Never let it be said that spending a night in the pokey (the tank, the lock-up, the Cross Bar Hotel) won’t have a profound effect on a person. After all, many of history’s greatest movers and shakers—Henry David Thoreau, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., to name but a few—have creased the sheets in the Hoosegow Suite in the name of social justice, and Missoula’s own are no exception.
To wit, when the big yellow school bus that ferried two dozen or so Montanans to the anti-WTO rallies returned from Seattle earlier this month, it was a few bodies shy of its original load. Evidently, University of Montana freshman Rob Garrity and junior Katie Crawley who founded the Students for Justice, Freedom and Humanity got themselves hauled off by the Seattle PD and spent a couple of nights in custody of His Majesty, King County. Despite their nonviolent civil disobedience, both were booked on counts of resisting arrest and failure to disperse, even though they say the police made no effort to disperse crowds and gave no verbal instructions to the protesters. Both were released on their own recognizance, and late last Friday, Crawley and Garrity were spotted leading a crowd of about 40 anti-WTO marchers from the UM Oval to Bernice’s Bakery, where they joined others in celebrating the 51st anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With car horns honking in support along Higgins Avenue, Crawley and Garrity have managed to keep the momentum from Seattle rolling, proof positive that individual actions do matter.
And this just in: Artists aren’t in it for the money. That’s right. In case the mad, mainstream media have led you to believe that artists are all somehow living off Uncle Sam and taking pictures of urine-soaked crucifixes instead of getting real jobs, recent developments may yet dissuade you. On Wednesday, the National Endowment for the Arts—the famously embattled federal agency that now wants to be known only as The Endowment—announced its list of grants for fiscal year 2000, and not a single Missoula arts group was tapped to get the goods. In fact, the entire state of Montana garnered just a meager $40,000, which will be parceled out among the Montana Ballet Company, the Helena Presents production company and Paris Gibson Square in Great Falls. In all, the Treasure State will get 0.2 percent of the dough that the NEA is giving out this year.
But still, it’s not quite dusk on the horizon for Missoula artists. Just last week, the Montana Arts Council unveiled its own list of grantees—this one for its Individual Arts Awards—and two Missoulians were among them. Painter Patricia Forsberg and photographer Darren Guyaz each made the cut to win one of the eight final prizes, earning them a cool $2,000 a head and, perhaps more importantly, a measure of public recognition that has become a rare and beautiful thing in these parts. All we can say is, Michelle Shocked was right: Artists make lousy slaves.