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High school intern shares a message of sustainability through Public Arts Program

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Big Sky Arts Council high school intern, Madison Strauss, stands next to an art-wrapped utility box in Big Sky Town Center. PHOTO BY MIRA BRODY

By Mira Brody EBS ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR

BIG SKY — At the corner of Lone Mountain Trail and Ousel Falls Road in Big Sky Town Center sits a large, green utility box wrapped with a colorful rendition of Lone Peak. The piece in question, commissioned by local artist Heather Rapp, is one of roughly 40 decorated boxes in the community—a design fixture rendered via the Arts Council of Big Sky’s Public Art Program bent on the enrichment of the Big Sky public art experience for visitors and residents alike.

With the help of Madison Strauss, this year’s ACBS student intern, the ACBS will continue this mission with three new utility box wraps as well as a new sculpture installation of her own creation in town.

“I think the public art in Big Sky is especially important to the community because it all directly relates to what the community members enjoy and connect with,” said Strauss, a junior at Lone Peak High School.

Strauss’ internship is baked into the ACBS’s education program, which facilitates opportunities for Big Sky kids to foster creativity beyond what’s possible in the classroom and to collaborate with local artists for inspiration and mentorship. She is working alongside Education and Outreach Director Megan Buecking to connect with artists interested in having their art displayed on a utility box, and this year they are embracing an increasingly relevant theme: sustainability.

“I think it’s important particularly now because we have so much growth,” said Buecking. “These boxes will be a good reminder of how we can manage our growth and take care of our environment at the same time.”

The tradition of beautifying Big Sky’s utility boxes began in 2015 when student Dasha Bough conceived “Art on the Streets,” a central piece of her high school senior art project in partnership with the ACBS and the Big Sky Rotary Club. Since then, the organization’s education program has grown steadily, working with the school district and offering flexible internships that allow students to volunteer, coordinate trips and events and work on art projects of their own. During Strauss’ tenure, she will coordinate the Seattle Art Venture Field Trip, and complete her own installation piece made completely from recycled materials.

The young artist and conservationist believes art is a great way to communicate sometimes-difficult subjects because it serves as a unifying language, allowing the viewer to interpret it in a way that best speaks to them.

“I think that art plays a really large role in unifying the community because it can bring together people from different groups or areas of the community to unify towards one certain topic,” said Strauss. “If someone is maybe a little hesitant to speak out about their opinion on a difficult topic, art is a really great way to express it.”

“People use art in so many different ways to communicate their passions or message,” said Buecking of their Public Arts Program. “It’s a good vessel for getting your thoughts out into the world in a visual way.”

As beautiful as the landscape stands on its own, today it’s hard to imagine Big Sky devoid of its public art features. Whether through utility boxes, sculpture installations or live music, the program serves as a way to exhibit the town’s personality, increasingly rich history and support for local artists—to the benefit of the passerby, but more importantly to those lucky enough to call Big Sky home.

GET INVOLVED

ACBS encourages artists of all ages and skill levels to submit work for their call for utility box art. Applications are due by March 31, and can be found at bigskyarts.org/programs/publicart/

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