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MCT's "little red trucks"

The Missoula Children's Theatre's fleet of little red touring trucks are seen outside of MCT Inc.'s East Broadway headquarters, the MCT Center for the Performing Arts.

This week, the National Endowment for the Arts announced nearly a $1 million in grant money for Montana arts projects and organizations.

It's the second found of funding announcements for the fiscal year from the agency, which has been marked for elimination in President Donald Trump's budget.

The Montana Arts Council received the largest grant: $779,700, marked for NEA-approved state strategic plan. The council is a state government agency with a wide range of programs and services, that in one way or another, funds arts activities in every county in the state.

The annual NEA grant is "a large chunk of our current and future funding," said Kristin Han Burgoyne, one of the council's interim co-directors.

Eliminating the endowments would have "a significantly higher impact on a rural state like Montana than it would on a state that has a more urban population center," she said.


In Missoula, $20,000 will go to the Big Sky Film Institute for its annual DocShop conference, held during the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

At DocShop, upcoming filmmakers can attend workshops and panels with visiting professionals and pitch projects. At February's conference, local filmmakers successfully earned $20,000 from Tribeca Film Institute in New York for a project on refugees' new lives here in Missoula.

The Missoula Writing Collaborative will receive $25,000 for "Main Streets to the Mountains: Mapping Missoula in Poetry." The project combines poetry and art by local children, digital interactive elements and a public art display.

MCT Inc. will get $30,000 to bring its Missoula Children's Theatre productions to small, arts-deprived communities and U.S. military bases, where local kids will spend a week staging and starring in a play.

Some grants are statewide with results will be seen or felt in the Missoula area.

Montana State University, on behalf of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, received $25,000 for the annual summer tour. This year, a troupe will bring the Bard's "Macbeth" and George Bernard Shaw's "You Never Can Tell" to communities around the state and region for free performances, many outdoors. (Here in Missoula, that means the popular staging on the Oval at the University of Montana in September.)

The state Office of Public Instruction got $30,000 for a project with the arts council to help teachers "integrate arts into the curriculum" at a summer institute and networking. Candidates can apply through an open process, and organizers will reach out to rural, geographically isolated schools and schools with a majority American Indian population on the Flathead Reservation.

The 2017 Montana Folk Festival in Butte received $30,000 to fund its 10th gathering, which will bring music from around the world to Montana on July 7-9. The free event draws thousands of people each year.

The Art Mobile of Montana will get $20,000 for its traveling exhibition of contemporary artwork by Montanans. The bus, and accompanying artist presentations, travels around the state and to the reservations.

Lastly, an arts group in Bozeman called Haven is marked for $10,000 to produce a theater performance based on real stories of victims of domestic violence.


Trump's proposed 2018 budget aims to eliminate many federal agencies, including the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The budget includes funds for the "orderly closeout" of the agencies, beginning at the start of fiscal year 2018, which begins this October.

The NEA has noted on its website that the request is "a first step in a very long budget process" and the agency continues to accept grant applications for the coming fiscal year and will "continue to operate as usual until a new budget is enacted by Congress."

Previous efforts to shutter the NEA and the NEH were not successful, in part because of backlash from constituents over the loss of programs, which are more noticeable in rural states where privately funded arts aren't as common.