Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Teen Art Project expands to Arlee

| April 18, 2024 12:00 AM

The Missoula Art Museum (MAM) is expanding the free Teen Art Project (TAP) arts and leadership program to Arlee, in partnership with the Arlee Community Development Corporation (CDC). The free classes, which meet 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Fridays from April 19-June 14, are funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bill and Rosemary Gallagher Foundation.

Mentorship and collaboration are central to the program led by professional teaching artist Cameron Decker (Diné, Salish descendent), who will work closely with MAM Educator and Outreach Coordinator Janaína Vieira-Marques.

During TAP, Arlee High School students will meet at the Arlee CDC to collaborate on nine public art murals to be installed on the exterior of downtown buildings, including a permanent mural on the Arlee CDC’s exterior wall. Decker will collaborate with teens and Vieira-Marques, in addition to Tribal elders and the community, to explore Salish land, language, and culture, Arlee history, contemporary Native art, and natural resources and conservation.

TAP Arlee gives local teens an opportunity to reclaim their home while answering the question, “What Is Beyond the Frame?” According to Decker, “everyone’s decision-making and ideas will contribute to the overall experience and outcome of the project.”

Participants will collaboratively research and design murals and create a “mural map” to guide the public. The mural project aims to beautify the landscape, inspire pride, and allow participants to revitalize their connection to their roots.

Decker previously served as a faculty member and program chair in Fine Arts at Salish Kootenai College and as an educator and outreach coordinator at MAM. He earned his master’s in Integrated Arts in Education in the University of Montana Creative Pulse program.

Decker and his wife, Aspen Decker, an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), founded Xʷlxʷilt (“Alive and Well” Séliš Education Integration) to serve reservations, tribes, and communities through access to authentic Indigenous educational experiences.

Since 2020, MAM's Summer TAP programming has brought community arts and leadership training to more than 300 teens. The program was developed during the pandemic to respond to an ongoing mental health crisis among young people.

TAP Arlee builds on several years of success in Missoula and relationships within CSKT communities. Organizers hope TAP will serve as a program model for other towns on the Flathead Reservation. A video produced by a Native professional will be shared as a free resource.

TAP is free for participants, with art materials and pizza provided in each session. Registration and participation for the entire course of the program is encouraged, but teens may drop in at any time.

A public celebration of the TAP artworks will be held in June.

For more information, call 406-726-5550 or email Cameron Decker at