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Montana Natural History Center joins First Friday circuit in Missoula

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The list of First Friday art venues is growing, and this month, the Montana Natural History Center opens its doors to welcome the revelry.

"We have a really nice gallery that we are trying to utilize more and more, and our goal is to become part of the First Friday circuit," said Tina Hanke, MNHC's community programs coordinator. "We are hoping to fill the calendar and so far, we will have six shows this year."

The center's first show of the year opens at 6 p.m. on Friday, and showcases the work of Missoula artist Gabrielle Sivitz.

Hanke is thrilled with Sivitz's show because the artwork is a wonderfully appropriate extension of the center's mission: to promote and cultivate the appreciation, understanding and stewardship of nature through education.

"Birds on Paper" is a collection of Sivitz's original watercolor and acrylic paintings that feature birds from Montana and beyond.

Sivitz explained the works are inspired from extensive travels throughout North America, observing, photographing and sketching nature, particularly birds.

Nervous, but eager to display her work to the public, Sivitz said the exhibit marks a significant chapter in her lifelong art career.

"I'm coming back from a 10-year break in painting," she said, "and this show has some of my earlier work and some of my new work."

"For me, it's interesting to see all of these paintings hang together because I can see that my paintings have become more fluid and that I am moving away from the scientific illustration work that I have done for a long time, which is good. I see that I am moving in the direction I want."

Inspired by famed artists such as Robert Bateman, Debby Kaspari, Georgia O'Keefe and the Wyeth family of painters, Sivitz's work has also been shaped by her father, James Buckley, a science teacher, amateur photographer, painter and naturalist.

"I grew up around science and wildlife, and it has been a big part of my life," Sivitz said by way of explaining her uniquely one-subject show. "And I love birds.

"I've been a birdwatcher with my husband for 20-some years."

Sivitz's bird paintings are particularly welcomed and beautiful given the long winter in Missoula, Hanke said.

"This show is a great kickoff for the spring season, and I think it will be really popular because we have so many bird lovers in Missoula," she said.

Now that the center is motivated to have more shows, it needs more artists to celebrate.

"If there are any artists out there whose work is along the lines of the Natural History Center," Hanke said, "we would love to talk to them."

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The Montana Natural History Center will host "Birds on Paper" a collection of original watercolor paintings and acrylic work created by Missou…

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