MISSOULA – Mountain Line invites the public to attend its First Friday event with artist Stella Nall to celebrate the completion of Nall’s full-scale mural across the south entrance of the agency’s Downtown Transfer Center.
The mural, titled “Climate Conscious Creatures Wheel Toward a Sustainable Future,” combines Nall’s whimsical style and cultural heritage with Mountain Line’s commitments to a sustainable future.
“I use a lot of symbolism in my work. Some of it is drawn from tradition, and some I develop to speak to my own experiences,” said Nall, a 23-year-old descendant of the Apsáalooke (Crow) Tribe. “I was initially drawn to this opportunity because I’m very passionate about sustainability and how we can make conscious steps toward maintaining a healthier balance with the earth.”
Nall’s design shows animals native to Montana imagined as bus creatures wheeling through clean air above the mountains. Each bus has many wheels inspired by the form and color palate of the traditional Plains medicine wheel.
“There are varying understandings of the Medicine Wheel in terms of direction and color association, but one interpretation is that it is a symbol of hope - movement toward healing for those who seek it,” wrote Nall in her artist statement. “I am including it in this design to speak to the sustainability efforts we are capable of making, and how switching to sustainable transportation options may be a step towards healing humanity’s damaged relationship with the environment.”
The public art call in 2020 was a joint effort between Mountain Line and the City of Missoula Public Arts Committee (PAC). Jennifer Sweten, Director of Operations at Mountain Line and a member of the PAC review committee, said she was captured by Nall’s vision and personality.
“We loved how Stella created a direct connection between public transportation and stewardship for the environment,” said Sweten. “At Mountain Line, sustainability is one of our guiding principles, from reducing traffic congestion and helping keep our air clean, to committing to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035.”
Kathi Olson, acting chair of the PAC, said she couldn’t imagine a better pairing than Mountain Line and Nall.
“There are many factors that go into building a healthier, more equitable community,” said Olson. “And we see three of them coming together in this project: supporting public art, BIPOC representation, and sustainable, accessible public transportation.”
The First Friday celebration will be held outside the south entrance at 200 West Pine Street this Friday, August 6, from 5:30 PM to 7 PM, with comments from the artist at 5:45 PM. All are welcome.
Mountain Line was named the top public transit agency in North America in its size in 2021, earning the American Public Transportation Association Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award. The agency also won the MTA statewide safety award in 2021. Committed to a zero-tailpipe-emissions fleet by 2035, Mountain Line has a long-standing commitment to clean air, public health and a more sustainable future. Since becoming a zero-fare system in 2015, ridership has increased nearly 70 percent. During normal times, Mountain Line provides more than 1.5 million rides annually, helping students get to school, employees get to work, and seniors and those living with disabilities stay active, mobile and independent. By reducing the number of single vehicles on the road, lessening traffic congestion and investing in electric buses, Mountain Line benefits us all.