ZACC Attack!

The New Space For Zootown Arts


Dusk Johnson, Assistant Editor, Designer, Writer

The Zootown Arts Community Center, or ZACC for short, is a non profit organization whose goal is to provide a space for local artists and creatives to thrive. They do many shows and artistic events around the community, as well as classes for adult and youth artists alike. A good place to stop in if you have any interest in Missoula’s art community. According to their website,, they “provide the tools, networking, and information artists need to be successful.” No matter what form of art you practice, the ZACC also has this to tell you, “We are a haven and networking space for our artists, young and old. Anyone can create, collaborate, and thrive in the ZACC regardless of their financial status.” This acts as the ZACC’s main motivation, so our community can keep creating. I interviewed my friend Lukas, who works there, and this is what he had to say about the ZACC and its new space.
What is the ZACC’s main contribution the Missoula community?
“The ZACC’s mission is that we cultivate community through accessible art experiences for all. So we want to be, and we are, an artistic staple in downtown Missoula, just a creative place where the community can come to us and create something meaningful and create culture in Missoula. We just want to empower people through creativity in Missoula. ‘Cause you know Missoula is changing and we want to be one of the anchors that keeps Missoula… weird,” Lukas laughs happily at this thought, “definitely weird and fun and thoughtful and critical of itself.”

How does the new space benefit the ZACC and what you do?
“Oh wow, that’s a great question too! You’ve got good questions!” He chuckles a bit, preparing to answer, “We used to be on the northside, as you know, we were pretty small, and even though we were pretty close to where we are now, the northside’s a little less accessible, it’s not close to a bus line, you kind of have to go under the railroad or over the railroad to get there. Now we’re right dab in the middle of town, we’re really visible. We have- our facilities are way better now, we have this cool music school and this recording studio downstairs, and we’ll have classrooms. We won’t be having our classes in the art gallery anymore,” Lukas says, remembering this being the case of the old ZACC building. “And we have a really cool performance space and hired new staff to keep that space interesting and diverse. We have lots of cool stuff going on there. The facility change has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for us in Missoula.”

How did it feel to leave the old building?
“When we left, you know there was some nostalgic feelings, felt a little- like a lot of really cool stuff happened at the old ZACC. And we were able to do a lot of things in that really limited space. But honestly it was just so exciting to move down here that by the time we were actually moving, we were definitely, you know, ready. And it was a little weird to see that empty space, just like ‘man this is so small.’”

Why did the ZACC end up moving to the new location?
“Our programming was just growing beyond what we could accomodate of that space. Kia [a leader in the ZACC] started this campaign to have a new ZACC something like seven years ago. So we’ve been fundraising and looking for a building, and planning for that long. So yeah it’s definitely now, that we’re in a space where the programming we want to do, we can do now.”

What new resources and spaces do you have for people to use?
“This recording studio that we’re in right now. The plan is to get some really nice gear and make it so that anyone can come in here and record their own podcast or record a demo for some music or whatever. That’s something I’m personally really excited about, but we have a whole new print shop that we’re going to have, just one room devoted [to it], I mean the old ZACC had a print shop too, but it was just like a bedroom. Now we have a huge print shop, we have so many classes, we’re able to accommodate more classes with that. Then the performance space is, like I mentioned, it’s way bigger, it has bigger sound, we can accommodate bigger acts, and also a smaller act or a weird play could fit in there. Also our galleries, we’ve got the youth gallery, which you know, if you ever wanted to show your art,” he gestures to me (I’m really excited about that too haha.) “You can apply on our website and you could have a show in our youth gallery. And then we have our main gallery and a couple smaller galleries too. There’s lots of opportunity for artists to show their work.”
Can anyone come in?
“Absolutely! We’ve got space where people can, and a free art supply closet, people can use that to just make whatever. We also have a paint your own pottery studio, so you come in and buy a piece of pottery and paint it, and then we’ll fire it for you, and glaze [it]. We offer lots of classes and camps and all that stuff’s on our website. And one thing that the ZACC could be better at is having programming for people your [Dusk’s] age, for teenagers. I know that you’ve helped out with camps and a lot of teenagers help out with camps, but we want to have some more stuff going on where it’s programming specifically for teenagers to be in charge of what they’re learning and have resources to come here and do weird music stuff or weird art stuff, and have some more community focused projects. So I think starting in January we’re hoping to have some art camps for teenagers and music camps for teenagers. We want to kind of gear it up so that teens can do these camps during the school year and then in the summer, maybe we can pay them a little bit to do [volunteer for] some summer camps.”

Are there any upcoming ZACC-hosted events people can come to?
“We’ve got a whole calendar on the website!” Lukas points out, “ We’re doing a lot of camps, right now we’re doing a comic book camp, we did a camp with the roxy, [where] we were making stop motion films with the kids. Basically we have a couple events every week in our show room, so I would just check out that calendar and see what’s coming up.”

How does someone in the community get involved with the ZACC?
“There’s lots of ways! You could just stop by and get to know us and make some art with us, or, if you’d like to you could start by volunteering for a class, that’s a really great way to get involved. So you can email me, I’m [email protected] We’d love to have you help out with a class. Also if you’re interested in teaching a class, we have ways for artists to submit a proposal for a class they want to teach for kids or adults, and we can help you set up a class through the ZACC to teach. Also, you can submit for any of our shows, right now we’re having our ZACC friends and family show, where anyone can submit art to this friends and family show, so if you’re listening to [or reading] this, you qualify as our family. So that’s a good way to have a piece of art in our show, that’s a great way to get involved.”

What would you like the Missoula community to know most about the ZACC?
“I think one thing we- often when I talk about this I say “we” when we use that language of saying “we” [it’s because] the ZACC is really for everybody. This is Missoula’s community arts center. I’d like that to be the mentality for people when they think about the ZACC, they think about their place to go and create and have a weird encounter with art, or a meaningful encounter with art. So yeah the ZACC is for you, listener!! And you Dusk!” Lukas says.
After our interview Lukas then asked me a few questions about Willard, the Willard Wire, and general life as a teenage artist! You can listen to the rest of our chat and some other local artist’s music, and stories on Spotify, or any other podcast service. The podcast is a weekly show called “Art Sounds: The Community Art Hour with the ZACC” where Lukas talks with local artists of every kind and showcases some amazing music! Needless to say, the ZACC has become a great friend to me and the Willard Wire.