Photo: Installation view of Chasing Time: Montana's One-Room Schools, photo courtesy of the MAM, all artwork copyright the artist.

Chasing Time: Montana's One-Room Schools

July 2 2015 - September 19 2015

Across the United States, there are fewer than 200 one-room schoolhouses in operation. Montana is home to approximately 75 of them —more than any other state. Neil Chaput de Saintonge and Keith Graham traveled to one-third of the Montana schools in 2013/2014 to meet the teachers and students and to document their experiences. This MAM exhibition comprises 35 photographs that were curated from more than 200 images shot by Chaput and Graham. The resulting photo essay depicts the story of the one-room school in rural America. Through the photographic portrayal of various schools in different locations across Montana, shared themes emerge, and tell a singular narrative.

The focus of this exhibition is on the basic daily school activities of classwork and the relationships between these dedicated teachers and their pupils. Many of the schools serve only five to eight students, and one of the schools has a total enrollment of one girl. Chaput’s ability to candidly capture intimate moments shines a light on the special bond between teacher and student in these unique schools. As expected, the schoolhouses are scattered across the rural expanses of the state. From the forested mountains of Yaak to the rolling grasslands of remote Carter County, Montana’s one-room schools serve the most remote populations of the state. The images of the schoolhouses on the Montana landscape put the geographic isolation into perspective.

Neil Chaput founded Rocky Mountain School of Photography with his wife Jeanne in Missoula in 1989, and he has been teaching photography for more than 40 years. Keith Graham joined the faculty at The University of Montana’s School of Journalism in 1998 and is an associate professor of photojournalism. The two are working on editing their project into a book. Graham is also working on a documentary featuring his video and the photography he and Chaput shot during the project. 

MAM will sponsor this exhibition to travel the state through MAGDA, a statewide nonprofit arts organization.