Montana Arts Council announces eight recipients for the 2017 Artist's Innovation Award -

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Montana Arts Council announces eight recipients for the 2017 Artist's Innovation Award

Montana Arts Council announces eight recipients for the 2017 Artist's Innovation Award

Thursday, December 21, 2017/Categories: Montana Arts Council/Tags:


RELEASE DATE:  December 21, 2017


Agency Contact Information:
Czelsi Kozak Gómez, Media Specialist
(406) 444-4700





The Montana Arts Council is pleased to announce eight Montana artists as recipients of the 2017 Artist’s Innovation Award. The honorees are: visual artists Bently Spang of Billings, Catherine Courtenaye of Bozeman, Stephanie Frostad and Alison Reintjes of Missoula; performing artists Sam Krahn of Great Falls and Joy French of Missoula and literary artists Jennifer Groneberg of Bozeman and Aaron Parrett of Helena.

“Montana has an exceptionally rich creative environment,” says Tatiana Gant, executive director of the Montana Arts Council. “The Artist’s Innovation Award recognizes artists who have demonstrated commitment and encourages their continued exploration. The ingenuity of the artists selected for the 2017 awards highlights the brilliance of Montana’s cultural community.”

The Artist’s Innovation Award includes a $3,000 honorarium. Artists who receive this award must also convey their artistry to other Montanans during the course of the upcoming year.

As a ceramic artist, Alison Reintjes of Missoula is the recipient of the Jessie Wilber and Frances Senska Individual Artist Award, established by a private gift to the arts council from Stacy Hamm and Sage Walden. 

Review panels comprised of experts in the fields of visual arts, performing arts and literary arts met in early December to select the honorees. This honor rewards Montana artists who demonstrate innovation in their work as well as originality and dedication in their creative pursuits. The Montana Arts Council established this award program in order to foster environments where the innovation and creativity of artists are valued and celebrated.



Visual Artist Bently Spang

Bently Spang, an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Nation, is a multi-disciplinary artist, curator, educator and writer working in mixed media sculpture, video, performance, and installation. Spang received his MFA in sculpture at the University of Wisconsin.

Spang’s artwork is in museums and private collections in the U.S. and Europe, including those of the Denver Art Museum, National Museum of the American Indian and the Montclair Art Museum. He has exhibited across the United States, and in Europe, Mexico, Canada, and South America.

Spang says about his work, “I employ whatever means/mediums necessary to express my personal truth.” And like his ancestors, the Tsitsistas/Suhtaio people, he says, “I look constantly to their work for guidance – animal parts and natural pigments combined with what was in front of them, glass beads, mirrors, metal, whatever – they had no fear of authenticity.”


Visual Artist Catherine Courtenaye

Catherine Courtenaye was born in Madrid, Spain, and grew up around the world as the daughter of a diplomat. She earned an MFA in painting from the University of Iowa, and lives in Bozeman. Her paintings include fragments of 19th century handwriting embedded beneath layers, including naturalistic studies of birds of the American West, pen-and-ink drawings, aerial landscapes, and maps. “My own gestures are in a kind of conversation with the shape of imprinted text and scribbling,” she writes.

A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Award, Courtenaye has had numerous solo exhibitions nationally, and her work is included in the permanent collections of the Boise Art Museum, Crocker Art Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Oakland Museum of California and the Tucson Museum of Art.

Literary Artist Jennifer Groneberg

Jennifer Groneberg is the author of two non-fiction books, Roadmap to Holland: How I Found My Way Through My Son’s First Two Years with Down Syndrome, and My Heart’s First Steps: Writings that Celebrate the Gifts of Parenthood. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She was named Zonta Best Woman Writer (2009) by High Plains Book Awards and received an Excellence in Media award from the National Down Syndrome Congress (2008).

Groneberg writes “about populations no one talks about – a rural mother, a rural mother of a child with disabilities, an adult woman with disabilities. These stores are not being told, and I want to tell them.” Her stories trace “themes of love, loss, acceptance and forgiveness,” she says. “I think of it as shaped storytelling, or sculpted honesty. I believe that shared stories are healing.”


Performing Artist Sam Krahn

Sam Krahn is a composer, guitarist, performer, and teacher whose works have been performed by members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Fidelio Trio, Ensemble Uusinta, Ensemble Dal Niente, Duo Gelland, the Cascade Quartet, Strains New Music Ensemble, the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, and many others. He received a doctorate in music composition at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, and holds a master’s from Roosevelt University and a bachelor’s in classical guitar performance from Boston University.

Krahn says, “For the past 15 years, my focus as a composer has been to create music that is shared through traditional means: a notated score is given to highly trained performers to make extremely specific sounds and gestures.”

Along the way, Krahn has played in numerous rock bands, classical ensembles, improvisational groups, and as a soloist. He is currently the director of the Montana Improvisers Orchestra, a music teacher at Great Falls College – MSU and an artist-in-residence at Paris Gibson Square Museum of Contemporary Art in Great Falls.


Literary Artist Aaron Parrett

Aaron Parrett earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Montana in Missoula, and a master’s and doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Georgia in Athens. He has been writing both non-fiction and fiction since 2001. Parrett teaches English at the University of Providence in Great Falls and Latin at Carroll College in Helena, where he is also the founder of The Territorial Press.

Parrett’s passion for writing “changed dramatically when I discovered letterpress and acquired a 1920s Chandler and Price platen printing press,” he says. “Once I resolved to make a book of my own writing using century-old methods, I determined that the composition itself would influence every aspect of the ultimate product, and that the challenge would be to learn how the physical process of choosing letters one at a time from the type case would influence the thought process behind what I write, both at the level of the sentence as well as the level of the subject matter itself,” he writes.


Performing Artist Joy French

Joy French is a dancer, choreographer, videographer and producer. After earning her MFA in performance and choreography at the University of Colorado, Boulder, she moved to Missoula and in 2011 founded Bare Bait Dance (BBD) – currently Montana’s only professional contemporary dance company. In addition to BBD, French is an adjunct faculty at the University of Montana and teaches in Missoula high schools through BBD’s Montana MoDE (Model Dance Educator) program.

Professionally, she has performed in Montana with Headwaters Dance Co., the CoMotion Dance Project and Impact Dance Co., and Evolving Doors Dance in Colorado. Her creative work has been showcased by a variety of schools, dance companies, theaters and festivals.

Visual Artist Stephanie Frostad

Stephanie Frostad creates graphite and oil paintings on primed two-dimensional surfaces. She writes that her work is “endlessly inspired by both nature and culture,” and ranges from observations of flora and fauna to intricate compositions depicting human endeavor.

Frostad earned her MFA from the University of Montana, her bachelor’s at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and studied at the Studio Arts Center Institute in Florence, Italy. She has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad in Canada, China, Italy and New Zealand. Her work is held in numerous public and private collections.

Visual Artist Alison Reintjes

As a ceramic artist, Alison Reintjes is the recipient of the Jessie Wilber and Frances Senska Individual Artist Award, established by a private gift to the arts council from Stacy Hamm and Sage Walden.

A native of Ohio, Reintjes first landed in Montana in 2001 for an artist residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena. She studied at Northern Michigan University, Pilchuck Glass School, Kent State University and Canberra School of Art in Australia. In addition to her stint at the Archie Bray, she participated in artist residences at The Clay Studio of Missoula, Mary Anderson Center in Indiana, Greenwich House Pottery in New York and Jentel Foundation in Wyoming.

“I have a strong interest in the basic tenets of the visual experience—shape, space, color, and pattern,” she says in her artist statement. Reintjes has a lengthy exhibition résumé and numerous two-person and group exhibitions in Montana and beyond. Her work also resides in several collections.




For more information on the Artist’s Innovation Award program and all of this year’s honorees, visit:

Contact information for artists:

Catherine Courtenaye
(406) 219-3308

Joy French
(406) 214-0097

Stephanie Frostad
(406) 327-8984

Jennifer Groneberg
(406) 735-4005

Sam Krahn
(312) 508-9655

Aaron Parrett
(406) 781-0101

Alison Reintjes
(330) 806-2478

Bently Spang
(406) 661-1025



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