“Over There! Montanans in the Great War” marks centennial

Exhibit at Montana Museum of Art & Culture in Missoula commemorates World War I

Art Beat

“Over There! Montanans in the Great War,” a powerful exhibition commemorating America’s involvement in World War I, continues through Dec. 16 at the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at the University of Montana.

“Over There! Montanans in the Great War”
Helmet Painted with Flags and Battle Scenes, courtesy of Hayes Otoupalik

The exhibition, taking place a hundred years after the U.S. entered the so-called “Great War,” will include more than 200 artifacts and works of art related to the lives of four Montanans who experienced the war’s victories and degradations firsthand. In addition, the exhibition explores the concept of how “the Enemy” was portrayed during the war.

The four individuals from, or closely tied to, Montana featured in the exhibition include: Glasgow-born William Belzer, celebrated aviator and one of America’s first flying aces; Great Falls widow Josephine Hale, who served as a Red Cross nurse and became a notable painter in France; Sidney F. Smith, “doughboy” and hero of the infamous “Lost Battalion”; and James Watson Gerard, U.S. ambassador to Berlin until our declaration of war, who was married to Mary Daly of the famous mining family.

The exhibition draws objects related to Hale, including her nurse’s uniform, notebooks, photographs and works of art, from the MMAC Permanent Collection.

“The Great War seems long ago and far away, but the MMAC brings it close to home and makes it personal,” said Harry Fritz, UM history professor emeritus. “By focusing on four Montanans who played major roles in the conflict, the exhibit reminds us that we are never isolated from important international events. World War I was ‘the great seminal catastrophe’ of the 20th century, and we are still confronting the consequences of that titanic clash – in Europe, in Asia and, above all, in the Middle East. The centennial of the war is an appropriate time for remembering the conflict and learning from it, and the MMAC’s portrayal is a must-see event.”

The exhibition opened Sept. 21 with a lecture and catalog-signing by H. Rafael Chacón, guest curator and UM professor of art history and criticism. Chacón has spent more than six years preparing this presentation and writing the accompanying catalog.

Seven additional programs will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition:

  • “America’s Deadliest Battle: An Experiential Film of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive,” 8 p.m. Monday, Sept. 25, Montana Theatre; MMAC and the UM President’s Lecture Series sponsor this film presented by filmmaker Jo Throckmorton.
  • Artis et belli: the Great War and its Art,” with guest curator and art historian Rafael Chacón, 5:30-7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 16, Masquer Theatre, PAR/TV Center
  • After One Hundred Years: Montana and the Great War,” with Harry Fritz, UM professor emeritus of history, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, Masquer Theatre
  • “The Grit and the Glory: the Great War and its Poetry,” presented by Lisa Simon, Radius Gallery co-owner, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, Masquer Theatre
  • The First Monday WWI Film Series, 7 p.m. at the Roxy Theatre, 718 Higgins Ave: screenings include: “Grand Illusion” 9; “Paths of Glory, Nov. 6; and “A Very Long Engagement,” Dec. 4. Tickets cost $8 or $7 for students and seniors.

MMAC’s gallery hours are from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The museum is closed Sundays, Mondays and UM holidays. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation.

For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit http://www.umt.edu/montanamuseum/.