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MMAC Exhibition to Explore Montana’s Major Role in World War I

MISSOULA – The Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana will present a powerful exhibition this fall commemorating America’s involvement in World War I.

Cover illustration“Over There! Montanans in the Great War” will be on display at MMAC from Thursday, Sept. 21, through Saturday, Dec. 16. The exhibition, taking place 100 years after the U.S. entered the so-called “Great War,” will include more than 200 artifacts and works of art related to the lives of four Montanans who experienced the war’s victories and degradations firsthand. In addition, the exhibition explores the concept of how “the Enemy” was portrayed during the war.

The four individuals from or closely tied to Montana featured in the exhibition include: Glasgow-born William Belzer, celebrated aviator and one of America’s first flying aces; Great Falls widow Josephine Hale, who served as a Red Cross nurse and became a notable painter in France; Sidney F. Smith, “doughboy” and hero of the infamous “Lost Battalion”; and James Watson Gerard, U.S. ambassador to Berlin until America’s declaration of war, who was married to Mary Daly of the famous mining family. The MMAC Permanent Collection will be featured in this exhibition through objects related to Hale, including her nurse’s uniform, notebooks, photographs and works of art.

“The Great War seems long ago and far away, but MMAC brings it close to home and makes it personal,” said Harry Fritz, UM history professor emeritus. “By focusing on four Montanans who played major roles in the conflict, the exhibit reminds us that we are never isolated from important international events.

“World War I was ‘the great seminal catastrophe’ of the 20th century, and we are still confronting the consequences of that titanic clash – in Europe, in Asia and, above all, in the Middle East. The centennial of the war is an appropriate time for remembering the conflict and learning from it, and the MMAC’s portrayal is a must-see event.”

Artist unknown, “Helmet Painted with Flags and Battle Scenes,” courtesy of Hayes Otoupalik  (UM Photo)
Artist unknown, “Helmet Painted with Flags and Battle Scenes,” courtesy of Hayes Otoupalik (UM Photo)

The exhibition will open with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, in the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center. The reception will feature a lecture and catalog-signing by H. Rafael Chacón, guest curator and UM professor of art history and criticism, at 6 p.m. in the Montana Theatre. Chacón has spent more than six years preparing this presentation and writing the accompanying catalog.

Seven additional programs will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition:

  • 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25, Montana Theatre – MMAC and the UM President’s Lecture Series will sponsor “America’s Deadliest Battle: An Experiential Film of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive,” presented by Jo Throckmorton, filmmaker and owner of Jo Throckmorton Filmworks.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9, Roxy Theater, 718 Higgins Ave. – MMAC, in partnership with the Roxy Theater, will present “Grand Illusion” as part of the First Monday WWI Films series. Tickets cost $8 or $7 for students and seniors.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6, Roxy Theater – First Monday WWI Films: “Paths of Glory.” Tickets cost $8 or $7 for students and seniors.
  • 5:30-7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 16, Masquer Theater, PAR/TV Center – Lecture, “Artis et belli: the Great War and its Art,” presented by Chacón.
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, Masquer Theatre – Lecture, “After One Hundred Years: Montana and the Great War,” presented by Harry Fritz, UM professor emeritus of history.
  • 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, Roxy Theater – First Monday WWI Films: “A Very Long Engagement.” Tickets cost $8 or $7 for students and seniors.
  • 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, Masquer Theatre – Lecture, “The Grit and the Glory: the Great War and its Poetry,” presented by Lisa Simon, Radius Gallery co-owner.

MMAC has partnered with numerous organizations and sponsors to realize this important exhibition. Sponsors include Destination Missoula and the Tourism Business Improvement District, Ret. Col. Tom Ross, Washington Corporations, the Bill and Rosemary Gallagher Foundation, Western Montana Military Officers Association, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Montana Public Radio, Bitterroot Flower Shop and MMAC Champion members.

Partners include the Montana Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, the UM President’s Lecture Series, Joining Committee Forces, the Roxy Theatre, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library’s Archives & Special Collections, the Rocky Mountain Museum of Military History, the UM School of Art, the UM Department of History, and important collectors, including Hayes and Amalia Otoupalik, Paul Thomas, Keith Hardin, Ret. Col. Tom Ross, the Gilbert Millikan Art Resource Center and Betsy Bach.

MMAC’s gallery hours are from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and UM holidays. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. For more information call 406-243-2019 or click HERE .

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