Poetry, urban art and punk music will come together Saturday night in what promises to be one of the more unique events Billings has seen in recent years — or perhaps ever.
Three weeks ago, Rocky Mountain College philosophy and religious studies professor Aaron Rosen read of a Billings City Council member’s dismissive quip about young Billings artists being beatniks. Since then, he and a young contingency of artists and musicians have been working at putting together the first of what they hope will be a series of happenings downtown.
"Unfortunately, as young people it is difficult because they are not always taken seriously. You can have great ideas and all the energy in the world, but you can't get them off the ground without the infrastructure," Rosen said.
Rosen, who has lived all over the world, most recently in London where he curated an urban art exhibit, knows how to tap that youthful energy and connect it to the quarters of power in Billings.
The first Urban Arts Platform will be held Saturday from 6 to 8 p.m. on the parking garage roof at the Northern Hotel, followed by an all-ages concert from 8 to 11 at 2905 Montana Ave.
My jaw dropped wider and wider the more I heard about the pop-up party. It was an already stellar lineup featuring poetry readings by Pete Tolton and Ashley Warren, but now Big Timber poet Michael Earl Craig is on the bill, making a rare public performance in Billings after being named poet laureate last year.
Billings musician Phil Griffin is excited about the potential of the event, and hopes to organize more pop-up parties like this one. It's the kind of cultural event in the city's core that millennials appreciate.
“I think it will be a really robust event. We’re looking at getting 100 to 150 people at both events.”
Key to the planning was Rosen’s ability to bring Rocky Mountain College in as a sponsor. Rosen, who joined the Rocky faculty last fall, said this event fits perfectly with Rocky’s mission to support arts and culture and young people in the community.
“Particularly in this political climate, we need to bring these creative ideas together — youth space and high-quality industrial art. Let’s work together for finding funders and donors,” Rosen said.
Rosen said college President Bob Wilmouth is supportive of the arts and the Northern Hotel was looking at their parking garage as underused. Coming from London where citizens embrace its core, Rosen said he sees the downtown Billings warehouses as having huge potential for experimental industrial art. He would like to find a warehouse or industrial space here to show large-scale experimental art.
“People would kill for those spaces in New York or London,” Rosen said.
For this pop-up event, Rosen is bringing in London artist G. Roland Biermann to show videos of his installations and discuss his work.
The Northern Hotel parking garage has great views of the Rims and the South Hills. Beyond this pop-up event, Rosen hopes to prove to Billings that some places they think are ugly are actually the "coolest spaces in town."