As a professional painter who has lived my entire life in Montana, I feel compelled to write concerning the two Montana Museum of Art and Culture exhibitions on display at the University of Montana.

"Masterpieces from a Private Collection" and "European Prints from the MMAC Permanent Collection" are outstanding examples of artwork usually displayed only in major metropolitan museums. These collections are on display in the Meloy and Paxson galleries in the UM PAR-TV Center until March 12.

As a child, always interested in art, I never had the opportunity to view original paintings. My only chance to inspect masters' works was through faded, inaccurate reproductions in old textbooks. My family rarely traveled, so I never entered a major museum until my twenties. When lucky enough to visit and study my first Van Gogh painting, "Bedroom in Arles," I was stunned by its impasto texture, vibrant colors, large scale and artistic genius. It reminded me of my own "first bedroom" as a teenager; nothing too fancy, but my own space. No reproduction can do justice to that painting, or for that matter, any other original masterpiece.

Viewing art as the "real McCoy," with family and friends, is a treasured experience. Not only is the educational value important, but the sharing of the experience, the conversations that it promotes, and the longevity of our cultural legacy is just as significant. Art is for everyone, not just arts-related professionals, but for people of all ages who find common ground in relating to human emotions and experiences.

The MMAC permanent collection is an outstanding gift to the public, provided by generous patrons and donors. Long-term, this gift should be cared for with utmost respect so that it will survive for our children, their children, and for many generations beyond our own lifetimes.

Barb Schwarz Karst, Missoula

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