56 Counties: Musselshell County

May 4, 2020

From left to right: Troy Evans, Bill Milton, Coila Evans
Credit courtesy Troy Evans, Bill Milton, Coila Evans

On this episode of 56 Counties, host Russell Rowland explores Musselshell County with help from rancher Bill Milton, artist Coila Evans, and sculptor and furniture maker Troy Evans. 


Bill Milton’s family has been ranching in Montana since 1956. They have owned and operated their current family ranch in Musselshell County since 1978. Over the last 40 or so years, Bill has worked with a number of organizations committed to taking care of land and community. Most recently, he is participating as a rancher member, and sometimes facilitator, with a number of working groups in Central Montana, covering nine counties, including the Musselshell Watershed Coalition, the Winnett ACES, the CMR Community Working Group, and the Musselshell Valley Community Foundation. Bill has a particular interest in figuring out how ranchers and local communities monitor the health of their working landscapes and communities. Since February of 2016, Bill has been facilitating a broad and diverse group of partners, called the Rangeland Monitoring Group (RMG), dedicated to finding an effective means to achieve this objective. Certainly not unrelated, his practice as a Soto Zen Priest, helps inform and support his relationship to all of the above.

Coila Evans is an oil painter living in Roundup, Montana. Evans is mostly self-taught, and with a desire to learn to tell stories through portraiture and figurative work, she made a decision to focus her full attention to education. She first studied with Iliya Morochnik in 2015 at the Dacia Gallery two week intensive program in NYC, Johanna Harmon in 2016 at Scottsdale Artist School, and twice with revered modern master, Max Ginsburg, in 2018. In addition to the hands-on education, Evans actively researches and studies the materials brought back to the studio as she strives to achieve the highest archival quality for her work. She primarily paints on oil primed linen and copper.

Believing a ‘from life’ practice is integral to the development of a person’s skill, Evans also spends many hours out in the field working “en plein air”. This practice helps to keep her work loose in the studio, whilst exploring her Western environment and its’ history.

With her first painting from the “Documenting Modern History: The Coal Mine Project,” Coila was a finalist in the 19th annual Portrait Society of America’s Member’s Only Competition. Coila has shown in Dallas, Billings, and New York City. Her work is represented by Montana Gallery in Billings, 50 miles from her studio.

Raised in rural Montana, Troy Evans works from his studio on his family’s ranch near Roundup. He was influenced by an amazing collection he lived with of medieval sculpture from Spain, and masterworks paintings from the Italian Renaissance. His sculpture and furniture are thus influenced by the 14th and 15th century Moorish culture. Troy’s paintings are innovated from the Avant Garde Russian movement of the first quarter of the 20th century. Troy is a self-taught artist who has apprenticed in woodworking and the art business. He has been actively involved with the Montana Arts Council MAP program, and has shown in solo exhibitions, museums, and has executed larger commissions, both public and private.