Montana State University

MSU art professor launches Silver Streak Residency

September 7, 2016 -- By Michele Corriel for the MSU News Service

The Silver Streak artist residency, recently remodeled by MSU art instructor Jim Zimpel, makes a trial run in the Bridger Mountains this summer. Photo courtesy Jim Zimpel.

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 Most people who see a vintage 1974 Silver Streak trailer might think of travel, but when Jim Zimpel, assistant professor of sculpture and painting at the Montana State University School of Art in the College of Arts and Architecture, saw the used trailer, he thought of art and possibility.

Zimpel recently launched the Silver Streak Residency, a new short-term artist-in-residence program that kicked off its maiden voyage this summer. Named for the 1974 Silver Streak trailer that houses the artists, Zimpel hopes that the residency program will attract out-of-state contemporary artists who otherwise would not have the opportunity to come to Montana.

“I thought the best way to do this was to buy a trailer – it’s no different than buying art supplies – rip out the interior and make it artist-friendly,” said Zimpel, who ran a gallery in Chicago before coming to MSU three years ago. He said he still feels that curating is a part of his artistic practice.

The 200-square-foot trailer is outfitted with a hangout space, kitchen, sleeping area and bathroom as well as a small studio. Zimpel is hoping to convince local landowners to allow the trailer to park on their property, giving the program a fluidity and site specificity that other residencies don’t offer.

Currently, New Mexico artist Raychael Stine is living in the trailer while it is parked on Bridger Canyon property owned by Dean Adams, MSU art foundations and ceramics professor. Stine is the first visiting artist to complete a two-week residency and is helping Zimpel to fine-tune the program and the facility. For instance, Zimpel said he is tinkering with the trailer by adding solar panels and figuring out how the trailer could be adapted to other types of artists, besides painters.

Stine’s work is about her relationship to place and a response to her everyday surroundings, which she feels makes her a perfect candidate for Silver Streak and its Montana setting.

“My work shifted greatly while I’ve been here,” she said. “When I came here, I thought I’d continue with the body of work I was doing. But (while) here I started tapping into a different kind of energy. The great thing about [this] residency is that it allows me to experiment.”

As part of the program, the artist-in-residence is required to leave an original piece that will become part of the residency’s collection. The artist will also give a lecture at MSU and somewhere in the community, as well as document their experience.

“I’ve always included a social aspect to my art practice,” Zimpel said. “This is a community offering in a sense -- the artists meet new people and the community is exposed to new artists. It also keeps me connected to other contemporary artists.”

Vaughan Judge, director of the MSU School of Art, said that because Montana is remote, yet beautiful, and often costly to bring in visiting artists, Zimpel’s “creative outreach community project” will help attract high-caliber contemporary artists to Montana and Bozeman.

The unique residency experience will also create the opportunity for the School of Art to tap into the visiting artists and engage them with the students and cultural organizations in Bozeman, he added.

“(The residency adds) a broader perspective on challenging contemporary art practices,” Judge said. “(Zimpel’s) creative community project puts a spotlight on MSU and the incredible creativity of the school, faculty and Bozeman.”

Zimpel said he also feels the artist-in-residence program can feed the art ecosystem of the college. Every year, he intends to park the trailer on Main Street where it will function as a pop-up gallery, showcasing the work of all the artists the residency has hosted.

Jim Zimpel (406) 994-3471,