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Board Members

Melissa McKeithen


Melissa Mckeithen is the current President of the Board of Directors and now lives in Big Sky full-time after 20 years as a part-time resident. She is a retired attorney, has worked as a development professional in the arts, and has served on a number of non-profit boards focused on arts, education and youth empowerment. Melissa is excited to help the Arts Council bring performance, visual art and creative opportunities to all members of our community.

Melissa loves the outdoor lifestyle in Montana. Some of her favorite pastimes are hiking, playing golf, snowshoeing and downhill skiing.

Rebecca Appenzeller

Vice President

Becky learned early in her career about the importance of community service from a mentor, who helped place her on the Springfield, Illinois, Civil Service Commission and as a volunteer with the local United Way. From there, Becky has held a variety of volunteer board positions in the communities where she has lived, including for a hospital, her church and a YWCA. At the Arts Council she serves on the Governance Committee and is a past President and Vice President.

Sally Stilwill

Vice President

Sally has been in Big Sky for more than 20 years. She started her career as an opera singer, transitioning to Physical Therapy and eventually to Educational Consulting. She has always been involved in any community where she has lived and has many years of development and fundraising experience. She has a special place in her heart for the arts as a quilter and musician and appreciates how the Arts Council supports wellness, youth, and education through its community programming. She is an avid downhill and cross country skier, hiker, cyclist, and fly fisherwoman. Sally has two grown daughters and four grandsons. She feels lucky to live in Big Sky full time and shares her love of the outdoors with her lab Sage.

Chris Johnson


Christopher Johnson is a financial technology executive with experience leading divisions for Fortune 100 companies. Chris moved to Big Sky in 2020, with his family of avid skiers, hikers and fly fishermen, to spend more time exploring outdoors. In addition to the Arts Council, Chris serves on the boards of Northeast Stem Academy in New York, and the Saint & Streetfighter Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Kirsten Hilleman


Kirsten began her career as an attorney after graduating from Emory Law School in Atlanta. She quickly realized she didn’t care for law and moved into Commercial Real Estate Banking and later worked in acquisitions for an advisor and private developer. While raising children, she worked as a museum educator with Artworks NYC at the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was a volunteer docent for 12 years at the Museum of Arts and Design. She also currently serves on the board of the Hilleman Scholars at Montana State University, and has served in the past on several not-for profits boards in New York City. She is passionate about art collecting, and loves to spend her free time enjoying all of the fun outdoor activities Montana has to offer. 

"I joined the Arts Council to share my passion for art and to contribute to our community in a meaningful way. The Arts Council has a rich offering of classes and programming that offer the Big Sky community a creative outlet for both cognitive development and the healing power of creating."

Marilyn Alkire

Board Member

Marilyn is new to the Arts Council Board in 2023. Marilyn is a native of Minnesota, although she moved West to Colorado in 1974 to attend law school at the University of Denver College of Law.  After law school, Her practice focused on environmental and natural resource law with the law firm, Holme Roberts and Owen, where she was a partner prior to her retirement.

Marilyn calls herself a “national park junkie.”  She has served on the board of the Yellowstone Association, the Mesa Verde Foundation and the Western National Parks Association.  She currently is still serving second terms on the board of the later two organizations. 

Marilyn is an avid equestrian.  Although she has retired from the horse show circuit, she continues to breed quarter horse show horses.

Sue Elliot

Board Member

Sue grew up in Rhode Island and earned a BA from Dartmouth College, and a JD from New York University School of Law. She practiced real estate and corporate law for over 15 years in California and in France. She also spent 4 years in a university development office working on grants and other contracts. After working at the university, she worked as an independent grant consultant to nonprofits. She is now retired and is focused on building her skills as an amateur landscape and wildlife photographer. Sue loves spending time photographing nature, particularly the beauty in and around Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park. She is an avid skier and hiker and feels very fortunate to be able to enjoy the incredible outdoor recreational opportunities available in Big Sky. Sue also serves on the board of the Big Sky Community Organization. She is married and has two grown children.

Durbin Emerson

Board Member

According to Durbin, the thing that matters most to her has been her involvement with the Arts Council for the past several years and assisting where she can with its expansion in both the educational and the public art programs. Her dream is that all of this will continue and that someday in the not too distant future the Arts Council will have its own building where we can really enhance the cultural side of Big Sky.

Trux Emerson

Past President

Trux Emerson has a background in investment and real estate. He became a stockbroker in Washington, DC in 1972 with Legg Mason then Blythe, Eastman, Dillon and Sade & Co. and Thompson, McKinnon successively before co-founding Nye, Parnell & Emerson Capital Management in 1987, a registered investment advisor and ultimately sold in 1999.

After relocating to Bozeman, MT, Mr. Emerson commenced his career in real estate largely with Bridger Realty. After nine years in the Rockies, the Emersons moved to Tryon, NC, where Mr. Emerson co-founded Walker, Wallace & Emerson Realty in 1998, that specializes in premiere properties including horse farms in the Foothills of the Carolinas, Landrum, SC and Tryon, NC.

At the Arts Council, Trux serves as Past President and is on the Development Committee.

Michelle Kristula-Green

Board Member

Michelle Kristula-Green has lived in Big Sky since 2017 and is a contemporary mosaic artist whose artworks tell stories inspired by the natural world, and in particular, places she's lived: Montana and Japan. She is a member of the Big Sky Artists Studio Gallery, the Big Sky Artists Collective, the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) and studied at the Chicago Mosaic School, the only mosaic school in North America. Prior to moving to Big Sky, Michelle was a member of the global management team at Leo Burnett advertising, where she worked for over 30 years, 23 of which were spent in Asia Pacific.

"As a working artist, and a member of the Big Sky Artists Collective, I know the value that all the arts (music, visual arts, performance, etc.) can bring to people's lives. The Arts Council is a means by which I can contribute to ensuring that all facets of those opportunities are widely available for Big Sky residents and visitors."

Ewa Zirkle

Board Member

After graduating with a master’s degree in mathematics in Poland, Ewa (pronounced EH-va) found her way to London, and what was supposed to be a summer of practicing English turned into a seven-year career in high-end hospitality and as a brand ambassador for Diageo.

In 2011, Ewa embarked on an adventure through India, Thailand, and Niseko, Japan. On that trip, she first heard about Big Sky from a fellow traveler (and now husband) and visited for the first time in 2012. A decade later, Ewa is thrilled now with the Big Sky Community Organization after many years as a community banker, a role in which she centered her presence in Big Sky by serving the people and hard-working businesses in town. In addition to sitting on the Board of the Arts Council, and when she isn’t out supporting Music in the Mountains and productions at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center, Ewa loves cross-country skiing and snowboarding, hiking, biking, taking dance and yoga classes, and fun-filled game nights with her Big Sky family and friends.