Five years ago on Sunday, June 28, 2008, the Missoulian ran a front page story about my appointment by then Governor Brian Schweitzer to the Montana Arts Council with the headline, “Appointee a mystery to the arts community.” The article was a bit skeptical of my non-arts background and the potential for me to make a contribution.
Frankly, I was also skeptical of my appointment as I didn’t know any staff or board members and I was pretty much unaware of the council’s mission and work. Coming from the business world, I was also concerned about working with a government agency and the potential for bureaucratic thinking and behavior.
I’m happy to say my skepticism was unmerited. I found the staff of the Arts Council and other council board members to be professional, dedicated, creative and hardworking. The staff is dedicated and focused on helping artists and arts organizations be more economically successful, increasing opportunities for people across the state to participate in arts events and experiences, and working to enhance arts education programs in Montana schools.
Arni Fishbaugh, the council’s executive director, is an outstanding leader. Under her steady hand, the council’s work has been recognized as one of the most innovative, effective and creative arts councils in the nation. The council’s strategic plan is used as an example for other arts councils across the country.