Form and function: Butte fisherman, rod maker earns prestigious folk award

Butte’s Glenn Brackett is one of the country’s renowned makers of bamboo fly rods, but first and foremost he’s a fisherman.

Brackett, 73, is co-owner of Sweetgrass Rods in Twin Bridges, and he says he’s built his life around his love of the sport.

“I love to see what’s at the end of the line,” he said. “What’s going to bite? What they are biting on? What’s underneath the rocks? What’s around the bend? It’s a wonderful sport because it combines so many disciplines, but also it’s a great spiritual (tool) … It helps balance out a person’s life in terms of having a busy career and family life. And it just gives you that moment of peace and tranquility that reconnects you to all the things that make for a well-rounded life.”

Form and function: Butte fisherman, rod maker earns prestigious folk award

Montana Circle of American Masters Ceremony & Reception

To celebrate Montana’s rich heritage and showcase the present-day vitality of the folk arts, the state will honor 11 Montana Circle of American Masters in the Visual Folk and Traditional Arts at an induction ceremony and reception in the State Capital Rotunda in Helena on Thursday, January 29, 2009, from 4 to 5 p.m.

Lieutenant Governor John Bohlinger will speak at this Montana Arts Council ceremony and will present each artist with their award. Artists receiving the honor are: Mary Lou Big Day, traditional Crow doll artist, Pryor; Jackie Larson Bread, Blackfoot beadwork artist, Great Falls; Ed Caffrey, master bladesmith, Great Falls; Rich Charlson, wood artist, Carter; Jessie Clemans, finger weaver, Polson; Judy Ericksen, potter, Great Falls; Glen Goldthwait, traditional blacksmith, Sheridan; Al Chandler Goodstrike, traditional hide painter, Hays; George Holt, saddlemaker, Dillon; Sylvia Overby, hardanger embroidery artist, Plentywood; and Elaine Snyder, buckskin tailor, Kalispell.

The Montana Circle of American Masters recognizes Montana’s visual folk artists for the
artistic excellence in their work and for their contributions to the State’s visual traditional and folk arts heritage. After learning their art informally, these artists have worked to preserve their art form through sharing and teaching. Through the excellence of their work, these individuals and their work in turn become a reflection of their culture.

Arlynn Fishbaugh, Executive Director of the Montana Arts Council, remarked, “Because folk art rises from within a community, the artists recognized have listened to the heartbeat of where they live. Their art is an expression of that community, one that helps to form a Montana identity.”

For inclusion in Montana’s Circle of American Masters, a folk artist needs to satisfy standards in four main areas – artistic excellence of design in, quality of craftsmanship, authenticity in how the work reflects its tradition, and the on-going contribution of the artist in building public appreciation for the art form. An individual must qualify as a practicing visual folk artist and must have a valid Montana address as a permanent resident of the state. This honor is not made posthumously and must be made to an individual, not to a group. Nominations for this honor are reviewed and selections made year-round.

For more information about the program, visit or contact Cindy Kittredge, Montana Arts Council Folk Arts and Market Development Specialist, by phone at (406)468-4078 or by email

Montana Circle of American Masters Ceremony & Reception