WaterWorks 2017




August 2017
Bozeman, Montana


The Gabriel Canal was a temporal, public artwork, located on the Kelly Ranch just south of Bozeman, MT.  The work was built in five performance scenes that produced a geographic and cultural interrogation of the site. 

Audiences were shuttled to the ranch on school buses. Tour guides walked the audience from scene to scene through a mile-long trail on the ranch. 

The twelve tour guides, included ranchers, environmentalists, geologists, Native American scholars and local politicians. During the month leading up to the performances, the guides, each with a different perspective on irrigation and water conservation, convened on the historic ranch to analyze the site.

With the goal of understanding the ways that culture has contributed to drought, our examination focused on the site’s geographic features including human-dug canals and ditches, and natural springs and wetlands prior to settler contact. We studied the impact of farming and grazing on the soil, the implications of irrigation systems and drought indices. Along with the water features, the guides contributed information about a pre-contact buffalo jump, an indigenous trail and the legacies of European colonialism and settler communities on this region.

The five scenes featured performance, music, dance, video, mapping and culminated in a light installation.


Over 385 people experienced recreated historic farming scenes, music, dance and video at the Kelly Ranch during the three evenings of Gabriel Canal.

“What a creative and powerful show last night. A terrific way to gain understanding of water and agriculture, appreciate the sheer beauty of the Gallatin Valley, the family ranch—and the fragility of it all.” —Gabriel Canal Attendee


This collaborative project directed by Mary Ellen Strom featured a sound score by Gregory Young; music by the Bear Canyon Drummers; a video installation by Laine Rettmer; a light installation by Jim Madden, Travis Cook and Ken Dineen; costumes by Alayna Rasile; sculpture by Jim Zimpel; custom made instruments by Joe Schwem and an installation by Isabel Beavers. Special thanks to the 82 crew and cast members and the 22 guides, volunteers and drivers.

Mountain Time Arts would like to acknowledge our partners and collaborators:
The Kelly Ranch-Kathryn Kelly and Family;  Montana Land Reliance;
Association of Gallatin Agricultural Irrigators (AGAI); Gallatin History Museum