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Cultivating community through accessible arts experiences for all. 


I (heart) the Missoula Monster Project

I remember the first time I heard about the ZACC’s Missoula Monster Project. It was the first year of community-wide version of the project, in 2015, well before I worked for the ZACC. One of my closest girlfriends, who was an extremely busy Montessori school teacher, told me about it. She had signed up and was really excited to create her monster. “How are you going to find time to do that?”, I’d said to her. “I’ll make time,” she said. “It’s just so cool – I have to do it.” I looked at the description online – a gallery show where adults recreate monsters dreamed up by kindergartners?! She was right. It was really, really cool. I had to do it, too.  

My monster was an adorable little blue guy with green spikes for hair. He wore green pants with footies (but no shirt) and had a penchant for apricots. My friend, the Montessori teacher, named him Zanderblot (since my kindergartener hadn’t given him a name). I rarely make time for myself to create my own artwork, mostly because the act of imagining requires a clear and open headspace – so getting out my paints and ink and really appreciating the vision and imagination of a child was cathartic for me. The child artist had already done their own imagining, so I was able to find that clarity and layer my own imagination on theirs with ease. When I went with her to view the show at the old ZACC on the Northside, I was amazed. Seeing the youth monsters hung next to their adult counterparts for the first time, I was a little overwhelmed with the magic of it. Viewing my creation in the ZACC gallery alongside the child’s monster was moving in a way not much else is. I still love Zanderblot, a lot. I hope he still loves apricots. 

Seeing these monsters over the years, the children’s visions and their adult recreations, is always one of the highlights of my year, and one of the most wonderful things about my job. And it’s a highlight that I’m always so excited to share with the rest of the community. I hope you’ll join us this year for the 9th Annual Missoula Monster Project Opening, happening on First Friday, October 6, from 5 to 8 PM. This year our MMP partner, the Missoula County Public Schools Fine Arts Department, selected the kindergarten classes from Russell, Jeannette Rankin, and Paxson elementaries to participate – and their monsters are fantastic! And, in addition to the opening, we have a special treat for families. Cowboy Andy & The Salamanders are holding their album release party during the event in our venue, The Show Room, and it’s free and open to all! Grab a beverage from our in-venue bar and dance till you drop with your own little monsters. There will also be monster cake. There is always monster cake. 

Hope to see all you fabulous monsters very soon! 


Artist Ann Karp of Sideways Gaze
  • Caitlyn Stainken Buhl, ZACC Executive Director
    Caitlyn Stainken Buhl, ZACC Executive Director

    At the ZACC, we believe in the intrinsic value of art creation, and the power of the arts to deepen connections, transform our understanding of self and community, and inspire joy.

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