What is art? Lewistown Art Center expands media

By: 
Charlie Denison
Reporter

Adam McKinney does part of his HaMapah/The Map dance atop the Judiths earlier this month. HaMapah/The Map, McKinney said, “weaves contemporary dance with archival material, personal interviews, Yiddish and American songs, and video set to traditional, contemporary and classical music.” 
Photo courtesy of Adam McKinney 

 
Sisters Marcia Losh, left, and Phyllis Arnold will celebrate the release of their book, “If Everybody Did It,” on Saturday, Aug. 26 at the Lewistown Art Center. Marcia wrote the book and Phyllis illustrated it. Other local authors will also sign books at the event. 
Photo by Charlie Denison

 

 This month, the Lewistown Art Center is presenting the community with a variety of art forms, from dance to comedy to literature. 

“Over the past six months, we’ve really kept with the mission of being more of an activity center and not just a retail space,” Art Center Program Director Leah Grunzke said. “We have different takes on what art is to people.” 

On Aug. 12, the Art Center expanded into the medium of performance art, hosting Adam McKinney, a dancer from Fort Worth, who came to Lewistown with his DNAWORKS partner, Daniel Banks, along with Laura Bustillos Jáquez, a documentarian and photographer. Through DNAWORKS, McKinney and Banks put together HaMapah/The Map, a genealogical dance project tracing McKinney’s roots. 

McKinney’s performance, and the entire HaMapah/TheMap project, has a mission: to create work that most defies the idea and construction of race in ways that locate and celebrate his ancestry. 

“I want to share an accurate story of my being,” McKinney said, “but, in turn, I want it to create ripples in society. That is our mission: how can the arts manifest these ripples of healing, closeness and community?” 

This is the second trip McKinney, Banks and Jáquez have taken together for HaMapah/TheMap. Their first took them to Poland for two weeks, where McKinney learned a great deal about his family’s ancestry. 

This time, McKinney and crew – who live in Texas – traveled to Lewistown, tracing the path of McKinney’s great-grandfather, Harry Alweis, who moved to Harlowton in the early 1900s. Harry’s brother, Joe, moved to Lewistown around the same time to open men’s clothing stores. He owned a few buildings in town, including the one occupied by the Art Center. 

Being here and being in the old Alweis buildings meant a great deal to McKinney, as it helped him understand his identity. It also helped him understand this particular culture, thanks in large part to the people who came out to his performance. 

“I’m looking for myself, but I’m also looking for other people,” McKinney said. “I’m looking for inherent connections.” 

Such connections were made Aug. 12. Following McKinney’s performance – which Grunzke said was “incredible” – an intimate discussion took place. 

“The audience was invited to share their own stories and talk about what it meant to be from a place or from a people,” Grunzke said. “It got really personal. People talked about their relationship with their family’s religion, or what it felt like to not be from here and create a new life. There were some powerful discussions. We felt fortunate such stories were shared.” 

HaMapah/TheMap was a unique event, Grunzke said, and she hopes the art center can host something like it again sometime. 

“I think it’s important we can host these kinds of events,” Grunzke said. “If we are going to serve as a hub of arts and culture in the community, we have to embrace all mediums of the art world. I think it’s important for a small town to offer this kind of diversity.” 

Art Center to host variety comedy show 

This Thursday Fergus High School graduate Jacob Godbey and partner-in-crime Alex Tait bring their comedy act, “Gingers on Ice,” to Lewistown for the first time. The show takes place at the old TV Appliance building. 

Godbey, a Lewistown native, said it’s bittersweet, as this is also one of their last shows for a while. Next week, Godbey – a recent University of Montana graduate – moves to Los Angeles to pursue a career in comedy. 

“Alex and I will probably work together again in the future, but he still has another year of school left,” Godbey said. 

It’s been a good run, he added, as “Gingers on Ice” went on a tour last year, playing in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City and even Pocatello, Idaho. 

It’s going to be a fun night of comedy, Godbey said, and he hopes to see people come out -- other than his relatives. 

“I know my grandma sold, like, 50 tickets so I’m expecting a good crowd,” Godbey said. “I’m excited to finally do our show in Lewistown. It’s our goal to shock people within reason. Don’t worry. We will tone down the profanity.” 

Godbey said a lot of people in town will see a different side of him, and he’s excited to share that side. 

“This isn’t a pep band performance,” he said. “It’s a different ball park.” 

Looking forward to coming home, Godbey said he appreciates the Lewistown Art Center staff for making this show possible. 

“I’d like to thank the Art Center for giving us this opportunity and for making it more than a comedy show,” he said. 

There will be a welcoming atmosphere, Godbey said, with food and even some live music. 

“I think this is going to be a cool event for the community and one people will remember,” Godbey said. “I hope it inspires the Art Center to bring more comedy acts to town.” 

Doors open at 6 p.m. and the live music begins at 6:30. Tickets are available at the Art Center. The old TV Appliance building is located at 409 W. Main Street. 

Book signing Saturday at Lewistown Art Center 

Sisters Marcia Losh and Phyllis “Runi” Arnold recently collaborated on a children’s book, “If Everybody Did It,” written by Marcia and illustrated by Runi. At 2 p.m., the pair will share the book during a children’s collage workshop, and local singer/ songwriter Christie Aldrich will add a musical twist. 

What’s the book about, you ask? 

“A girl and her mom are out walking and they go to a lake,” Marcia explained. “The lake is covered with flowers. The little girls asks if she can pick one, and her mom says ‘I am going to tell you a story. When I finish, you can decide whether or not you want to pick a flower.” 

The mom then tells a story about a similar lake covered in flowers. 

“All the people in that village picked one of the flowers, leaving the lake without any,” Marcia said. “Part of the biome has been removed and the rest suffers because of the decline. So, in the end, the girl gets to make her own decision. She now knows what happens as a result of her action. It comes down to actions have consequences. The book is meant to empower children and make them understand the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y they have.” 

“The story also is about how if one person does something it’s often no big deal, but if everyone does it, it can destroy something,” Runi said. “It’s a chain reaction.” 

Marcia said the book was inspired by her daughter, and the idea actually came to her 15 years ago while she was taking a digital storytelling class. 

“We had to write a story for that class, and I wrote it but didn’t illustrate it,” Marcia said. “Then when I saw the whimsical illustrations Runi was doing, it all came together. I thought her style was perfect for it.” 

Runi agreed. 

“It took me a year to create all the pictures,” Runi said. “It was a fun project. We work really well together, especially since we have such different skills. She did a great job editing, I put together the pictures and she laid it out. It was pretty cool.” 

Like Marcia, Runi is also a writer, and her novel “Praying Dove” is also available at the Art Center. Other local writers will be available during the book signing, such as Maxine Melton, Louise Langford and Lisa and Jessica Ferguson. 

Local singer/songwriter Dave Rummans will perform during the book signing, which takes place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. 

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