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Montana's Circle of American Masters

Montana's Circle of American Masters

The Montana Arts Council will honor three artisans in an induction ceremony of Montana’s Circle of American Masters.

Friday, March 31, 2017/Categories: Montana Arts Council/Tags:

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The Montana Arts Council will honor three artisans in an induction ceremony of Montana’s Circle of American Masters on Wednesday, April 19, 2017, at 12:00 Noon, in the Old Supreme Court Chambers of Montana’s State Capitol.  A reception will immediately follow in the Capitol Rotunda.  The three honorees are Beverly (Bev.) Jane Polk, Sarah Pilgrim, and Daniel Roberts.


Handweaver, Bev. Polk grew up in an environment steeped in the tradition of fiber arts.  She and her husband Tom live in Wilsall where she continues her passion for weaving “at the edge of a town that time forgot” in a space called Weaverbird Studio.  She is a member of the Montana Association of Weavers and Spinners and is a Certified Artist of the Montana Artrepreneur Program.  Scandinavian colors and practicality influence her colorful, wearable art, table runners & toppers, towels, and sofa pillows.  MCAM reviewer, Deb Essen says, “Bev is an extraordinary weaver – from both artistic and technical standpoints. Her joyous use of color is happiness personified. From a technical standpoint, her weaving skills are perfection.”  Bev. has a long history of generously contributing to the traditions of weaving and has taken her contributions as far as Uganda, Africa, teaching teenage students how to weave for the purpose of starting their own future vocations.


Weaver, Sarah Pilgrim, also from Wilsall, lives in a community where family and work intertwine with the land and the landscape influencing her work.  There, she translates centuries old weaving traditions into 21st-century wearable art.  The first time Sarah sat at a loom, she says, she knew she would be a weaver someday. “The rhythm of the weaving process, the feel of thread moving through my hands and the resulting cloth I make connect my body and soul.”  Nomination contributor, Barbara French, says of Sarah, “We appreciate her expertise in color use and theory, in weaving with fine threads including silk, in complex weave structures, and in the art of weaving for fashion.  Her talent for fashion dovetails beautifully with the goal of the MCAM program of bringing the traditional arts into the present and beyond.”  Sarah shares knowledge with the weaving community through the Bozeman Weavers’ Guild as well as the Montana Association of Weavers and Spinners.  Within these organizations, she has taught both at the local guild level and at state conferences as well as around the Northwest. 

Luthier, Daniel Roberts, of Belgrade, is the newest member of MCAM.  In the early 70’s, Daniel was among a small group of folks, at the leading edge of stringed-instrument craftsmanship, distinguished by their genius and their ability to believe in the impossible.  With a resume as long and as impressive as his current client list of famous musicians, Dan has developed a unique direction and aesthetic about the building of guitars and mandolins using woods chosen first for tonal excellence and then for their unique visual particularity, aurally and dynamically tailored to the musician's needs.  In addition to nominating Dan for this prestigious membership, artist Michael Blessing beautifully wrote, “there is a special relationship that develops between an instrument and the musician who plays and owns them.  For me, it was love at first hearing.”  And reviewer, Bruce Craig, said, “They (Dan’s instruments) have a superb tonal quality that only comes from Dan’s relentless pursuit of perfection in design, materials, and craftsmanship. Each is a one of a kind piece of Art, and destined to be played and enjoyed for perhaps centuries.”  Daniel shares his craft regionally, nationally, and internationally and through apprenticeships.


The visual folk and traditional arts are powerful markers of cultural heritage indigenous to a community, reflecting its aesthetics and values.  They are artistic expressions that have grown through time and echo a group's sense of beauty and creativity woven into the tradition of culture.  Traditional arts are learned informally, through careful observation and practice, usually from elders and masters and are often passed on from one generation to the next.  Montana American Masters are recognized as exemplary practitioners of visual traditional art forms, and their work reflects the highest quality of craftsmanship, design, and authenticity.


Induction into Montana’s Circle of American Masters is complex and includes rigorous review within a tiered system to ensure program credibility.  Members must create works in depth and brilliance that deepen our awareness of the rich and diverse cultural and artistic traditions of the people of Montana.  In addition to mastering artistic excellence for personal or economic gain, they must actively participate in their art form, as a practitioner, a mentor, or teacher, in order to promote public awareness of and about their craft.  They must further act as a model for excellence and a conduit for process and inspiration, influencing other generations of artists working in the region and beyond.


Anyone in Montana can nominate MCAM artists through a multi-step process beginning with a careful review of the criteria and consultation with program staff.  Nomination forms are accepted year-round and are submitted for review when they are deemed complete, and all supporting information gathered.  Once the application package is complete, an expert in the field reviews the nomination.  If approved, the candidate is then considered by the Governor-appointed members of the Montana Arts Council at a biannual meeting.  


For more information, or to contact the artists for this event, please contact: Sheri Jarvis, Folk Arts and Montana Artrepreneur Program Director, at


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