Libby Central School Art Program Inspires Many in Community
By Moira Blazi, The Montanian
When Libby lost beloved sculptor and art instructor Todd Berget a few years ago, local accountant/artist Heather Robertson stepped up , for the kids. “My oldest daughter Becka was one of Todd’s students , and I was attending a parents meeting when they called for volunteers, I raised my hand and said, “ I can do accounting and art”, she recalled with a laugh.
Big shoes to fill to be sure, and with a budget that barely paid for pencils and paper, Robertson can now, thanks to a modest grant from the LOR Foundation, offer her extremely creative and motivated students a bit more. Acrylic painting, candle making , resin art, woodburning and leather art are just a few of the avenues of creative expression now available to central school students. The Montanian recently sat down with Robertson and 4 of her last year students to talk about the art program and what it has meant to them.
“ I used to just draw before I moved to Montana, then, Heather showed me that I could paint as well” former student Destini Hostetter told the Montanian. “ I used to just go to Heathers room, pick up a canvas that was left half done, and finish it” she added , Clearly passionate about her art, Hostetter , who loves turtles, and purple, also learned how to work with resin and made some really cool coasters last semester.
Another painter, Juanita Scott, whose style is more textual, using many layers of paint, likes to paint mushrooms and colorful abstracts. “ I feel like I’ve been doing art straight out of the womb, ever since elementary school” Scott said ,” I have used doing art as therapy, it makes me feel very calm and relaxed.”
“ At first I thought art was really boring” ex-student Nick Wood told the Montanian. Now, working in construction, Nick said that making art has helped him in his job, “…. It taught me that I could figure out how to do things in my own way, because now, I just see things in a different way” . Robertson recalled that Nick had a bit of an attitude when he first came to class, but, that he quickly opened up. About Robertson, Wood simply said “ If you believed in me, you would have believed in anybody” .
Jaydee Dunham remembers being interested in painting since she was a little girl. ” My grandmas walls were always covered with art” she told the Montanian. When she came to the central school classroom, she was a bit unsure where to start, so Robertson suggested animal eyes, and it stuck. Dunham did several, as well as silhouettes , some landscapes and lots of candles. She also helps out as a teaching assistant. “Art really gets your brain moving,” she said,” it lets you express yourself without words”.
Locals will recall a few years back how Central school art students under the direction of Berget created the many and ubiquitous Sasquatch cutout figures that are literally everywhere. “ We have orders for 4 more Sasquatches” Robertson told the Montanian with a grin, and she, and her students are also keeping the memory and legacy of Todd Berget alive with a memorial mural planned for downtown Libby. She also is planning to invite guest instructors like Bret Bronson (leatherwork), Keith Ivers (mosaic art), and Ron Adamson (chainsaw carving) to come share their unique expertise with the kids.
“ My vision for this program is to make art accessible to all kids from different family situations, as an outlet and release of sometimes difficult emotions.” Robertson said. “Heather is an amazing teacher, she drops everything to give us the attention we need and is super understanding” , said Dunham. “This program and Heather have taught me to think outside the box” added Wood.
For more information on the central school art program, donate equipment or supplies, or to volunteer as a guest instructor, call Libby school district and leave a message for Heather Robertson.
Community Foundation Grant Application Cycle Open for Applications
Submitted By Paula Darko-Hensler, Chair, LCCF
The Lincoln County Community Foundation has money to give away! What we need from the communities of south Lincoln County is eligible applicants. In order to qualify for a grant, the organization must be a 501c3 non-profit and fill out a brief application. We are in the second year of increased funding for grants using the Robert Pederson Endowment. That endowment was established for the community of Libby by Robert Pederson, a longtime employee of the St. Regis and Champion lumber mill in town.
In the over 22 years of giving grants, LCCF has far surpassed the original amount of the endowment of $250,000. That endowment was grown by using fundraisers done by the board and donations by community citizens. This year LCCF has $37,000 available for distribution. Last year with the Pederson Endowment, LCCF was able to give $10,000 to the Heritage Museum for a new roof. Other recipients of the over $10,000 in grants were: Lincoln County Public Library Foundation, Troy Morrison Backpacks, Bull Lake Rod and Gun Club, Kiwanis Koats for Kids, U-Serve Tennis, Our Kids Christmas Program, Libby Chamber of Commerce, and the Troy Lake Creek TV District. Should you wish to donate to LCCF it can be done with a cash gift, a planned gift such as a life insurance policy, or part of an estate in your will. There are tax advantages for planned giving and corporate giving. Should you wish to donate contact Paula Darko-Hensler, Chair at email@example.com or Jim Seifert, Treasurer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Both would be happy to visit with you. Other members of the board are: Linda Gerard, Bernie Cassidy, Allison Lundin, Betty Jo Wood, and Amy Smart. To apply download the application at mtct.org. Use the menu to find Local Foundations. The LCCF webpage can be found using the graphic of the state. The written application must be mailed and postmarked no later than August 31, 2023.