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As Yogi Berra said, "It's deja vu all over again." Up highway 287 again to Laramie last December, and no comet in the sky this time and we're talking about the new High Ground. This time we were coming back from Kansas City where editor Marilyn Lysohir, (who was a visiting artist at the K.C. Art Institute in the fall semester), gathered stories from that heart-land city--- so High Ground goes to Missouri. One of the new active art centers in K.C. is Grand Arts, a not-for-profit gallery and sculpture studio. We chatted with Sean Kelley, the director there. One of the extra items in this edition is from Grand Arts (but as this goes to the designer we haven't seen it... so it'll be a surprise all 'round.) And we also had a chance to talk with Ken Ferguson, internationally respected ceramist, who has just retired from teaching and chairing the ceramic department at KCAI and we have some wonderful recipes from his wife Gertrude. The new ceramic chair at KCAI, Cary Esser, shares her passion for terra cotta architectural decoration in "Nelle's Buildings."

The other editor (me) was in Vladivostok Russia this past fall, with an exhibition at Artetage Gallery of my drawings (called "From Moscow With Love"), along with other just-started drawings that viewers could complete... an interactive experience that was new for most of the Russian audience. I stayed with Andrei Kamalov, gave a talk at the American consulate in Vladivostok, celebrated my (65th) birthday at a big party in the woods north of town and went dancing with my dear padruga Marina. Lots of good stories, vodka, and talks with old and new friends.

We followed up on the idea that we suggested in High Ground '97, and so we have focused this issue on film and architecture. We also are spotlighting three artists... George Wray, from Moscow Idaho, who works in neon, and Richard Notkin and Phoebe Toland from Helena Montana, who were to be part of Two studios/One Bed but whose fax to us last year got lost in cyberspace.

The idea of looking at architecture began because three of my colleagues at Washington State University, Bashir Kazimee, Michael Owen and Tom Bartuska of the School of Architecture, won a Gold Medal at the UN Habitat II Conference in Istanbul Turkey. I heard them give a lecture on their ideas about "sustainable communities" and asked them to share them with High Ground.

Then, since we were attuned to architectural subjects, we paid attention to rumors about a town in Montana designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright. Montana seemed a bit off the architectural track for FLW but we continued to ask around and finally talked with Billings architect Delton Ludwig. Mr. Ludwig is a native Montanan, who started corresponding with Wright when he was 12, and eventually studied with him in the mid 50's. He has written an interesting history of Wright's Bitter Root Valley project for us.

Dwaine Carver, a Boise-based architect, moves back and forth comfortably over that fading line that divides architecture and art. Dwaine shares an installation called "found tape compositions."

And Michael Culpepper from the WSU Architecture Department and Greg Tew from the Design Institute at WSU Spokane built a school bus shelter near Moscow ID that displayed both conceptual and practical differences from the usual ones we pass on lonely country roads... it might be almost fun to wait for the school bus inside a pregnant vessel.

Tom Trusky, from the Idaho Center for the Book, had told us stories over the years of his search for the films of the legendary director Nell Shipman and so our Boise colleague Alberta Mayo taped some of Tom's stories for High Ground. Then Alberta also provided an interview with Nancy Kelly who directed "Thousand Pieces of Gold"... the story of the Chinese immigrant Lalu Nathoy, who lived in Warren Diggins Idaho in the late 1870's.

Then when we were having coffee at the Vox one day we ran into Dennis and Joan West. Dennis is a contributing editor for Cineaste and an authority on Latin American film. He and Joan were intrigued by the idea of doing something for us, and so we were off and running on film. The Wests present "Difficult Themes", four interviews with women directors who deal with various feminist issues in their films.

And in Kansas City Marilyn had met Karen Dillon, who runs Tingletangle Productions. She had an interview with Stan Brakhage, a legendary American film-maker and his sometime collaborator Joel Haertling. We couldn't resist.

Another interview was with David Kline, cinematographer and former Boisean. Roy de Young, High Ground designer, did this one for us. And finally our man in Los Angeles and Hope, Monte Factor (whom you read in the '97 High Ground), writes about the unusual and Zen-like photography of Jeff Bridges, the actor who recently starred in "The Big Lebowski" and who splits his time between Los Angeles and western Montana.

With all these interviews with filmmakers we thought it might be interesting to provide a top-ten list so we asked Bob Suto, owner of the landmark Micro movie theater in Moscow to provide one. He provided three! See if you agree.

Patrick Siler let us use one of his paintings for the frontispiece. "The Big Blonde" is 80" x 116", is acrylic on canvas and painted in 1997. Patrick is a long-time professor at WSU, a 1990 recipient of an N.E.A. Fellowship in ceramic sculpture, and just recently had an exhibition of his drawings at Boise State University.

Our High Ground poet Loretta Anawalt again has graciously provided a poem from her new book "Dream Prints." (Eastern Washington University Press.)

We thank Roy de Young and Temel West in Boise for the design work, and Alberta Mayo who continues to provide moral support and more. Joel Haertling and KCAI film student Elizabeth Huber provided film inserts, and John Anderson (from University of Idaho) helped with transcribing the audio tapes. Bill Bowler and Jacki Wright provided some seeds from their regionally renowned garden.

We picked three winners of FREE ART from the entries sent in from the last issue. They are: Bruce Grimes from Durango CO, Fred Deibel from Lewiston ID and Kathy Glowen from Arlington WA. They'll each get a ceramic surprise from editor Marilyn Lysohir. Congratulations! Don't forget to send in your entry for this year's drawing.

We also thank you all out there for your letters and suggestions. We got a lot of letters about the last issue, particularly Two Studios/ One Bed. They ranged from flattering congratulations to (almost) hate mail. We reassure ourselves that if we can cause those reactions (a) people are reading High Ground and (b) High Ground affects its readers. I have to admit that we do prefer the positive letters, but we learn from them all.

One particularly nice thing that came out of Two Studios/One Bed was an exhibition of the work of many of the artists in the story, arranged by Barbara Racker (from the Cheney-Cowles Museum) at a downtown Spokane location. The exhibition was very well attended, and it seems to indicate that Spokane has grown enough to have a real Museum of Contemporary Art, and not just a room in a history museum. Boise has one (just added to) and so does Missoula. It's time that some cultural leaders up there in Spokane started thinking about how even a modest art museum could be an anchor for the downtown revitalization project.

Since we are talking about museums, High Ground would like to say good bye to Patricia Watkinson, who has left the WSU Museum of Art after many successful years as director there. We wish her good fortune in her new position as director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana. Goodbye and good luck also to Dennis O'Leary, who after more than fifteen years at the Boise Art Museum, is leaving to be director of the Djerassi RESIDENT ARTIST PROGRAM in Woodside California. And High Ground welcomes Lucinda Barnes, who comes from Chicago to be new director of the expanded Boise Art Museum. She deserves support from us all.