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Seventeen and loaded, and Missoula pavement art


What kind of girl reads Seventeen magazine? Well, probably all kinds. But in addition to its boy-crazy target demographic, the gloss-o-riffic pages of America’s favorite teen mag attract all sorts of renegade twentysomething males who are quick to justify their discomfiting fondness for pictures of cavorting teenagers. “But I only read it for the articles,” whines a certain Indy staff writer, whom we will henceforth refer to as “C. Kid.” “And their top-flight coverage of the events that shape my world.”

However suspect his rationale, we owe “C.K.” and his stack of Seventeen magazines a small debt of gratitude for bringing this newsworthy item to light: A Missoula teen was recently honored for her volunteer work by Seventeen and Cover Girl Cosmetics. Brynn Henkel, 17, was selected as one of six young women nationwide whose leadership, initiative and extraordinary commitment to public service have positively influenced their communities and the world at large.

Henkel, who will share an award package of $100,000 in scholarships and savings bonds with her five co-winners and 24 runners-up, is co-founder of Paint Up Montana, a non-profit that recruits volunteers to repaint the homes of the needy and elderly. Through government grants and donations from local businesses, Paint Up Montana provides paint, brushes, rollers, ladders—and the necessary elbow grease to get the job done. In the past two years, Henkel and close to 900 volunteers have fixed up and painted 52 area homes. Nice going, Brynn!

Ah, summertime on Higgins Avenue. There’s so much offered to the eager eye this time of year on Missoula’s main promenade. Vagrants demanding handouts. Incense sellers and quick-lunch stands. Tourist couples in their matching T-shirts. And that guy who’s always asking if he can sharpen your knife. But a new addition has made its appearance in Missoula’s downtown cityscape: graffiti, or as the more liberal elements are calling it these days, text art.

In recent weeks, new outbursts of creativity have manifested themselves on our downtown sidewalks—a little punchier than the city-sponsored “Dump No Waste” signs, and a little more thought-provoking than those pastel-painted phrases that showed up about a year ago, issuing such dictates as “Create,” “Evolve,” and “Stoners Unite.” No, these show a little more effort. They are complete sentences, spray-painted through stencils and apparently intended to stimulate thought among the denizens of downtown.

“Stop and Think,” one of them reads on the pavement in front of a local bar. “Your Bottle Is Empty And So Are You.” “We Have Exchanged the Possibility of Dying of Hunger,” another one says, steps away from a fly shop, “For the Promise That We Will Die of Boredom.”

Some say these pithy little guerrilla sayings are not much more interesting than the four-year-old litany of Third World countries emblazoned on the Higgins Bridge. Others, though, point out that there are big-time artists who have made careers out of posting provocative texts in public places, New York’s Jenny Holzer, for instance, once used the Times Square Jumbo-Tron to bear phrases like: “Protect Me From What I Want,” a slogan that has since been stenciled in front of a bar downtown.

So is it art or is it garbage? You be the judge.

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