By Abigail Hogan EBS Contributor

The Big Timber Arts Roundup—a three-day arts intensive student retreat—is nothing short of a magical experience. From Oct. 19-22, with approximately 40 students from Montana, Pennsylvania and California, I got to spend hours a day working with creative professionals who provided strong guidance and helped us to improve our work. Each student focused on one of four disciplines: photography, painting, acting and writing. My area of focus this year was theater.

Participating students, artists and teachers stay at the Hobble Diamond Ranch, owned by Bob and Susan Burch, during the roundup. The 32,000-acre ranch boasts fall-colored cottonwoods, rolling hills, lots of cows, the Yellowstone River, and plenty more to explore.

“The trip could be in a parking lot and it might as well be just as fun,” said Liam James, a senior student and actor from the Haverford School in Philadelphia. “It’s the people who make it what it is.”

Each student got an exclusive one-on-one experience with artists that included writers Paul Zarzyski, Kim and Janet Zupan, and Claire Davis; painter Diana Brady, photographer Barbara Van Cleave, and actors from Montana Shakespeare in the Schools.

I have had the privilege to attend the Big Timber Arts Roundup my sophomore, junior, and now, my senior year, but for most students, the trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity. In previous years, I attended for writing and theater.

Artistic experiences like this are a great way to keep the arts alive in schools. It is so important for schools to encourage and support students’ artistic endeavors. The arts can be an outlet for students who need a way to express themselves and can lead to different ways of thinking in core academic classes like math, science, history and English.

The roundup introduced me to amazing artists who are willing to continue helping me with my craft and students who will always be my friends. The roundup helped me form a clearer vision for my future. I plan to continue studying the arts in college next fall. Down the road, my goals are to publish works of poetry, a play and maybe a novel; and to be performing in plays outside of school, and hopefully auditioning for big productions.

Abigail Hogan is a senior at Lone Peak High School.