the same time dilute, harsh and queasy." Sold by mail order, from the local store, or from the print peddler, they had great "opportunity to corrupt the eye."

Now what is the effect of cowboy art on academic departments and western artists in general?--editor William Plank]

At previous NCLEA conferences, I have presented papers on international topics, but for this year's meeting, I would like to devote my attention to the condition of the visual arts in my home state of Montana.

There were several reasons for this decision, including the fact that I am not so many years away from retirement, which incline me to appraise the university and the state where I have worked for almost twenty five years. A less personal reason is that Montana is currently undergoing an important transition in her history, which for better or worse will affect the quality of liberal arts and fine arts education in the state.

The changes occurring in Montana are in some respects peculiar and unique to its own history, but they are also necessarily affected by general conditions in the U.S. and the world.

We live in an age of global transformation and uncertainty on all levels: economic, political, religious and cultural. Our concern for this transformation is intensified by our awareness that we are approaching both the end of a century and a millennium. The 19th and 20th centuries offered great hopes and promise for the future welfare of humanity, and this promise seemed to be substantiated by the revolution in technology and the rise of democracy and concern for human rights. But despite such optimism, our own century has been filled with levels of human suffering and oppression unprecedented in the history of our species.

Currently, we are witnessing the return of Fascism in Europe and the U.S. while the collapse of the Soviet Union has left Russia in conditions that hover on the brink of a new Dark Age. The U.S. has had the fortune to survive a near century-old conflict with Communism, but it has also been weakened by that struggle. During the last two decades, the nation has been burdened with massive debt and transformed from its post WWII role as a manufacturing giant to that of a credit dependent consumer. American urban life has deteriorated with a corresponding growth in crime and racial tension. All of these things have directly or indirectly affected the arts and art education in America, and despite the dramatic increase in public support of the arts, they remain fragmented and devoid of any coherent social or aesthetic philosophy.

These national problems will affect every state, but how each state responds depends on its particular history and character, so we will now consider the case of Montana.

I. Montana

The late state historian K. Ross Toole described Montana as a state of extremes, and that is perhaps as good as any description with which to begin. Montana is the fourth largest state in the union, but despite its size, only Alaska and Wyoming have a lower population. In the 1990 census, Montana had barely 800,000 people. Immense space and few people are Montana's first extreme.

The second extreme lies in Montana's geography. The state is divided diagonally between the western two fifths composed of the Rocky Mountains, and the eastern three fifths which consist of rolling grass lands and desert-like prairie. These dramatic physical distinctions between enclosure and height, and flat open space separate Montanans psychologically as well as geographically and economically.

A third extreme lies in the conflicting opinions about the appropriate use of Montana. There are presently two major contestants. One group argues that the primary purpose of Montana is to serve as a source of raw materials and food for the rest of the nation. The opposing group argues that the state is one of the last refuges of untouched wilderness and beauty, which should be left alone and used primarily for recreation and contemplation. Native Americans are infrequently consulted about the matter.

The fourth extreme, and possibly the most important for the central topic of this paper, concerns the contradictory attitudes of many Montanans toward political and cultural responsibility. Montanans are known for their self-sufficiency, independence of spirit and toughness in the face of adversity: the so-called "frontier" spirit. Yet, Montanans have little clear sense of their own cultural identity, and this often results in an underlying sense of inferiority that inclines us to either "go it alone" or, contrarily, to be overdependent on direction from sources outside the state. I describe this as a "colonial" mentality.

This last extreme is not so paradoxical as it might first appear when one considers the social and economic history of Montana, which since the last century has been an ongoing chronology of corporate exploitation and abandonment.

Prior to the 19th century, Montana was geographically isolated from the east and west coasts and was inhabited by at least ten different tribes of Native Americans. Montana became a U.S. territory in 1803 following the Louisiana Purchase. It was then surveyed for the federal government by the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Fur trappers, traders, and Roman Catholic missionaries were quick to follow, establishing trading posts and missions.

Gold was discovered in the 1860s, and growing white settlement placed great stress on the Native American communities, culminating in the Indian Wars of the 1870s. Following their defeat, the state Indians were forcibly confined to reservations. The millions of buffalo which were the economic life-source of the Plains Indians were systematically destroyed by whites, to be replaced by cattle.

During the 1880s, gold prospecting had evolved to industrial mining, and with the discovery of copper in Butte, much of Montana fell under the influence of the Anaconda Mining Co., which "became one of the largest conglomerates of the world. The company smashed the mining unions, influenced the state legislature, acquired almost all of Montana's daily newspapers, and virtually controlled the state for three-quarters of a century."/1/

In 1889, Montana was admitted to the Union, and in 1893 the completion of the North Pacific Railway opened Montana to increased homesteading, which prospered in the early part of the century. During the 1920s, however, Montana was struck by the Depression earlier than most of the nation. Banks failed, farmers were forced to leave the state, the mines were closed in Butte and the union activity of miners was suppressed for many years.

During the 1930s, the New Deal provided relief to the state in farm assistance and federal projects. This led to greater federal defense involvement in Montana during the 1940s and post WWII period, to the development of Malmstrom Air Force Base near Great Falls and the installation of missile sites in northern Montana.

Montana has remained an essentially extractive economy, so the current decline of manufacturing in the U.S. has had a drastic effect on the state. Despite the post WWII increase in state oil and coal production, Montana has been unable to establish a sufficiently prosperous economy to prevent young Montanans from moving outside the state. Lumber mills have closed or lowered production, and in 1983 Anaconda suspended its mining operations in Butte. During the 1980s, Montana's growth was less than half the national average, and while tourism was always important in the state, it has now been elevated to being one of the state's main industries to compensate for the decline of the traditional economy.

II. The University of Montana

"Montana has been cyclically beaten, battered and bruised...the only state in the nation without an essentially free press."--K. Ross Toole/2/

"Controversial political questions are not healthy food for teachers of our young people to give out in the schools."--Great Falls Tribune/3/

"The problems...are particularly serious in Montana...because our sparse population includes a selfish and politIcally powerful minority which is indifferent to (education) or even actively hostile to it."--Joseph Kinsey Howard/4/

For most of their history, Montanans spent their time trying to survive. There was little time, money or opportunity to create and appreciate art and culture. Nor did the great extracting corporations of Montana see themselves as cultural patrons of the state. As the late John Gunther pointed out: "The mines beneath Butte have yielded more than two and one half billion dollars worth of ore so far. But it is the only American city I have ever seen with no decent park or playground."/5/ Those words were written in 1946, and much has changed since then, but the central point made by Gunther still holds true; companies came to Montana to take what was necessary to get rich, and then left./6/ Anaconda Copper Co., to protect its interests, took control of the major state newspapers until the 1950s, making sure that Montanans read what the company wanted them to read. Unfortunately, this not only prevented citizens from getting accurate information, but it also made it difficult for them to develop the habit of independent critical judgment./7/

Despite or perhaps even because of this, Montanans from territorial times had wanted a fully developed educational system for their state. Compulsory education was enacted in 1883 and the University of Montana in Missoula (UM) was chartered in 1893, then becoming the primary state educational unit for fine arts and liberal arts education. Due to Montana's small and thinly distributed population, the Missoula university also became one of the state's principal centers of culture.

It was not long, however, before the Missoula campus was to learn that it would be subject to the wrath of the Anaconda Company and its subsidiary Montana Power Company if it dared to criticize or question corporate power in the state. In 1917, Professor Louis Levine, an economics expert at UM, publicly criticized the state tax structure for unfairly favoring the mining industry. Levine was then attacked in the Montana press as a Communist inspired professor, and was fired./8/ The Anaconda Co. had equated labor unions with radical socialism, and in 1914, due to labor unrest, Butte had been placed under martial law and no labor unions were recognized by the mining industry until 1934./9/

In the anti-labor climate of the time, it was possible in 1921 to also fire UM professor of law, Arthur Fisher, because of his efforts to affiliate the Montana Teachers Association with the American Federation of Labor. Fisher was attacked in the Missoula press for his "radical activities" and his dismissal had the overall effect of intimidating the faculty. The Fisher case along with that of Levine caused many people to believe that UM was a radical and disruptive influence in higher education.

This was unfortunate for the Missoula campus because in the coming years its reputation inclined both the legislature and regents to favor the more conservative Montana State College of Agriculture in Bozeman, allowing that school to gradually usurp the UM through continuous and largely unhampered program duplication. The Bozeman College of Agriculture finally achieved university status as Montana State University (MSU) in 1965, and the wasteful competition between UM and MSU poisons the educational climate of the state to this day.

During the late 1960s, the state's mistrust of UM was further exacerbated by the public demonstrations of students and faculty who opposed the Vietnam War. Like most rural states, Montana is conservative and patriotic, and since the other state schools were comparatively quiet during this period, the UM disturbances seemed to confirm its reputation for radical conduct./10/

Despite its reputation, UM has upheld its mission to educate students in the humanities and the fine arts, but the 1970s and 1980s were difficult years for the school. Legislative cuts in state higher education budgets led to faculty reduction, and the wholesale elimination of academic programs. UM faculty wages have slipped to being some of the lowest in American higher education, and despite the growth in student enrollment, administrative expansion, and campus building construction, the number of full time faculty has declined since 1971 while UM wages for full professors averaged about $5,000 less per year than for MSU professors in 1993-94./11/

UM has had collective bargaining since 1977, but it is now entering its second year without a contract, and nearly one third of its faculty is currently classified as "adjunct," and without collective bargaining rights and representation./12/ Unsurprisingly, all of the above has led to low faculty morale, and apprehension about the future quality of liberal and fine arts education in the state.

III. Montana and the Arts

"Non-objective painting, the prevalent international style of our time, strips itself of all reference to nature in its very intention and purpose."--Robert DeWeese, 1954/13/

"...if we begin with the idea that art is a copy of nature...we are using a false premise. Pictures should be observed as entities, things in themselves."--James Dew, 1951/14/

"According to Congress, not less than 20% of appropriated funds for the Endowment for the Arts are for support of state and regional programs...."--Terry Melton, 1978/15/

"This conference addresses the role of the Endowment in the realm of technology, and although I do not know precisely where we are going, I know that we are going."--Jane Alexander, NEA chair, 1994/16/

In 1988, the Montana Historical Society published an anthology of Montana literature entitled The Last Best Place. The title refers to Montana as the final unspoiled frontier of the U.S., the mythical garden of majestic mountains, open prairies, Indians and cowboys. Montana is the final destination and promised land of the Texas cattle drive in the 1989 TV series Lonesome Dove. It is the idyllic fishermen's paradise in Robert Redford's 1992 film A River Runs Through It, in which morality and nature are inseparably linked in the lives of its citizens.

Not long ago, it would have been inconceivable for an anthology of Montana writings or the subject of Redford's film to have achieved little more than regional success, if even that. But the widespread popularity of both indicated that something new was at work in the state. After a lifetime of deadlocked isolation, Montana was being changed into a cultural mecca for Americans fleeing the ills of contemporary urban life in search of a lost American dream. In the wake of the state's new popularity, Montana's artists could begin to pridefully describe themselves as "regionalists" while newly immigrated artists were transformed overnight into being "Montanans."

The attraction of Montana for urban outsiders is nothing new. Part of the state's heritage is the phenomenon of the "dude" cowboy, the urban dweller who visits the Wild West to rediscover his primal soul as in the 1991 film City Slickers. Now there is a new twist to the visit of the dude cowboy: he is here to stay.

Along with its lumber, ore, fuel, and wheat, Montana's culture and mythology are now up for sale./17/ Outsiders arrive to build ostentatious and unaffordable mansions for local display since Montanans are eager to sell their land to the highest bidder while effectively pricing themselves out of their own market. Ted Turner, the CNN magnate, purchased thousands of acres in southwest Montana, and in his newly acquired frontier wisdom advised state ranchers to dispose of their cattle and begin raising buffalo.

Small, once quiet communities, have been converted in the summers into automobile clogged tourist stop-overs, filled with souvenir shops and "western" art galleries. Some of these galleries have their own resident "cowboy" artists, who between painting sessions are on hand to greet visitors with a firm and soulful "howdy."

These "cowboy" artists are a significant part of the state's new tourist culture and their origins lie in the figure of Charles M. Russell (1864-1926), a Montana painter and sculptor who had an unusual gift for depicting the grandeur and physical vitality of cowboy and Indian life at the turn of the century.

Many Montanans believe that an artist can do no better than to emulate the artistic style and subject matter of Russell's work despite its outdated content, but after WWII some Montana artists found their inspiration in the Modernist movements on the east and west coasts. Their interest in urban culture was stimulated as well by the arrival of avant-garde artists from out of state who were employed in Montana colleges to promote Modern art. During the post-war years, non-objective abstract art became fashionable in academic art circles and artistic realism was rejected as mere illustration. The Abstract Expressionist movement was the leading genre of the 1950s, and for a time it was the U.S.'s answer to Soviet Socialist Realism during the Cold War. Throughout the nation, university art departments, including those of Montana, took up the banner of Modern Art. "Cowboy" art and Charles Russell were considered to be passe and relics of a provincial past.

An unfortunate result of this academic attitude was the exclusion, at least at the UM, of the study of regional art in art history, humanities and studio art curricula. This exclusion created a cultural gap between the college and communities because the latter had few places to turn for an educated appraisal of Montana art and culture. Regretfully, the state Native American traditions were also victims of this rejection.

If there had been any institution which could have helped Montanans develop a sense of their own indigenous cultural identity and overcome the state's artistic isolation imposed by its economic and journalistic history, it should have been higher education./18/ But the opportunity was largely lost, and it was an odd state of affairs in the 1950s and 1960s to see university art teachers bedecked in cowboy hats and drinking with the gusto of ranch hands in the local saloons while carefully and self-consciously restricting their art talk to the recent topics of big-city art journals.

With the exception of a few talented artists committed to upholding the style of Charles Russell, most "cowboy" art was relegated to the banal and sentimental production lines of tourist galleries. Native American art had a similar fate, and except for the pockets of traditional art striving for survival on reservations, the remainder was absorbed into the tourist economy along with commercially slick and degraded forms of "cowboy" art.

Nonetheless, there were efforts after the war to coordinate the different arts of Montana, and to bring them to public attention. One of the most notable came from the Montana Institute of the Arts founded in 1948 by H. G. Merriam. The Institute collected the works of Montana artists for preservation and exhibition and was supported by public contributions. The Institute was superseded in the 1970s by the Montana Arts Council which was founded in 1965, and is linked as a state agency with the fund-sharing program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

There is no doubt that many outstanding artists and cultural programs are funded by the Council, which has done as much as anyone to bring Montana arts to public attention, and which includes a 1983 program for public art funded in part by the state legislature. Nonetheless, the dependency of the Council on federal support has had its drawbacks since it made Montana susceptible to the influence of the political and artistic twists and turns of the Endowment. In states with a firmer sense of their cultural identity this might be less of a problem, but the Endowment stepped into Montana's cultural picture at the very time the state had both the need and opportunity to develop its own artistic voice.

The 1970s were watershed years for Montana. The state press was, for the first time, a relatively free voice, and in 1973 a new state constitution was enacted which recognized the cultural integrity of Montana's Native Americans, legislated protective laws for the environment, and strengthened citizens' participatory power through voter initiative rights./19/

The National Endowment for the Arts might have given Montana some of the cultural guidance it needed if it had not been for the national condition of the visual arts which since the 1960s have been in disarray. Unlike the WPA art programs of the 1930s, which were generally committed to social reform, the Endowment was a child of the Vietnam era, and its program promoted non-traditional and highly individualized forms of art expression. While this was not necessarily bad in itself, it nonetheless presented an uncentered and fragmented model of art for Montana.

Since the 1970s, art historians and critics have despaired of being able to identify a mainstream in American art and they have used the umbrella term "Post-Modernism" to describe the conglomerate of opposing art forms which have characterized American art for more than 30 years. No one in the art world since has agreed on much of anything except for a general consensus that the cultural monopoly of non-objective art has ended, and the traditional distinction between High Art and Kitsch is now in question.

These changes were problematic for Montana university art programs because they meant there was no longer an international abstract style of art by which to guide college curricula, and government agencies were beginning in the 1980s to fund creative projects dealing with social and minority issues. How then could the university profit from these changes without appearing to have betrayed its previous commitment to abstract and asocial art?

The solution for the last ten to fifteen years has been to "mix it all up." That is, if no artistic direction is institutionally recognized as being better than another, then everything is potentially legitimate--a kind of aesthetic promiscuity. And for many artists, there is little alternative since so many university art programs since the 1960s have forsaken fundamental training that many of their art graduates no longer have the technical skills or philosophical foundations to be artistically focused in any case. In Montana, the once fierce and uncompromising standoff between abstract and "cowboy" artists has been replaced with their betrothal, a synthesis of Montana regionalism with the international school of abstract art, appropriately accompanied with expressions of concern from artists for the socially disadvantaged and the environment.

Currently, state art auctions and exhibitions are filled with semi-abstract imagery of mountain trout, Indian feathers, and wild animals. Rodeo riders and livestock have become acceptable subjects for abstract expressionists and surrealists, and it is fashionable to devote whole exhibits to regional themes. A local gallery recently showed "Twenty-five interpretations" of the horse, and an exhibition was held this summer at the state capitol entitled "Big Western Art Selloff," which included the works of modern and post-modern artists who not long ago would have shunned any exhibitions bearing such a crassly regionalist and commercial title.

And in those works which are visually too abstract for viewers to discern any traditional Montana backdrop, the titles give directions. Some random examples from recent state gallery and museum exhibitions are "According to the Red Rabbit Prairie Illustration," "Barney Ate a Poison Gopher," "Ridin and Rollin Em Out in Ol Montana," "Horsefeather II," and "Art Connoisseurs at the Longhorn."/20/ Despite the enthusiasm of the new regionalists, what is evident in much of their work is the absence of any real idea of what to do with the concept of Montana or even that of the West.

Montana artists are no more uncertain of their artistic direction than many artists in the nation, but Montana has arguably been one of the more exploited states of the Union and it has been conditioned throughout its history to see itself and whatever it produces as a commodity for outsiders. Until recently, state commodities have been the most tangible of items: beef, lumber, coal, copper, etc., the raw materials which have sustained the nation.

In 1972, K. Ross Toole ended his history, Twentieth Century Montana: A State of Extremes, with the following commentary: "...America grew by eating upon itself--by devouring space, by devouring land. But there is no more land.... So, what we have left has suddenly become precious.... Montana is graced with an abundance of that vanishing commodity. It cannot translated into dollars...because it is a thing of the spirit."/21/ Hopeful words, and perhaps they will hold true for the protected wilderness areas, but where people now live, much of Montana's space and spirit are threatened to become the state's last best commodities.

It was an unfortunate chance of fate that Montanans were given so little time in the early 1970s to adjust to their newly found independence from monopoly corporate control. The decline of the state's traditional economy and the introduction of gambling have brought Montana an onslaught of new and difficult pressures: traffic congestion, crime, rapid inflation of housing costs and property taxes, increasing pollution, and the visual blight of billboards and graffiti. These are largely problems of space, but the more insidious problems are those of the spirit.

There is now a growing development of a "have" and "have not" class structure. Western Montana especially has become a playground for the rich, which pressures the less affluent--Indians and whites alike--to take part in the spoils. Consequently, automated gambling, which now pervades the state, is a tempting vice for many who cannot afford it. More disturbingly, the state has become a refuge for various missionaries of hate such as the Neo-Nazis, who see the state's wilderness as a haven for their para-military training and terrorist scheming.

Both Montana's schools of higher education and its artists have an uneven record in dealing with historical change. While some individuals stand out in their efforts to educate the public and to elevate Montana's cultural legacy, academic institutions and many visual artists have tended to heed the sources of finance for their direction. Following WWI, the colleges and universities avoided doing anything that would upset the corporations; after WWII, they looked to Washington D.C. and the urban centers for leadership at the expense of state culture. Today their attention has been turned inward by the tourist industry, with its emphasis on real estate, immigrant movie stars, commercialized regional art, and bogus "frontier" towns.

So far, the response of artists and higher education to the challenge of tourist culture has not been promising. Instead of considering the newly found interest in Montana as an opportunity to educate the public with more truthful and critical appraisals of state history and culture, higher education seems intent on devising "fast food" graduate degree programs offered at the height of the summer tourist season, while many visual artists are eager to commercialize their art at shamelessly high prices if only to get a foot into the tourist market. Unfortunately, it is easy to criticize Montana's tourist culture without having remedies. The state has lost much of its traditional economy, so it must find ways to survive, and now it resorts to selling its land and making a commodity of its heritage. While the cultural and economic outlook for the state is bleak, it is not unreasonable to hope that Montana's universities and artists can rise above the current tourist market atmosphere, and for once declare that they themselves are not for sale.

In 1955, the literary critic Leslie Fiedler wrote an admonition to Montanans in his essay "Montana: Or the End of Jean-Jacques Rousseau."

"...when he has learned that his state is where the myth comes to die (it is here, one is reminded, that the original Ruck Finn ended his days a respected citizen) the Montanan may find the possibilities of tragedy and poetry, for which so far he has searched his life in vain."/22/ Since Fiedler wrote these words, a number of outstanding Montana writers has successfully confronted some of the state's more difficult truths, but this has, for the most part, not been the case in the visual arts, caught as they have been between the myths of 19th century "cowboy" romanticism and post-WWII abstraction.

The crisis of Modernism for Montana's visual artists presents us with an opportunity to come to terms with the past and present realities of Montana, "of making an adjustment between myth and reality upon which a successful culture depends..."/23/, or to continue our artistic decline from the escapist heights of post-war non-objective art into the welcoming arms of today's frontier tourist culture.

IV. Conclusion

While many of the issues discussed above are unique to Montana, they also pertain to the overall condition of the visual arts in the U.S. At the end of WWII, the world looked to either the U.S. or the Soviet Union for economic, political, and cultural direction. During the Cold War, non-objective art was associated with the culture of the U.S. while its artistic countertype, Socialist Realism, was identified with the Soviet Union./24/ The two art styles were as distinct as their respective ideologies, but with the gradual waning of the Cold War these two guideposts of capitalist and communist art gradually lost their international influence.

The decline of interest in non-objective art among American artists has been uneven and less dramatic than the open rejection of Socialist Realism in Russia, but the outcome has been similar for those who had looked to either of the two superpowers for artistic guidance. There is now a sense of vacuity in the centers of American and Russian culture and their outlying communities; both the post-communist nations of eastern Europe and the rural states of America are now forced to look inward for their artistic inspiration.

Despite the difficulties of this development, I think it presents us with an opportunity. Now that the banner of Modern Art is not around to distract us, we can begin to explore and discover parts of our national artistic heritage which have long gone unnoticed./25/ In almost every state of the union there are the rich and varied art traditions of the Native Americans as well as the regional art forms inspired by early white settlers such as the northeastern Quakers, the early colonial artists of the eastern sea board, the cowboys and Mormons in the west. In addition, we have the arts of the non-white ethnic groups: the Mexicans of the southwest, the west coast Asian communities, and the Afro-Americans in both the rural south and urban north. We are all familiar with jazz and rock and roll artists, but how many of us can name two black painters?

This is not to say that these traditions will always present us with significant or even interesting forms of art, but when has art history ever made such a promise? What these traditions could provide for our college art and humanities programs is a sense of academic revitalization and the chance to take a closer look at our indigenous culture. If we can do so while avoiding the pressures to be "politically correct" and the urge to create commercial bogus versions of "regional" art, or to begin working only if we receive a federal grant, then we might with enough care and patience find a few things of surprising richness and beauty.


  1. New Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia, 15 ed. (1993), s.v. "Montana," 418-421.[Back]

  2. K. Ross Toole, Twentieth Century Montana: A State of Extremes (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972), 287.[Back]

  3. Ibid., 216.[Back]

  4. Joseph Kinsey Howard, "On Montana Education" (reprint from January issue of Montana Education Journal, Helena, 1946, p.4).[Back]

  5. John Gunther, Inside U.S.A. (New York: Harper and Bros., 1947), 165.[Back]

  6. The Berkeley Pit, the immense mining hole in the center of Butte is a living symbol of corporate mining history in Montana. The great scar measures 7200 feet long, 5600 feet wide, and 1500 feet deep. The mining tunnels extending from the pit threaten to undermine the city center, while the hole itself gains an average of twenty feet of water each year.[Back]

  7. As Anaconda Co. withdrew its influence from the state during the 1960s and 1970s, the Montana press had experienced its first breath of freedom. Both the Missoulian and the Great Falls Tribune developed for a time into excellent papers for the size of their cities. However, since the early 1990s, both have unfortunately developed a tabloid format emphasizing provincial and "folksy" perspectives in their news approach instead of cultivating a broader and more international outlook in their readership.[Back]

  8. In 1919, following an investigation by the AAUP, UM reinstated Levine, but never publicly explained the reasons for his suspension. Levine chose to leave the state.[Back]

  9. Toole, 138.[Back]

  10. An interesting case, which exposed some of the differences between UM's and MSU's attitudes toward political dissension was that of Ron Perrin. Perrin was a professor of philosophy from Vermont hired at MSU in 1969. He was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and left the Bozeman university when it was made clear to him by the administration that because of his political views he could never expect to receive tenure. In 1972, despite the public controversy over Perrin's politics, he was hired by the UM philosophy department. Perrin currently teaches at UM and received the UM Outstanding Teachers' Award in 1986. Another example of the differences between UM and MSU was their treatment of Leslie Fiedler. Fiedler was an English professor at UM, and a controversial literary critic. In 1960, he was invited by the MSU chapter of the AFT to speak at the Bozeman university. In reaction to Fiedler's reputation in the state, MSU president Roland Renne vetoed Fiedler's lecture, forcing him to speak off campus.[Back]

  11. UM Office of Institutional Research.[Back]

  12. Since the completion of this paper, UM faculty voted for a contract which promises to raise their salaries on the condition of increased work loads, and the understanding that such raises may also require the reduction of faculty lines.[Back]

  13. H.G. Merriam (ed.), The Arts in Montana (Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Co., 1977), 160.[Back]

  14. Ibid., 160.[Back]

  15. Terry Melton, "The Arts and Their Funding in the Northwest," in The Arts in Montana (Missoula: The Montana Arts Council, 1978), 39.[Back]

  16. Jane Alexander, "Closing Remarks," Artist Search July/August 1994 (Helena: The Montana Arts Council): 4.[Back]

  17. Lee Enterprises, which owns the Missoulian also publishes a small catalog entitled "Uniquely Montana" which advertises a slick blend of tourist oriented products such as fishing poles, camping tents in "authentic" Indian styles, golf clubs and home made preserves along with the works of selected "Uniquely Montana" painters and sculptors who stress their concern for the environment, love of wild animals, and general "reverence" for life.[Back]

  18. While criticizing the university, it is important to remember that throughout Montana history, there have always been outstanding individuals, both in and outside the colleges, who have fought for higher educational standards and a fuller understanding of state history and culture. Some noted examples are: Joseph Kinsey Howard, H.G. Merriam, K. Ross Toole, Lucille Speer, Maxine Blackmer, and Edmund Freeman.[Back]

  19. In view of the Anaconda Co.'s historical record of interfering in state politics, one might ask why they did not do so at this time. The answer according to K. Ross Toole (The Rape of the Great Plains, 84) lies in the catastrophic economic decline of the company. Between 1969 and 1971, its market value plunged from $1.4 billion to $260 million. In addition, its holdings in Chile were threatened by the socialist Allende government.[Back]

  20. A notable exception to the recent rush of artists to regionalism is the Missoula artist Jay Rummel. Rummel is an outstanding printmaker and ceramist who for over thirty years, and when it was highly unpopular to do so, devoted his art to the integration of Modernism with Montana themes.[Back]

  21. Toole, 290.[Back]

  22. Leslie Fiedler (ed.), The Art of the Essay (New York: Y. Crowell Company, 1958), 169.[Back]

  23. Ibid., 169.[Back]

  24. S. Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983).[Back]

  25. The WPA program of the New Deal had begun unprecedented research into the history of indigenous American culture and art. Rural America, so often excluded from the urban art world, was especially the beneficiary of the work. But following the demise of the WPA in 1943 and the end of WWII, the visual arts turned again toward urban styles of abstraction.[Back]


Barzun, Jacques. The Use and Abuse of Art. Princeton and London: Princeton University Press, 1974.

Ewers, John C. Artists of the Old West. New York: Doubleday and Co., 1973.

Fiedler, Leslie. The Art of the Essay. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell Company, 1958.

---. The Return of the Vanishing American. New York: Stein and Day, 1968.

Gunther, John. Inside U.S.A. New York and London: Harper and Brothers, 1947.

Howard, Joseph Kinsey. Montana: High, Wide, and Handsome. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1943.

Kittredge, William, and Annick Smith, eds. The Last Best Place. Helena, Montana: Historical Society Press, 1988.

Merriam, H.G. The Arts in Montana. Missoula: Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1977.

---. The University of Montana: A History. Missoula: University of Montana Press, 1970.

Rydell, Robert, Jeffrey Safford, and Pierce Mullen. In The People's Interest: A Centennial History of Montana State University. Bozeman: Montana State University Foundation, 1992.

Smurr, J.W., and K. Ross Toole. Historical Essays on Montana and the Northwest. Helena: Western Press, Historical Society of Montana, 1957.

Steinbeck, John. Travels with Charley. New York: The Viking Press, 1962.

Tomkins, Calvin. The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant Garde. New York: Penguin, 1965.

Toole, K. Ross. Montana: An Uncommon Land. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1959.

---. The Rape of the Great Plains. Boston & Toronto: An Atlantic Monthly Press Book, Little, Brown and Company, 1976.

---. The Time Has Come. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1971.

---. Twentieth Century Montana: A State of Extremes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972.

Supplemental Readings and Recordings

Anderson, C.R. Know Your Schools: Public Education in Montana. Helena: State Publishing Company, 1972.

"Art Auction: Twenty-First Annual Paperworks." Missoula: Missoula Museum of the Arts, 1992.

"The Arts in Montana." Missoula: Montana Arts Council, 1978.

Burlingame, Merrill G. "Montana." Encyclopedia Americana. Vol. 19, 1992. 391-404.

Constitution of the State of Montana as Adopted by the Constitutional Convention of the Territory of Montana. Helena: Fisk Brothers, Printers and Binders, 1894.

Elliott, Edward C. "The Ranking of Montana's Educational System." Educational Review 62.2 (September 1921).

Howard, Joseph Kinsey. "On Montana Education." (Reprint from Montana Educational Review, Helena, Montana, 1946.)

Kangas, Matthew. Autio. Missoula: University of Montana, 1988.

Malone, Michael. "Montana." Collier's Encyclopedia. Vol. 16, 1992. 485-499.

"Montana's Historic and Cultural Resources." A Report to the Forty-Sixth Legislature. Helena: Montana Legislative Council, 1978.

"Montana." New Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia. 15th Ed. 1993. Vol. XXIX.

"Montana Arts Council Artist Search." Helena: Montana Arts Council, July-August, 1994.

"Paris Gibson Square's First Annual Equinox Exhibit and Auction." Great Falls: Paris Gibson Square Center for Contemporary Arts, 1990.

Perrin, Ron, and James G. Todd. "Montana At the Crossroads." Audiotape. Missoula: University of Montana, April 28, 1977.

"The Proposed 1972 Constitution for the State of Montana." Supplement to thirteen Montana daily newspapers, 1972.

Riley, Emmet J. Development of the Montana State Educational Organization 1864-1930. A Dissertation. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1931.

Speer, Lucille. "We, the People...An Introduction to the Montana Constitutional Convention." Bozeman: Montana State University, 1972.

"Uniquely Montana--A Catalog of Uniquely Montana Products," Missoula: Missoulian, 1993.

"Yellowstone Art Center 25th Annual Art Auction." Billings, MT: Yellow stone Art Center, 1993.

"Yellowstone Art Center 26th Annual Art Auction." Billings, MT: Yellowstone Art Center, 1994.

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