The Montana Museum of Art & Culture sent families on a clue-filled hunt to track down details on some of its most memorable paintings on Saturday.
This year, the museum is celebrating 120 years of its permanent collection with an exhibition of 120 works of art that is up in the PARTV Center at the University of Montana. The museum’s Meloy gallery features pieces from European history including Rembrandt and Dali; while the Paxson gallery focuses on American art history.
The 120 pieces of artwork are just a small part of the around 11,000 items that comprise the MMAC’s permanent collection, more than 90 percent of which has never been put on display.
Every group that came into the museum on Saturday was given a treasure hunt worksheet asking them to examine the paintings, with clues to find specific pieces, then answer questions about them. A clue about finding a small print of a man on a horse surrounded by colorful dots eventually led to Pablo Picasso’s “Le Picador II.”
“It’s kind of a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ ” said museum docent Anne Bertsche, who leads tours of the galleries.
She said sometimes visitors tend to walk quickly through the gallery, and the event was a way to encourage them to stop and appreciate the works of art.
“We really want kids and families to engage with the pieces more. Then hopefully they look at other museums in the future that way,” Bertsche said.
The museum has been conducting tours with area grade-school kids, with the hope that by introducing them to the artwork, they will bring their families back for a repeat visit.
“The vision is that families will do it together,” said Amy Beale, another museum docent.
On one wall of the Meloy gallery, visitors were invited to leave notes envisioning what the next 120 years would hold for the museum. The majority said they would like to see a bigger building that could have more pieces of artwork on display.
Kali Wood had brought her son Kai with her to the museum.
“He came on a school trip yesterday and we decided to come back again this afternoon,” she said.
Kai didn’t have a favorite piece of artwork from the galleries, but the pair had taken the time to finish the entire treasure hunt worksheet before they left.
“It definitely made us spend more time looking at each painting,” Wood said.
A piece by Andy Warhol called “Cow Wallpaper” dominated one of the walls in the Paxson gallery. Near the bottom, the artist had signed the print for former UM president George Dennison, who in turn had donated it to the museum.
Susie Castle watched as her grandchildren Presley and Gracelyn and their friend Emma Browning went from painting to painting, determined to stumble on the answer to the next clue first.
“I’m actually really into it too,” Castle said.
The girls’ father, Noah, said they made it a family occasion.
“My favorite is the colorful one with the horses and the car,” Presley said, pointing at Jim Denomie’s “Manifold Destiny.”
“Mine too,” Gracelyn added.