We asked readers to nominate women who have contributed to the community through business, volunteerism, charity and civic involvement. CASEY PAGE
When Rimrock Opera Co. and
Venture Theatre combined forces two years ago, the merger was
intended to encourage long-term viability for two established
arts organizations that had each faced some serious challenges.
Since then, things are looking up for the combined
organization, NOVA Center for the Performing Arts.
Lucinda Butler, president of NOVA’s board of directors, said the
merger represented the best way to reinvigorate two important
“The merger was an interesting
concept, and it was a way for (Rimrock Opera) to have smaller
productions for shows in a venue that we had rented in the
past,” said Butler, who was on the Rimrock Opera board during
“We had rented the Venture Theatre in the past
and had camps there. We felt it was worth saving, so we had many
meetings and sleepless nights on both sides.”
the toughest part about the merger?
“It was gaining the trust
of the theater community, letting them know we weren’t here to
destroy what had been built or destroy the mission of the
organization,” Butler said. “We made sure the checks and
balances were absolute, and we reassured parents that the
programs would continue to be there.”
Some worried about
the future viability of both organizations. But Butler said
NOVA’s supporters saw the merger as an opportunity.
people have told me, ‘You can’t do this or you shouldn’t do
that.’ But that inspires me to work harder, and I’ve found ways
to get it done.”
Music has always been a part of Butler’s
“I was always impressed by how music can help you fit
in immediately in a group setting. It’s important, especially
for teens to be part of a group,” she said.
“I played flute
growing up, and I wanted to major in music. My dad told me they
had money set aside for me to go to college, but he said it
would be smarter to go to school and have a profession that you
could make a living from, so I understood the practical side of
Butler took her father’s advice and chose a
career in nursing, with the understanding that she could always
rekindle her interest in music.The music bug bit soon after she
moved to Billings.
Attending her first opera, at
Intermountain Opera in Bozeman in 1998, was a life-changing
“I had heard soloists with a symphony before, but
never a full-length opera,” she said. “It was a perfect
trifecta, with the world’s most beautiful voices, with such a
skilled orchestra, and they’re acting all at the same time.”
Through the years, Butler has been a frequent volunteer at
her children’s schools, and she remains an advocate for public
“In this state and in the upper Midwest, there’s
this pocket of public education that’s intact. The arts are
funded, and we’re so fortunate to have the programs we have.
It’s worth fighting for,” she said.
Butler lived in a
number of communities while growing up because the company her
father worked for often moved him around to reorganize different
After moving to Billings as an adult, Butler made
an effort to understand how Billings works. One of the first
things she did was to take a Montana history class from Keith
Edgerton at Montana State University Billings.
“I wanted to
understand the reasons for certain things, like why there’s no
sales tax in a city that has so many tourists, and why property
taxes are structured the way they are,” Butler said.
After she was appointed to the editorial board of The Billings
Gazette, Butler began delving into issues that are important to
the community. Among other things, she advocated unifying
college courses across the University System so that credits
could be more easily transferred if a student moves to a
“The editorial board was really life
changing,” Butler said. “It was amazing to me.”
The Gazette Editorial Board publishes its list of community
Butler said she’s proud that the community
has risen to those challenges and made changes.
move anywhere, you don’t tell people what’s wrong with their
community. You tell them what’s right. By doing rather than
saying, that’s been more effective for me.”
best part about living in Billings?
“I enjoy the natural
landscape here and in this state. And we’re improving our