Local Artists “Paint the State” with Anti-Meth Messages
The Montana Meth Project has announced the winners of it's annual "Paint the State" competition, and several winners are from north central Montana.
A mural called "Get Hooked on Montana, Not Drugs" won the 1st Place People's Choice Award in online voting, and also won 1st place in the Teen category for the Central Montana region. The painting, which appears on the side of the old car wash on Teton Avenue in Valier, was done by the 7th and 8th grade classes at Valier Middle School. The artists included: Brock Bales, Hunter Bowie, Tabitha Boyles, Tucker Brownell, Emma CalfRobe, Taylor Curry, Cassie DeRouche, Kolter Forbes, Ryder Hitchcock, Gabrielle Holms, Chance Horn, Coltyn Kelley, Taelyn Kuka, Garett Monroe, Trevor Nation, Dylan Peebles, Alli Peterson, Hadley Standley, Hayden Standley, Farrah Weaselhead, Rayden West, Franklin Wilson and Connor Woldstad.
Teacher Stacey O'Niel wrote that her 7th and 8th grade health class had just finished a unit on the risks of drug use when they decided to enter the Paint the State contest. "One of the topics they discussed was finding lifelong activities that one enjoys so that it is less tempting to resort to drug use when a person is bored or struggling," she wrote. "Since Valier is next to beautiful Lake Frances, which is known for its excellent Walleye fishing, we choose the fishing theme. The students submitted their own art work in class, then we combined a couple of these pieces that we liked to come up with the final design."
Louis Still Smoking of Browning earned a 3rd place People's Choice Award for his mural, "You Are the Light", which is one of two entries located on the old bingo hall on Piegan Street. It also took third in the Adult category. Still Smoking wrote in his entry statement that he wanted to present an anti-meth message with positive images.
The mural is a depiction of the youth in their regalia. "I wanted to show the youth and the connection to the land and culture", he wrote. Chief Mountain has cultural significance to the Blackfeet as it is a place of worship and a great source for medicines and food. Just below is a graphic that represents Ancestors that are watching over the people.
Still Smoking wrote that he hopes his mural will inspire a sense of pride and positivity, adding, "I hope to bring awareness to people in the community that we can live drug free and we can encourage the next generation to be drug free."
4th place in the adult category went to another entry in Browning, by Mariah Gladstone, Kau'ano Esperas, Luna Esperas. Gladstone said their work, which is painted on the side of the Glacier Way C-Store, is meant to be interactive. Visitors can photograph themselves in front of a giant pair of butterfly wings. She wrote in her artist's statement, "While we wanted to answer Paint the State's challenge to clearly communicate the dangers of Meth use, we also wanted to uplift the mural's viewers by giving them the opportunity to try on a pair of wings so that they can photograph themselves through the lens of wholesome transformation."
Artists from Browning took three of the top four juried awards in the Teen category from the "Glacier Country" region. 1st place went to "Protect Our Generations to Come", painted by Kiera BigHorn, Vita Demontiney and Skyla Olivas. Building on a previous team member's design, the students created their art to show how meth and drug use affects more than just the person using, it also affects the children. The message: "Children are always watching, so stop using now so our children and future generations can be successful." The mural can be seen on a building next to the Pizza Time restaurant on Central Avenue.
2nd Place in the Teen Category went to Ariel McFadyean and Mariah Gladstone for their work, "Empty Lodges", which appears on a barn north of Browning at the intersection of Hwy 464 and S Shore Duck Rd.
Adam Still Smoking's "Our Ancestors Watch Over Us" won 4th place in the Teen category for Glacier Country. His mural also appears on the old bingo hall on Piegan Street.
CLICK HERE to view a gallery showing all of the winning entries.
CLICK HERE to view a gallery of all the entries in the 2023 Paint the State competition. You can click on the individual photos to read the artists statements, and the location where you can see each of the entries in person.