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Billings seeking artist-in-residence to beautify bike path

Goal is to boost community engagement in arts
Artist Terri Porta reflects on her most recent mural
Posted at 5:40 PM, Nov 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-01 19:40:20-04

BILLINGS — The city of Billings is searching for one or two creative individuals to take on a new artist-in-residence position.

The residency program, Mobilize the MAGIC City, is aimed at involving art and artists in everyday civic life.

Artists will work closely with the community to plan and create art installments over a 12-month period.

While artists have collaborated with the city and local businesses in the past, this is a brand-new role focused on community engagement.

Mobile the MAGIC City flyer front
Mobile the MAGIC City flyer front

MTN News spoke with two women leading the project on Tuesday.

Elyse Monat works with the city as the active transportation manager. Eden Sowards works with Healthy by Design, one of the partners for this project, as the community health improvement manager.

“This is the first time that we’ve had something like this, but we know that it’s successful across the country. Different places have used artist-in-residence in order to improve health, safety, economic development, public engagement, and things like that,” Monat says.

Mobile the MAGIC City flyer back
Mobile the MAGIC City flyer back

While this is the first time this program is being offered by the city, Billings has a long history of working with artists to produce art installations across the city.

Local artist Terri Porta has multiple installations throughout the city, like murals at MSU Billings and a structural piano on 27th Street.

Artist Terri Porta
Artist Terri Porta

Porta just completed her most recent project, a COVID-19 mural downtown honoring lives lost in Yellowstone County.

“That opportunity came along because I’m doing work with COVID people, and they saw that opportunity and were like, ‘Yeah, let’s do a mural,' and it came about in a great way,” Porta said Tuesday.

COVID-19 Mural
COVID-19 Mural

The mural also has a hand-painted QR code nearby that links to information on the mural.

Porta was joined in her project with the Yellowstone Art Museum teen group, the Downtown Billings Alliance and the AmeriCorps Vistas.

While the majority of the mural is complete, Porta is looking to the community to submit letters to be featured in the mural.

“There are letters from people who have lost people to COVID and it’s like a memorial to them,” Porta says. "I’m looking for more community support in the notes, I have room on the board for at least 20 more."

To submit a letter to a lost loved one for the mural, Porta says you can visit her website.

Porta explains that being an artist in Billings allows her to work closely with other artists and lean on them for help.

“It’s exciting for me personally to know so many artists in town and be connected to them, and know that I can just say, ‘You gotta help me out,’ and they’re like ‘Yes, what can we do,’” Porta explains. “None of my murals actually are one person doing it all, it’s always a team of people. I usually will bring in other artists as well to help me."

Artists collaborating—exactly what the city of Billings is looking for.

“Getting that engagement and feedback from residents through that process really does create a sense of pride in a neighborhood and in a community,” explains Sowards of Healthy by Design. “This project can really improve the walkability aspect, and people being able to connect with one another, and going and visiting a really cool place to socialize and feel like they’re part of something."

The artist in residency would be required to create two projects, called creative placemaking hubs, along a bikeway planned through the center of town. In addition, the artist must document their work as a roadmap for future artists. The compensation is a $25,000 stipend for the year.

An online webinar was held on Tuesday to give artists a chance to learn more, and will be uploaded to the city's website as well.

Applications for the position are open now until Nov. 28 at 5 p.m. and can be found on the city's website or by clicking here.

The program is being made possible through the National Endowment of the Arts Our Town grant. Partners include the Billings Arts Association, City of Billings, Healthy by Design, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“The art that’s produced is really important, but the process is also really important," explains Elyse Monat. "So you really want to engage residents to see what they want to see in their community, and help give them a sense of ownership."