Wilma gets a makeover
My Morning Jacket played to a sold-out audience on Oct. 5, but more importantly their concert marked the official reopening of the historic Wilma.
Top Hat owner Nick Checota took over the 94-year-old hallowed theater in March and renovated it over the course of several months, giving it a modern feel while still staying true to its Louis XIV-meets-Art Deco style. The Wilma's years of being an art-house cinema are over, but with its lavish new makeover and concerts such as Dr. Dog, Grace Potter and Lyle Lovett, its next era looks bright.
Big Sky, big screen
The death of the state's film tax incentive in January has made it difficult for the Montana Film Office to woo major motion productions. Still, this year saw the making of a handful of promising independent films, like director Kelly Reichardt's Certain Women, based on a story collection from Helena native Maile Meloy. The film was shot around Livingston and Bozeman and stars Michelle Williams, Kirsten Stewart and Missoula's own Lily Gladstone.
Several other films made in Montana and by Montanans also premiered in 2015, including Winter Light, a film adapted from a James Lee Burke story and now nominated for an Oscar. Love Like Gold screened at the Roxy's inaugural Montana Film Festival, along with The Triangle and Subterranea. Doug Hawes-Davis unveiled Two Rivers, his 10-years-in-the-making film about the removal of Milltown Dam. Andy Smetanka's highly anticipated silhouette animation about WWI, And We Were Young, premiered at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. And, finally, members from N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys made a zombie film in Butte.
Total Fest farewell
It was a tough goodbye after 14 years for regular attendees of Total Fest, the annual three-day independent music festival. Organizers of the summer staple decided to make 2015 its last year in order to move on to other projects—and they closed things up with a bang: a lineup of local stalwarts, reunions from 1990s bands and colorful performances from nationally (and internationally) beloved acts, like Big Business, made the send-off more sweet than bitter.
Headwaters Dance Company took its final bow in early October with the aptly named production Beginnings and Endings. The Missoula dance company, led by Amy Ragsdale, had been around for more than 20 years, providing local opportunities for dancers and offering programs to rural audiences that don't often get exposure to contemporary dance.
Steve Glueckert steps down
Steve Glueckert, Missoula Art Museum's tireless curator, retired after nearly 24 years of fashioning together some of the venue's most fascinating exhibits—from glamorous to iconoclastic, splashy to spare. Over the years he's been an invaluable resource to the arts scene, as well as to arts reporters who were always met with enthusiastic stories, colorful quotes and thought-provoking conversations. Glueckert is also an artist, so here's to hoping retirement brings him more hours in the day to feed his creative mind.
Meanwhile, the hiring of the Montana Museum of Art and Culture's former curator, Brandon Reintjes, means MAM shouldn't miss a beat when it comes to cultivating great shows.
Death of a sound genius
Dale Sherrard, a sound artist who collaborated with many Missoula artists over the years, died in January at age 53. He worked on big projects, like creating sound elements on Winter in the Blood for filmmakers Andrew and Alex Smith. And his influence was felt far and wide with the students he taught at the University of Montana. In a tribute to his friend published in the Indy, Andrew Smith, who also teaches at UM, wrote, "He built a sound studio, updated our editing systems, provided a sound library and led by example, regularly blowing student minds with the sprawling, spangled bandwidth of his ferocious imagination."
Book Festival revival
Even up until early this year, Montana Festival of the Book's fate seemed in the balance. The 15-year-old event of readings, panels and book parties lost its main organizer when Humanities Montana announced in September 2014 it needed to move on. But in May, a small coalition of authors and bookstore owners revived the festival just in time to bring it to fruition in the fall. The result? The Montana Book Festival seemed not only back on track, but reenergized, with popular events like the Pie & Whiskey reading and an Evening with Ira Glass.
Shania Hall goes to NYC
Shania Hall, a young Plains Indian artist from Browning, got the chance of a lifetime when her photographs of a Montana storm were chosen for an exhibit at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hall, who was a high school student when she took the photos, got to travel to NYC in the spring to view the large panels of her work at The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Skyone of the largest Native American exhibits in the world.
Dave Chappelle parties after hours
You could almost hear the excitement ripple across the valley (okay, Facebook) when it was announced that Dave Chappelle would perform not just two but four Missoula shows in June. Audiences raved about the comedian's standup, but it was his surprise appearance at the Badlander after one set that really took the cake. At around midnight, Chappelle came through the door of the downtown bar. He gave everyone 10 minutes to take photos and Snapchat before shutting the social media frenzy down and hosting a hip-hop set with his DJ.