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Billings’ first artist-in-residence gets to work



Billings, Montana – You may recognize some of her work around town, such as the mural on the way to the airport on the campus of MSU-B, which was one of the requirements for her selection as the first artist-in-residence for the City of Billings. The goal is to raise awareness about an important issue while also illuminating a dim area and transforming this tunnel into a safe space. This is the concept that will be implemented throughout the entire city.

“The MSU-B mural is one that I got with Big Sky Economic Development, and we put up one all about the missing and murdered indigenous people and each one of those shards represents somebody who has been lost in that tragedy,” said Terri Porta, the city’s new artist-in-residence.

“We selected local artist Terri Porta, she’s done a lot of public art around Billings and we were very impressed with her public art,” said Elyse Monat, the active transportation planner in the Billings City/County Planning Division.

“I’m super excited for the position,” Porta said. “The contract is signed and I am an artist-in-residence. We want to go out to the neighborhood. We want to talk to people from our cultural centers around town and we want to talk to donors.”

The position of Porta is made possible thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in the amount of $50,000, which was presented to the city in collaboration with the Billings Arts Association and the Healthy By Design Coalition, in addition to matching funds.

“We’re also looking for donors,” said Monat. “This is going to be a really high-visibility project I think and it also helps bring national attention to Billings because those national endowment for the arts grants are just so coveted.”

The historic flood that occurred in 1937 is depicted on a mural that was painted by Porta and is located in the parking garage of City Hall.

To finish it took four months of working from 8 to 5 every day and thousands of conversations with members of the community. This is exactly what the city wants as Porta collaborates on at least two placemaking projects over the next year.

“I realized I had almost 3,000 interactions while I was doing this,” Porta said.

“Sidewalk poetry could be an idea,” Monat said. “Healthy by Design has done a lot of work and they did some sidewalk poetry on the southside where they stamped sidewalks with poems created by residents.”

It’s using art as a tool to help make the community more aesthetically pleasing, to help make it safer, and to help people feel more ownership over where they live.

“If you hear that I’m coming to your community group or somewhere in your task force, please come out and talk to me,” Porta said. “I’d love to see and talk to all of you about this amazing project.

Porta is a recent graduate of Montana State University–Billings and spent the month of January 2018 working as an artist-in-residence in France.

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