‘This is our homeland’: Indigenous artists to bring murals to Great Falls

Nora Mabie

For the first time, the annual ArtsFest MONTANA — an event where artists paint murals in downtown Great Falls — will feature work by Indigenous artists.

The fourth annual ArtsFest MONTANA will kick off on Friday, Aug. 12, where nine artists will paint at least eight murals on buildings.

Thanks to a partnership with Sisters United, ArtsFest MONTANA will feature Indigenous artists John Pepion, Blackfeet pictographic artist Louis Still Smoking, a Blackfeet artist specializing in impressionistic realism, and Jack “Senta” Wingo, of the Cherokee Nation.

Pepion and Still Smoking have painted murals in Browning, Starr School and Heart Butte, which they hope will continue to inspire pride in Indigenous identity.

Pepion said he’s known about the ArtsFest for years and had wondered how he could be part of it. He was thrilled when organizers invited him and Still Smoking to participate. Pepion said he and Still Smoking have collaborated on a number of murals featuring warriors, elders and leaders from the past. For the upcoming ArtsFest, though, he said they plan to create a mural of a contemporary Native woman.

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