Montana Women’s Prison

The YAM and the Montana Women’s Prison have been partners since 2013. This bimonthly art program is taught by professional artists at Montana Women’s Prison. Classes introduce diverse approaches to creating art and emphasize process, problem-solving, and creative expression.  One hundred percent of Montana Women’s Prison participants indicated on our evaluation survey that these classes have “value in [their] future.” This program is in also alignment with the prison’s recovery/reentry model which prepares women to rejoin their communities and reunify them with their children and families.

How It Started

The project began in 2013. Cierra Coppock, a 14-year old student at Lewis & Clark Junior High, was working with a teacher-designed program that involved students planning and completing community projects. Her proposal for the program, called Two Roads, involved bringing art programs to the Montana Women’s Prison. After lengthy discussions, the Yellowstone Art Museum and the Montana Women’s Prison agreed to build a collaborative program.


The goals of the program include:

  1. Introduce different art techniques and mediums to develop various skills in creating art for use in real life situations.
  2. Use art as a vehicle to explore:
    project planning
    creative approaches to organization
    positive evaluation skills
    using art principles to build job skills for the future

What We Do

Every other month a six-hour period over two days is the amount of time allotted for each class. Twenty spaces are made available for each class. The first class covers the fundamentals and the second class will provide the time and instruction required for a finished piece of art.

The art museum contracts with a local teaching artist for each class. Over the course of a year a diversity of mediums, two and three-dimensional works, and teaching philosophies is sought. Classes in the past have included Ceramic Tiles, Altered Books, Fundamentals of Drawing, Painting, Fiber Sculpture, Drawing Dog Portraits, Still Life in Watercolor, Abstract Expressionism, Jewelry and Meditative Art.

In 2018 the museum offered to the Staff of the Montana Women’s Prison an art class for the first time. Carolyn Thayer offered a class on “Painting Sunflowers.” Carol Welch offered “Spring Still Life with Acrylics” on May 8, 2019.

The program is generously supported through grants from the Tippet Rise Fund of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation, Puffin Foundation West, Ltd., and Zonta Club of Billings.