The Myrna Loy Center, Montana

Named for Helena, Montana born Myrna Loy (Myrna Adele Williams), a beloved early days film and television actor from the 1930s, the Myrna Loy Center is located in Helena.

The group seeks to “inspire our spirits by presenting culturally enriching arts experiences of all disciplines; supporting local and regional artists in their work; and fostering a lifelong love of the arts through educational projects and experiences.”

The arts center today offers a wide variety of entertainment and educational opportunities, as well as a venue for local artists to display their work at the Jailhouse Gallery.

While you’re here, you can also grab a drink from the Myrna Pub, a friendly, low-key pub open from 4 pm on weekdays. The pub features local craft beers, wine, organic kombucha, and hand-built charcuterie plates. Happy hour is from 4 to 6 every weekday, with discounted prices and free popcorn.

The Myrna Loy Center offers educational experiences for people of all ages both at the center and in school classrooms and community locations. Check their website for workshops and educational events or pop on in while you’re in town. The theater space welcomes over 200 audience members for performances.

Volunteers are the backbone of the Myrna Loy. Ushers, poster distribution, landscaping, event planning, social media ambassadors, and many others donate their time to the center to keep the community aware of the events at the center as well as to keep things running smoothly.

The Myrna Loy is known across the country for its small arts organization in the rural West, providing thousands of students education in arts, as well as host to special recitals, community events, workshops, film, and the provider of grants to Montana artists and filmmakers.

Myrna Loy Center History

myrna loy center history

Built-in the Romanesque style, the Lewis and Clark Jail was instituted in 1890. The thick stone walls and heavy arches, and the distinctive corner tower (which was lost in the 1935 earthquake) all gave the building unique appearance folks may recognize from the era.

The building was designed by the Paulson and McConnell firm under contract with the Detroit Safe and Lock Company. The jail opened in 1894 and remained in service until the early 1980s – 100 years.

At that time, the Myrna Loy Center for the Arts knew they needed a new, permanent home, so the group bid on the property and soon transformed the historic granite jailhouse into the vibrant arts center still housed there today.

Myrna Loy actually grew up down the street from the jail, making the locale even more poignant as the group carries on her tradition of performing arts and community engagement.

The Myrna Loy was and remains rural Montana’s only indie film house. Film lovers, Arnie Malia and Alexandra Swaney, along with a partner, created the Helena Film Society in 1976.

They converted the second story of a historic downtown building into the Second Story Cinema and within a few years, Arnie began presenting works by culturally diverse artists from around the nation.

In 1990, a board member of Second Story Cinema visited Myrna Loy in New York and asked permission to use her name for the art center and group in Helena. She not only agreed, but she bequeathed her name, use of her image, and gave her blessing to the group.

Myrna Loy Center Details

myrna loy center details

The Myrna Loy Center for the Arts welcomes guests year-round for their many events, educational opportunities, performances, and gallery openings.

To attend and enjoy the magnificent works put on here, review the contact details below.

Shows & Events

shows and events

The Myrna Loy Center for the Arts is not only the home for locally funded and cast performances, but functions as an event center, gallery, and much more.

The visiting artist program brings in artists from various regions for the Center, encouraging art development and education through community workshops, residencies, outreach performances, and classroom visits.

The center is also known for its live performances and events, featuring professional performances for every K-5 student in the Helena School District, as well as film field trips for students coming to the art center via school programming partnerships.

Live performances occur throughout the year on both the sound stage and the main stage with touring, Montana, and local artists participating in the shows. Films are shown regularly, as well, and unique live events such as the upcoming Myrna’s Night Out in April.

The best way to know what’s happening at the Myrna is to check the calendar regularly.

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