Maass to head SW Montana Arts Council

Mandy Maass has been named executive director for the Southwest Montana Arts Council


Growing up on a family farm, Mandy Maass learned that participating in the arts in a rural community is as much about applying elbow grease to the task at hand as it is about applying paints to a canvas or a bow to a fiddle.

“I went to a small school,” said Maass, of her youth in central Iowa. “I took all the art classes I could take, I was in all the plays, I was in the school band, the choir. I ended up managing a band.

“People had to do things or they didn’t get done. My grandparents were active in the community theater, and I participated in it a lot, even as a little kid. From the age of four on, I was the kid they’d throw into plays.”

Maass brings her bright and varied palette of experiences in the arts and the knowledge and enthusiasm they generated to the position of executive director of the Southwest Montana Arts Council, a job she started Monday.

“Mandy is wonderful and we’re very excited to have her as our new executive director,” said Southwest Montana Arts Council Board President Jerry Girard, who has been involved with the organization since 2001.

“We really liked that she had a passion for arts and experience with nonprofits. Mandy has a lot of selfless energy in terms of giving to causes and to other people.”

The job will be the latest in a long and wide-ranging line of positions related to the arts for Maass.

“In college, I had a free month, so I stage managed a show, Kiss Me, Kate, for community theater in Ames, Iowa,” recalled Maass, who says she also worked as the stage manager for the University of Iowa Performing Arts Center during her time there as a student and managed a touring band, The Nadas, that recorded seven albums.

She also worked in Iowa City for United Action for Youth, an organization that uses the arts to help children heal and realize their full potentials.

“Having worked a little in art therapy, I see kids who have struggled in a lot of areas, and then they sit down with some paint or a guitar and it clicks. It doesn’t have to be amazing—they are creating something and get interested in what they are capable of,” said Maass, who excelled as an athlete, playing small forward for the University of Iowa women’s basketball team and on the women’s rugby team before multiple knee surgeries curtailed her athletic career.

“It’s not about being the greatest, but finding ways to create something. The opportunity to create really builds people up,” said Maass, who plans to work out of the Southwest Montana Arts Council office in Dillon’s Evergreen Center three days a week, and also do part-time work with Montana Youth Challenge and substitute teach.

“I love the arts and bringing arts to the community.”

The appointment of Maass, who came to Dillon in 2011 to earn her teaching certificate at the University of Montana Western and served as board secretary for the Southwest Montana Arts Council for the past year, represents part of an organizational effort to do more of more of the same, according to Girard.

“We’re not planning a whole lot of new things,” said Girard, who works as a counselor at Montana Western. “We think it’s really important to give credit to and continue the work of past Southwest Montana Arts Council members who helped create our culture of diversity and arts education and of working with young people.

“We don’t want to change any of that.”

The Southwest Montana Arts Council will host its Dinner in the Park series on the first four Thursday nights in July, as well as the performance of Henry V by Montana Shakespeare in the Parks on July 31 in Dillon, according to Girard, who said the group will also continue organizing Art Walks and bringing nationally touring shows to Dillon through its annual Showcase series.

In addition to those tried and true efforts, Girard said the group will expand its offerings with at least one kind of new event this coming year

“A new event we’ll be doing is a show on Labor Day weekend—a free concert on Friday, August 30, in Depot Park with the Dave Walker Band. He’s a British blues legend. We’re very lucky to know some of the guys in his band. We’re trying to sign up some local bands and singer-songwriters to open the concert before Dave takes the stage at 7 p.m.

“We’re working on it in conjunction with the Craft Fair. We want to do events that are mutually beneficial—their crowd will be part of our event and our crowd will be part of theirs.

“We’ve been talking about this for a while as a way to add to the Labor Day Weekend experience for people. We’re looking at this as an annual event, and like any annual event after you do it once or twice, you make some adjustments.

“We don’t even have a name for it yet,” laughed Girard.

Founded in 1994 as a grassroots nonprofit group, the Southwest Montana Arts Council seeks to promote education and participation in the arts, with an emphasis on engaging area children. The group advocates for the role of arts in the community, promotes artists and hosts events related to the arts and humanities throughout the year in Beaverhead and Madison Counties.

For more information about the Southwest Montana Arts Council, go to