Skip to main content

Jan 11, 2024

Confluence Center’s Inaugural Year: A Conversation with Ruth Crystal

Launched by Headwaters Foundation to support its grantees and the broader Western Montana nonprofit community, Confluence Center opened for rental in early 2023 following a lively public open house in December 2022. This accessible and user-friendly nonprofit event space (in downtown Missoula, Montana) is where leaders gather to catalyze positive change for their communities.

Going into 2023, the Foundation aimed to see at least 24 events held at Confluence Center, while getting a feel for demand and gathering feedback. Our team was blown away by the uptake, which far exceeded expectations! In 2023, 198 events (board meetings, workshops, fundraisers and more) were hosted by 70 different nonprofits, with thousands of community members flowing through the doors of the venue. Thank you to the organizations that held events this year, and to all who attended them!

It was an incredible first year for Confluence Center, and this is only the beginning. We sat down with Ruth Crystal, Facilities and Administrative Manager at Headwaters Foundation to hear about the venue’s inaugural year and what lies ahead for Western Montana’s Home for Nonprofit Events.

What is your favorite part of managing Confluence Center?

My favorite part has been learning about the incredible efforts of nonprofits and community members who are making Western Montana (and beyond!) a healthier and more resilient place. The people flowing through Confluence Center are moving mountains. It’s so energizing to connect with them, see them at work, and hear their updates and stories. It’s spectacular to witness first-hand what a healthy, connected community looks like.

What are some ways that nonprofits used the space in 2023?

We were proud to have so many incredible nonprofit events hosted at Confluence Center in 2023! A few inspiring examples come to mind: All Nations Health Center organized a public presentation on how the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) is responding to the climate crisis. Cohesion Art Collective held a mixer for community members to meet and mingle with artists of color. Montana Women Vote did a ‘Soup Series’ to discuss Medicaid Expansion, sparking craftivism on the issue. The International Rescue Committee put on two embroidery workshops for local refugee women to gather and find support.

What are some ways that Confluence Center bolsters the work of nonprofits?

Confluence Center is saving nonprofits valuable time and money. We designed the space to be as user-friendly as possible which saves time, and use is free, so nonprofits can redirect funds to their programs. We also prioritized accessibility and inclusivity (such as installing an elevator, widening doorways, providing all-gender private restrooms), because we want all attendees to feel welcome, comfortable and inspired when they’re at Confluence Center. Accessible events mean more engagement!

In addition to renting out the space, Headwaters Foundation is active in the downtown scene and has engaged in offering public, community events. Say more!

It’s important to us that Confluence Center furthers Headwaters Foundation’s mission to improve health in Western Montana, and that it functions as hub for the community to gather, learn and celebrate. In 2023, we collaborated with local artists for Missoula’s First Friday Art Walks, added public art and lighting to revitalize the alleyway behind the building, and worked with Missoula’s Latino and Hispanic community on an important cultural event, Dia de Los Muertos. We look forward to building out this programming in the coming years.

What is coming up for Confluence Center in 2024 and beyond?

We have collected lots of input and ideas on what this space can offer going forward. For 2024, our plans include more community gatherings, stronger connections, and easier use of the space, including the (newly-licensed!) commissary kitchen. Expect an array of workshops, presentations and networking opportunities, more open-air events in the alleyway, additional ways for community members to support local nonprofits, useful guides and advice for event organizers, and more! (If you have ideas, you can reach out to [email protected].)

We’re excited to welcome you to Confluence Center in 2024!

To learn more about Confluence Center and book the space for your next nonprofit event, click here.

Keep up on art events at Confluence Center by following Torrents: Art on Main Street.