By Ron VandenBoom
The cutting of a birthday cake at the Heritage Center Saturday signaled the first anniversary of the old Havre Post Office turned cultural center and museum.
Time flies, were the opening remarks of Hill County Commissioner, Kathy Bessette, as she greeted a crowd of well wishers to the party. It seems like just the other day we were here for the grand opening.
Bessette congratulated all of those she called dedicated people for the many hours they spent seeing to it the Heritage Center became a reality.
It just gives me pride to be a little teeny part of it, she said. We have such a unique and rich history and very diverse. Surely we need to continue this work that has already began.
Toward this goal she challenged everyone to become involved and share their expertise.
Mayor Phyllis Leonard told the crowd she believed the Heritage Center was born out of necessity.
At that time, Havre had about 22 empty buildings and we didnt need another empty building, she said.
She told of a time when the community feared the building would be stripped of all its marble and left an empty ugly shell. She told the crowd how the city council and community came together to save the historic building.
I just think that its wonderful that the community has come together, Leonard said. I guess it was just meant to be because people started to get behind the movement.
Leonard said she believed everybody finally decided the building itself was a museum.
She thanked the museum board and the museum foundation for all of their work.
I cant tell you how wonderful it is to have something like this preserved, she said.
Artist Brian Morger, of Fort Benton and Great Falls, helped kick off the celebration by using the occasion to open a display of his works in the Heritage Center Gallery.
It was about a year ago when he first toured the building, Morger told the crowd. As a student of architecture I was impressed, but I was equally impressed with the contents and how fitting it was to marry ... art and the remnants that teach us something about where weve been to show us where were going.
Im only happy to be a part of it, he said.
John Well-Off-Man and his wife Dr. Manuela Well-Off-Man, also gave words of praise and encouragement to the Heritage Center.
John Well-Off-Man told those attending the ceremony it was his desire to help bring art from Rocky Boy Indian Reservation to the community of Havre that prompted him to become a part of the Contemporary Indian Art Show in the H. Earl Clack Museum.
The works are the first of a group that will be heading for the Westphalian State Museum of Natural History in Muenster, Germany, in the fall, 1999.
This is a great building Well-Off-Man told the crowd, and he believed the Heritage Center would be a perfect place to display American Indian art.
Together with his wife, who is the curator of the exhibit for the Westphalian Museum, Well-Off-Man said he has found a true niche for native culture at the Heritage Center.