GREAT FALLS — New installations in the downtown Great Falls Urban Art Project are now available for public viewing, including one display by a Montana artist that is bringing attention to human rights issues in Montana and the world.
From Montana to Ukraine to Iran, Lisa Botti’s human compassion art project is making a statement, but she says it's not political, “I picked these because of the tragedies going on,” said Botti.
Botti came up with the idea of ‘Teardrops for Humanity’ featuring teardrop-shaped clay tiles after observing world events, especially in Ukraine and Iran.
It started after she made a sunflower stamp to show solidarity with Ukraine. “I decided to start making those as ornaments and passing them out whenever I'd go to through Starbucks,” said Botti. “Just for people to have compassion for Ukraine.”
She says after seeing reports of young teenagers and women in Iran being murdered for simply wanting basic human rights, she decided to make a tile highlighting the crisis.
“I spoke with the engraver that makes my wooden stamps, and he and I collaborated on the image,” said Botti.
She saw an Iranian chant on a newscast which she included in both English and Arabic. The tile also includes the image of a hand holding a burqa.
She then decided to add an issue making Montana headlines.
“I picked the missing and murdered Indigenous women and missing and murdered Indigenous people,” said Botti. “The interesting thing is, it got other people actually looking into that and just how bad it is.”
The project's tiles seem suspended but are tied to upside-down tomato stands. Botti says they are a good representation of current events.
“Things are going on around the world and things are going on in this country,” said Botti. “We need to come together as people having compassion instead of all this division and anger and just, you know, pointing fingers.”
Lisa is known for producing pottery. Some of her work can be seen at Great Falls businesses such as Al Banco and the Sip ‘n Dip Lounge. She has also made pottery for the YWCA. She makes bowls for the organization's annual Empty Bowls fundraiser along with a banner that hangs in the building and tiles that the YWCA sells to help raise funds for its task force.
She has also created a five-foot banner for the Indian Family Health Clinic featuring the MMIP tiles.
To make the tiles, she uses Alderwood from Johnson-Madison Lumber to make stamps engraved on a laser machine at Double J Engraving. Lisa presses the stamp on clay and can cut out the teardrop shape.
Her background as a social worker and love for art combines two of her passions.
“I can utilize my art as a way to raise awareness,” said Botti. “The social work aspect of myself is really important to me.”
While the tapestry in the project’s background came from Amazon, it also serves an important purpose.
“I realized it was an oak tree when I put it up,” said Botti. “That is a childhood tree of mine when I was growing up, a huge one in the backyard. It symbolizes a strength and solidarity and just being very solid and protected.”
Teardrops for Humanity is one of eleven art installation pieces in the Urban Art Project and will be on display until September.
A reception for the participating artists will be held on June 22, 2023, from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Kellergeist Pub, which is located at 300 First Avenue South.
“This is probably one of the most important pieces I've ever done in terms of its meaning,” said Botti. “It's much bigger than myself.”