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ARTventure immerses Big Sky students in Seattle art scene

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BIG SKY – On March 7, twelve juniors from Lone Peak High School traveled to Seattle for five days as part of the ARTventure program, created and organized by Executive Director of the Arts Council of Big Sky, Brian Hurlbut, and Megan Buecking, a middle and high school art teacher with the Big Sky School District.

Debuting during the 2016-2017 school year, the ARTventure program was designed to introduce students to the world of art and culture through a series of field trips for freshmen, sophomores and juniors. While freshmen- and sophomore-year ARTventures occur locally, juniors head to Seattle for several days of “experiential creative thinking that transcends any academic curriculum,” according to Buecking.

“We have some great artists in Big Sky but compared to any city we have limited access to galleries, studios and creative outlets,” Buecking said. “I saw the ARTventure program as an opportunity for my students to experience art in person on a whole new level.”

What makes ARTventure unique from other programs that take students on trips to see art is its flexibility in programming. Because Hurlbut and Buecking plan and organize the event, specific experiences and topics relevant to individual students who participate in the program can be attended.

Further, the trip can open students’ eyes to different and unique opportunities in the creative field. “When I was younger, nobody really told me about these interesting careers that were out there,” said Hurlbut. “We want to make sure that our students have the opportunity to broaden their horizons with interesting, educational and cultural experiences.”

Students walking through China Town. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGAN BUECKING

“Another difference between the program and others that may be similar is the realness,” said Buecking. “We don’t get a candy-coated version of Seattle and only visit tourist destinations. We go off the beaten path to visit a lot of different neighborhoods and venues.”

Some highlights from this year’s Seattle trip include visits to the Seattle Symphony, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle Pinball Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Olympic Sculpture Park, a Hugo House writing workshop, and Photographic Center Northwest, among others. “The theater production we went to this year was incredible. It was ‘American Junkie,’ based on a memoir written by a Seattle musician and his struggle with heroin addiction,” said Hurlbut. “We had the students read the book beforehand and then compare it to the play.”

Another aspect of the Seattle trip, according to Hurlbut, is its goal to introduce students to creative career paths that aren’t thought of everyday, such as lighting and sound design, gallery curation and public art administrators.

“A common misconception about the Seattle trip is that it is only for really invested visual arts students,” said Buecking. “It is actually a trip focused on the creative arts, which is an umbrella term for all types of creativity. Concepts we focus on during the trip are music, creative writing, theater and drama, technology design, architecture, visual arts, society and culture, critical thinking and the dynamics between all of these things.”

Students checking out street art near Pioneer Square. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEGAN BUECKING

ARTventure is also an avenue for participants to see and visit a new place, especially for students who haven’t traveled far from their hometown or state. For some students, the Seattle trip meant leaving Montana, seeing the Pacific Coast or flying on an airplane for the first time. “We want to get kids out of Big Sky and let them experience a vibrant urban area, something many have surprisingly yet to experience,” said Hurlbut. “We think it’s important for them to see how other people live and experience the cultural and societal differences one encounters in a large urban area.”

“Regardless of the student’s previous travel experiences, they have never been on such an immersive experience in a city’s art culture,” said Buecking. “It is a lot to take in, but I think that they all carry with them a deeper understanding of the arts and culture after the trip. Sharing the experience with their friends and peers adds another dimension and gives them an opportunity to build new and stronger bonds.”

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