By Ron VandenBoom
Its new, its one-of-a-kind, and according to Outlook Magazine, it will offer the best instruction offered in North America.
Its the Academy of Realistic Taxidermy (ART) and it will be located just north of Havre at the site of the old U.S. Air Force Technical Operations Center just west of Highway 232 about four-miles from the Canadian Border.
Steve Faechner, owner of Bear Paw Fur Dressing and Taxidermy Inc., acquired the old Operations Center from the Air Force about a year ago and has decided to open the Academy because there is no other place in the nation or the world where this type of all-inclusive instruction will be taught by experts of this quality.
Theyll teach it the way its supposed to be taught and they (the students) will learn the way taxidermy is supposed to be done, Faechner said. Its not just putting skin on a form. This is more than that.
Students attending each 9-week session will receive intensive and complete training in all aspects of taxidermy, from basic anatomy and measurements to instruction on bookkeeping and how to start a taxidermy business.
Faechner has recruited a list of the worlds finest to serve as faculty at the Academy.
My instructors are the worlds best, he said, proven masters in their field and world champions.
Faechner has indeed recruited an impressive list of instructors, each with a name that is easily recognized and well-respected in the world of taxidermy. They have achieved national and international recognition for their work in competitions the world over.
Each has specialized in a specific area of taxidermy that runs the gamut from reptiles to mammals, to fish and birds. They will only be teaching in those areas where they are masters and only masters will teach each section of the course.
This infusion of rotating faculty, each teaching only those sections in which they are experts, will mean ART will have the most skilled collection of talented instructors ever gathered in one spot for the purpose of teaching taxidermy. They will be coming from Montana, British Columbia, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Washington, Iowa, California, Michigan, Alberta, and Wisconsin.
Also included in the instruction will be at least 40 hours of business instruction. Like the taxidermy classes, it will be taught by instructors who have experience in the area of running a taxidermy business and know the ins-and-outs of advertising, marketing, and pricing, and how to attract business.
It is something that, according to Faechner, many within the taxidermy industry believe is long overdue.
Faechner plans to begin the first 9-week class on January 3, 2000, and will offer three 9-week sessions per year the second begins April 3, 2000, and the third starts on July 24, 2000.
The cost of a full session will be $8,000 and include three meals a day, and accommodations.
The students will also leave with the mounts that they do theyll leave with the tools that are supplied by the school theyll have an airbrush that theyll get to take home theyll be able to go home and start doing taxidermy right away, Faechner said.
The student will complete and be allowed to take home: at least two game heads; two birds; three fish; one rug; and one life-size mount.
Students also will leave with a membership to the National Taxidermy Association.
Within 30 days after graduation, students will be allowed the option of buying a lifetime membership to the school. The cost of the membership is $1,500 and it will entitle the holder to return to the ART for two days every year for the rest of his life for intermediate courses.
To me, its always nice to be able to go back and learn more, Faechner said. You never stop learning. If you do stop learning, its time to go get yourself a different job.
The cost of a full 9-week session will be $8,000 with incremental prices available for those students who do not want to attend the full 9-week session.
Those students wanting to take only a portion of the nine weeks will be allowed to do so, Faechner said, but the cost will be slightly higher because they are taking the seats of full-time students.
Faechner said he expects to accommodate a maximum of nine students and a minimum of four in his school at any one time.
Special Six Day Courses also will be offered to experienced taxidermists throughout the year. Subjects and costs for these shorter refresher courses will be announce at a later time.
The school does not guarantee placement after graduation, but, according to Faechner, this will not be a problem. He already has received numerous calls from prospective employers interested in hiring his graduates. One, Faechner said, has already offered to fly to Havre to interview the graduates before they receive their diplomas.
Three of the homes from the old Havre Air Force Station have been moved onto Faechners property and will serve as school housing.
One of the homes will be converted to house up to 10 students and another of the homes will be used for faculty housing.
The basement of the faculty dorm will house Faechners taxidermy business. The third home will be Faechners residence.
While in attendance, students will receive a room in the dormitory and three square meals per day.
Students who prefer to bring their own RVs or motor homes will be allowed to hook up to power and facilities provided by ART. Camping also will be allowed for those who want to rough it.
The old Technical Operations Center where the school will be housed is perfectly adaptable to Faechners needs.
It is a completely self-contained building with a U.S. government climate-control system that provides for a comfortable work environment. Water quality, too, is maintained through the old Air Force water filtration system that provides not only dependable, but high quality water to the facility.
A showroom and office will be located just to the right of the main entrance. Many award winning mounts will line the walls when the school opens to give students a small sampling of the best work in the business.
The walls in the main classroom will be ringed with work benches with a handicap-accessible bench available along the east wall so instructors can move from student to student. Faechner expects, with the aid of teaching assistants, to keep the student to teacher ratio at three to one.
Pedestals in the center of the classroom also will be available to students.
When youre doing taxidermy, you want to be able to have 360-degree access to the piece that youre working on, Faechner said.
Three painting booths will be constructed on the east end of the building where the Air Force loading docks were located. Each of the three ventilated paint booths will be large enough to accommodate two students at a time, Faechner said.
The school will also have a computer lab and reference library across from the classroom where students will be able to access information and resources that support the goals of the school. This will include audio-visual media and on-line databases and Internet accessibility.
A snack bar where students will be able to purchase snacks and beverages will be located across from the office.
Ask Faechner why he and others have such a love of taxidermy and he pulls no punches.
It is the love of wildlife, Faechner said. And its not a love of killing it; its the love of preserving it.
Faechner maintains that people gain a greater appreciation of wildlife through the artistic efforts of taxidermists.
Its a growing business, he said. In the last 10 years, taxidermy has grown with leaps and bounds.
It is due to the artistic quality of the work, said Faechner. People are getting away from the head on the wall kind of thing and getting more into the artistic forms of the craft.
Faechner has not yet received his first enrollment application, but that does not dissuade him from believing the school will be a boon to taxidermy and to Havre. The enthusiasm is growing and word of the new school is just beginning to find its way into trade magazines.
He has been told by the National Taxidermy Association that he can expect to be booked up two years in advance.
For more information, call 406-394-1514 or write HC 30, Box 230, Havre, MT 59501. You can also e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.