Hi, Bozemanites! I’m Kate Peterson, the illustrator behind The Dapper Jackalope, and I’m lucky enough to have grown up in Bozeman, Montana, where Hattie Rex is located. Though I now live in Boise, Idaho, it’s such a joy to send my work to Hattie Rex back in my awesome hometown—partly because, though I didn’t know it at the time, so much of my experience in Bozeman helped prepare me for a successful career in the arts. There’s no getting around it—Bozeman has changed a lot since I graduated from Bozeman High in 2005. But, since goggle tans are still in fashion, we can agree that some things have stayed the same, right? So, without further ado: five ways growing up in Bozeman prepared me for a successful career in the arts!
1. An abundance of creative and cultural role models. I’m looking at you, Broad Comedy, and when I was in the County Spelling Bee in eighth grade, I was so star-struck by the fact that Chrysti the Wordsmith was the moderator that I could hardly open my mouth to speak into the microphone. Bozeman is full of interesting people with so many niche areas of expertise. Looking back, I feel like I grew up with the sense that you can become an expert in anything if you work, study, or practice hard enough, and that’s at least in part because I was raised in a town full of people doing really interesting things with their lives—many of them creatives. When you grow up knowing you can make a career out of writing parody sketches like “The Real Housewives of Bozeman,” it seems perfectly feasible to also make a living drawing raccoons thinking about pizza and hedgehogs hiding in fields of cacti, which I now do with great gusto.
2. An awesome public school system that made both creative and critical thinking a priority. In fifth grade at Hawthorne Elementary, one of our projects was to recreate a famous painting and then dress up as the artist for an afternoon as we presented our work (I dressed up as Monet, and I’m thrilled that I don’t have any pictures of that to share with you today). The arts were constantly present and taken wonderfully seriously throughout my public school education in Bozeman, and that kind of artistic awareness and training in abstract thinking were invaluable in shaping my weird little creative brain as I got older. In addition, as a full-time artist, my experience has been that critical thinking is equally as important as creative thinking in my line of work, and having a rigorous education focusing on both is something I’m so thankful for today. There’s a “thesis” of sorts behind every piece I make, which wouldn’t be the same without my academic background—the foundation of which was laid in Bozeman’s awesome public schools.
3. An arts-oriented community. From the Emerson to the amazing variety of kids’ arts programs (shoutout to my fellow Equinox Theatre Campers!) to Sweet Pea and so much more, Bozeman is a town that offers lots of opportunities to celebrate the arts. This has only become more true in recent years, as the emergence of the SLAM festival, an increasing number of local handmade markets, and more have brought the arts even more into the spotlight. Keep it up, Bozeman, and keep supporting small businesses who promote the arts as well (like Hattie Rex!).
4. Nature! Besides spending every moment of every winter weekend at Bridger, I was far from the outdoorsiest kid around, and yet it’s still no surprise that my artwork is full of mountains and trees and animals. Growing up with that kind of natural beauty in literally every direction stays with you, and it can make for great art. I think that more than anything, it helped lead to a sense of wonder that figures into my work every day.
5. Yes, it’s changed—but in its heart of hearts, Bozeman will always be a funky little ski town, and if that’s not the perfect environment for awesome and creative little weirdos to grow up in, I’m not sure what is. Weirdness and creativity go hand in hand, so is it any surprise that the home of the Pinhead Classic would be the hometown of the kid who wrote the book on weirdness? (Literally. It’s a creative journal called You’re Weird and it came out from Penguin Random House in July 2017. Woohoo!) In all seriousness, though, Bozeman has deep roots in an essentially funky and offbeat spirit, and that’s a perfect recipe for creative thinking. I wouldn’t trade my quirky hometown for anything.
So please keep Bozeman weird! And have a burrito at La Pa for me. Or four.
Shop The Dapper Jackalope HERE!
And check out Kate's awesome book, You're Weird HERE!