by Sheri Boggs

Visually, the MAC is itself a stunning work of art. Most striking is the new exhibition/education building, with its vaulted wooden roof, its glass and granite walls and its dramatic, elongated silhouette. Visitors enter here, to be greeted by the appropriately named Orientation Gallery.

"The orientation gallery is a sneak preview of what you might see downstairs," says Joyce Cameron, director of development and communications for the MAC. "There are lots of fun, hands-on kinds of things, like touch screens and this computer animation piece where you can actually build something in Harold Balazs' studio."

The main floor, which also houses a 40-person capacity cafe (managed by Fugazzi) and a gauntlet of both real and permanent greeters, is free. With floor-to-ceiling glass, it also offers the best view of the Spokane River, the amphitheater and, no doubt, some spectacular sunsets. In the summer, the outdoor amphitheater could host concerts, films or lectures for crowds of up to 300.

Once you've plunked down your admission, you're free to explore the five galleries below the main floor on Lower Levels One and Two. The colors on both the main floor and the gallery levels give the museum a cosmopolitan yet western sensibility. A warm, yellowy earth tone infuses the glossy cement floors, while lipstick red and a rich, suedey purple break up the soothing expanses of white. Lower Level One is where you'll find the Davenport, James Lavadour, and People of the Rivers exhibits (see story, page 23), in addition to the Gilkey Community Room and the museum store. It's also where you'll get your first glimpse of the Hometowns exhibit, which is actually on Lower Level Two but is visible from the moment you enter the gallery space.

Lower Level Two houses not only the Hometowns exhibit but also the amphitheater lobby and the education center, which is located near a separate entrance just for school field trips. It offers curriculum materials for students K-12 and a classroom. The lowest level, Lower Level Three, is not open to the public, but contains the Plateau Cultural Studies Center, a security office and a number of support services for the museum.

While there are a number of ways to leave the building, some visitors might be surprised to find themselves exiting a different building than the one they entered. The MAC building and the adjacent Cheney Cowles Museum building are actually joined underground, although they appear to be separate from the street. The Cheney Cowles building stands where the old museum was and is fully renovated, now housing the auditorium, the administrative offices, the library and the collections and archives center.

Once you've been through the galleries a time or two, be sure to check out the newly landscaped grounds in back, which feature a wide variety of indigenous plants on eight acres of park-like lands, complete with paths and interpretive markers.

HOURS: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday: 11 am-5 pm; Wednesday and Friday: 11 am-8 pm; Closed Mondays (Except for Martin

Luther King Day and President's Day).

ADMISSION: Museum Members: Free; Adults: $7; Seniors: $5 (62+ years of age); Students: $5 (Valid ID required for students over 18); Children: 5 years of age and under free; Packages available for student groups, tour groups, etc.; By Donation Only: First Friday of each month.

Grand Opening: Dec. 5. Public opening, 2 pm. "Lights-on" ceremony and live music, 5 pm.

Our Legacy: Our Voice, Our Action, Our Power

Thu., Sept. 24, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
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