Visitors reading individual love letters, photo courtesy of MAM.

Love Letters To The Collection Project

An interactive way to engage and activate the MAM Collection

In 2019, MAM staff conceived of an exhibit that would activate the Contemporary American Indian Art Collection (CAIAC). Activation, in this sense, refers to bringing art objects out of storage and ensuring their place in public engagement. Staff also wanted to include a decolonizing lens to the CAIAC. What resulted was the exhibition Love Letters to the Collection, which was on view during 2020. 

As the show came to a close, curators and other staff at the museum felt that the show could live on in other means. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, visitation was low to the museum during much of the exhibit's run. Love Letters is now an ongoing special project through a collaboration between the curatorial and education departments, and of course, you! 

Below you'll find a list of every piece selected (in chronological order), plus links to the selector's letter, videos, music recordings, artmaking worksheets, images, educational resources, and much more. 

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith

Celebrate 40,000 Years of American Art

Art historian and curator Carolyn Kastner selected this print by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (Salish-Kootenai, Métis-Cree, Shoshone-Bannock). 

Write your letter!

Lillian Pitt

Gorge Spirits Floating 2

Martin Leibinger, a student at the University of Montana, selected this print by Lillian Pitt (Wasco, Yakama, Warm Springs). 

Write your letter!

Donna Loos

Family Watch

Poet Chris La Tray (Little Shell), selected this painting by Donna Loos (Little Shell, 1931–2018). 

Write your letter!

Rick Bartow

Merry Christmas Missoula Art Museum

group of MAM docents collectively selected this print by Rick Bartow (Mad River Wiyot, 1946–2016)

Write your letter!

Kevin Red Star

Crow Indian Girl

Lynda M. Frost selected this painting by Kevin Red Star (Crow).

Write your letter!

John Hitchcock

Flatlander: Red Cloud Rd.

Cory Walsh, the arts writer at the Missoulian, selected this piece by John Hitchcock (Comanche, Kiowa, German/Dutch). 

Write your letter!

Corwin Clairmont

Split War Shield

Cameron Decker (Diné, Salish), professor at Salish Kootenai College, selected this sculpture by Corwin Clairmont (Salish-Kootenai). 

Write your letter!

Molly Murphy Adams

Epicenters and Impact

Montana poet laureates Melissa Kwasny and Mandy Smoker Broaddus selected this piece by Molly Murphy Adams (Oglala, Lakota).

Write your letter!

Molly Murphy Adams

Forced North

Heather Cahoon (Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes), assistant professor at the University of Montana and poet, selected this piece by Molly Murphy Adams (Ogala, Lakota). 

Dwayne Wilcox

Wow! Full Blooded White People!

Mike Jetty (Spirit Lake Dakota Nation) selected this ledger drawing by Dwyane Wilcox (Oglala Lakota).  Jetty is the Indian Education Specialist at the Montana State Office of Public Instruction. 

Write your letter!

George Longfish

Modern Times

Stephen Glueckert, curator emerita at MAM, selected this print by George Longfish (Seneca, Tuscarora). 

Joe Feddersen & others


Gail Tremblay (Mi'kmaq and Onondaga), artist and writer, selected this collaborative book by Joe Feddersen (Confederated Colville Tribes) and other Native artists.