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May 11, 2012

Montana Logging and Ballet Co. Swan Dives into History

Montana Logging and Ballet Co... And this is on GOOD behavior!
This next week is the final concert that marks the end of our political satire, comedy and music group– bless its little heart– that has been together for 36 years. It's hard to describe just what it is that we have been doing for that long, which is why our name is so apt.

The group of 4 guys began at Rocky Mountain College in 1975 either as an excuse to play music, a way to meet girls, a recruiting tool for the school, or all of the above. We did meet some girls, 4 of whom– with a great deal of arm twisting– we convinced to sing with us. We also convinced the college to let us go and sing at high schools around the state on a one-week tour of high schools, by agreeing that it would not cost the school more than the price of sending two guys and a slide projector on the road!

We did it too, so when Rocky's enrollment went up 21% the next year they actually hired us to go on tour again, this time with sandwiches and everything. But we did have to find new crops of girls to go with us (I'm being totally serious here) to spread out their school absences. The fact that we had great fun with them does not negate the hard work we put in.

In any case, we loved playing and goofing around together (and no, we didn't get the girls) so when opportunities arose for us to sing for churches, women's groups, or fundraisers for the likes of the Whitehall Public Library, we always seized them.  We toured the nation and eventually became the "resident political satirists" on NPR during the Clinton years. (That came to a screeching halt the very day Bush took office, a significant indication).

But our greatest triumph by far was hooking up with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the figureheads of the South African freedom movement to bring democracy to the racist regime there. We met him in 1987 when one of my sculptures was gifted to him by an international office of the Methodist church. We raised nearly a million dollars for him when he came to our Montana concert in '91. Three years later Tutu had written the liner notes for one of our albums, South Africa was a free nation and the last of us had gotten married, so it was worth it after all.

Now that one of us is approaching 70 we decided it's time to bow out. It's been a great ride and for all our several fans: thanks! We couldn't have done it without you. That and the incredibly stupid things our leaders have done to continually inspire our material!
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I'm a sculptor/filmmaker living in Montana, USA. I am using art to move the evolution of humanity forward into an increasingly responsive, inclusive and interactive culture. As globalization flattens peoples into a capitalist monoculture I hope to use my art to celebrate historical cultural differences and imagine how we can co-create a rich future together.

I see myself as an artist/philosopher laboring deep in the mines of joy. I've had a good long career of exhibiting work around the world and working on international outreach projects, most notably being the first American to be invited to present a one-person exhibit in the Hermitage Museum. Recently I have turned my attention from simply making metal sculpture to creating films and workshops for engaging communities directly, tinkering with the very ideas and mechanisms behind cultural transformation. I feel that as we face tragic world crises, if the human species favors our imaginative and creative capacities we can cultivate a rich world to enjoy.

For me the deepest satisfaction in making art comes in engaging people's real life concerns rather than providing simple entertainment or decoration. Areas of conflict or tension are particularly ripe for the kind of transformative power that art uniquely carries. I invite any kind of challenge that serves people on a deep level.