One loves to do landscapes.
And the third– watercolor, pen and ink.
All three are in their final year of art classes at Helena College and on the cusp of taking the next big step in their art careers.
And all three sing the praises of Helena College’s art program and their teacher, Seth Roby, who heads up the program.
They’ll be showing their artwork in a 2023 Helena College Capstone exhibit opening at the Holter Museum of Art, 5-7 p.m. Friday, April 7.
For Jacquelyn “Jaci” Putchat, who was a homeschool student, the Helena College classes are giving her confidence and skills to launch a freelance career as an illustrator of children’s books.
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Mint Pitassy, who works as a drag performer, has discovered a passion for creating cartoons, animation and doing video game design.
He’s largely self-taught in animation and digital art, but Helena College has given him a foundation in the art basics. And it’s opening a door to the creative life he longs to live.
For Galen “‘Mac” McAllister, Helena College classes are helping him reboot an art career he started decades ago before taking a detour into a military career.
All three say art has always been something they’ve been drawn to since a very young age.
Putchat did art throughout her childhood and started winning awards at 4-H events and fairs.
Art has always been a safe emotional haven for Pitassy. “It’s always been an escape for me that I could always fall back on.”
McAllister praises great classes he had as a student in the Bozeman schools decades ago that gave him some basic art skills and helped him with his initial art career.
What they’ve learned at Helena College is the nuts and bolts of building a career, but along the way they’ve also been honing their art skills and boosting their confidence.
Putchat was excited to learn how to do charcoal illustrations. It was a medium she’d never used before.
She’s also learned how to have her art critiqued by her classmates and how to do critiques.
A big part of their training is meeting local professional artists, who have come to talk to them about their careers – whether it’s in the visual arts, or at arts nonprofits, or running a performing arts venue or theater.
They’ve also visited a number of local art professionals and learned hands-on skills like how to frame their paintings during a visit to Ghost Art Gallery.
“Just first and foremost, Seth has been an amazing instructor,” Pitassy said. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.”
“Seth is amazing at meeting everybody where they’re at…and giving them feedback so they can improve…and grow as an artist.”
When Pitassy started in the art program, he was terrified at the idea of having his art exhibited in a show for the whole community.
Now, he’s excited.
McAllister, who has attended at least six institutions of higher education, said he was going to put in “a shameless plug” for Roby.
“Seth is the finest instructor I’ve had yet. We’re truly lucky to have him as an instructor.
“He has a remarkable gift for working with people where they’re at and helping them rise to the next level.”
McAllister comes from a family of teachers.
“I’ve seen a lot of educators and education institutions, but Helena College is the gem out of” all of them.
The caliber of instruction is far above what one would expect at a two-year college, he added.
For many people, they would never get to attend college if not for Helena College.
“It’s tremendously important to take people who have much to contribute to society and give them that opportunity.”
While Putchat and Pitassy both are earning Helena College Associate of Arts degrees, McAllister is focused on building his portfolio and skills to open his own studio and business.
He points out that his background in the arts will allow him to keep working into old age, something his MBA degree doesn’t.
“The Capstone program allows me to have closure with the students,” said Roby. “I can now formally send them on their way to the next step in their career.”
In their very first seminar as first-year students, Roby began to introduce them to all the art career options they have, so they could begin to set goals.
The Capstone program is the culmination.
“It’s about career-building skills,” said Roby.
It teaches students how to apply for a show, where to apply for grants, how to transfer, how to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, how to craft an artist statement and resume, how to photograph their artwork, build an online presence and how to market their art.
“It’s a course to refine you where you’re at. It gives you the skills to transfer on as an artist.”
The Capstone exhibit is teamed with the Youth Electrum show (see sidebar) at the Holter, an idea that Roby loves.
The community can see the whole continuum of art education in Helena on display together.