Anne and Jon Bertsche interview by Brandon Reintjes, 8/3/10

Brandon:  Anne and Jon, to date you have served on our Advisory Council and the MMAC Exhibition Committee, loaned artworks for exhibition, hosted events at your home on behalf of MMAC, volunteered at the museum, participated in our Strategic Planning, become MMAC members and attended almost every event. This is an impressive basis of support!  We can’t thank you enough for your involvement.  When and how did you first get involved with MMAC? What was your very first moment with MMAC?

Anne I was also involved with the Women’s Art History Group, don’t forget that!  I really began to be more active just about the time that the name Montana Museum of Art & Culture was adopted.  I remember the excitement at the auction when the new name was announced. When was that?

Brandon:  About 2001 or 2002.  Before that it was called the Museum of Fine Arts.

Anne:  We had been doing things with the museum for several years before that, during the time that Maggie [Mudd] was Director.  Maggie became our mentor [for the Women’s Art History Group].  The Women’s Art History Group sponsored a lecture every month. It was modeled after a group I connected with at Radio City Music Hall on a trip we took to NYC. I became more connected to the museum during the time that the Women’s Art History Group met at the museum.  I really think our home was here.

Jon:  I’ve always been interested in art on campus and when I taught at UM I would see the museum’s art in people’s offices.  We were always art appreciators, but our knowledge and passion for art has increased through our connection with the museum.  We saw lots of changes to the museum begin to occur around 2000.

Brandon:  It began to gain a sort of momentum.

Anne:  Yes, but back to our conversation about Maggie Mudd—on that same trip to New York we brought back a piece by Miriam Shapiro and showed it to Maggie and she said, “Well, yes, but if you are considering a piece like that, why not a Rudy Autio?”  It was a turning point in our collecting and we began to focus on our fine artists here in Missoula, in Montana.  The connections to artists became very important.  

Brandon: What are your passions as collectors?

Anne:  I’ll do the prelude.  We don’t think of ourselves as collectors.  We’re not actively collecting art.  Maybe we’re post-collectors.  We don’t go about looking for art, art finds us.  It’s not collecting that excites us, it’s the artists and their works.  Every piece in our house has some lovely story.  We live with our art and love sharing it with our family and friends. 

Jon:  No, it’s not just a painting, it’s not just a piece of art, it’s the humanity that goes with it, the relationship to the artist.  My understanding  [of art] really grew when we began to know the artists.

Anne: And we love all kinds of art—I think that is rather unique about us, the special gift of Jon's parent's beautiful art and the ancestral art, as well our love of Asian art, both old and contemporary, Jon's love of historical photographs and of course, our joy in modernist and contemporary art, especially ceramics.  Also, following Jon's family's lead, our love and support extends to all the arts.

Brandon:  And what made you decide to support MMAC?

Jon:  The love of art!  To encourage the museum.

Anne:  Jon grew up with parents who supported the arts.  That was a huge value in their home.  His Dad was one of the original trustees of the CM Russell Museum, and he helped a lot of struggling, beginning artists and helped guide the museum in its early years.  And he had a wonderful collection.  It was absolutely part of his life.  They were a family that loved art and supported it.  That’s really the key, and I married into it.  I grew up loving and playing classical music, but my love for art was ignited by Jon’s family. While his parents had a wonderful western art collection, our focus quickly became modernist and contemporary. We’ve passed this passion on to our daughter who can’t imagine traveling to a city without visiting the art museums.

Brandon: And what have been some of your favorite MMAC moments? Exhibits? Projects?

Jon: Well we both remember this well, Ted Waddell has an exhibit here and he had a painting…

Anne: In the Meloy Gallery…

Jon: Yes, that took over the whole wall.  It was majestic, powerful.

Anne: The exhibition was more than just magnificent…we were able to go to dinner with Ted and get to know him as a person.  Another favorite of mine was Rembrandt: The Beggars [Sordid and Sacred: The Beggars in Rembrandt's Etchings,2007-2008].  We were at the Getty this winter and saw a show of Rembrandt and his students [Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference, 2009-2010]. I felt like I came to that show informed, that our exhibition had informed it.  I had also taken [UM Professor of Art History] Valerie Hedquist’s Dutch Painters MOLLI class. Both our exhibition and Valerie’s class heightened my enjoyment of the Getty exhibition.  I could have stayed at that one exhibit for many more hours.  Actually, The Beggars was as exciting or more exciting because I love the small works; for me they are more intimate and touching.  Every experience we have with art rests on the shoulders of the experiences before it… 

Brandon:  So your connection to MMAC has been through the exhibitions, the art?

Anne: Yes, but my main connection to the museum has also been through the Directors.  I loved Maggie, and I loved David, and I absolutely love Barbara.

Jon: …and I want to include current staff in that as well.  You’re all wonderful.  It’s how you make a connection, through the people.  Your appreciation grows and you get involved.

Anne: Yes, it’s the feeling that your contributions are valued and that you can make a difference.

Jon:…beyond only a financial contribution.

Anne: Yes, there are a lot of places we contribute money to, but it’s only to a few places that we give our time and energy. We appreciate the great sense of welcome here and share the passion for MMAC’s mission.  Thanks for the opportunity to share our love of art and MMAC .