by Sheri Boggs

The Visual Arts Tour, if you've never gone before, can be a little overwhelming. Where do I start? How does it work? Will people be able to tell I've never done it before? Relax. From the Mac to the Jundt, we know all the best stops and we're happy to share. In these pages, you'll get a sneak preview of what to expect as well as a guided walk (or drive) through the whole thing.

Perhaps the best way to immerse yourself in the Visual Arts Tour is to start at either one of the museums. On the east end of town, Gonzaga University's Jundt Art Museum offers "Spokane Collects: Navajo Weavings" in the Arcade Gallery and "Family Holdings: Turkish Nomadic Flatweaves" in the main space. The importance of the textile arts to two very different cultures is explored in this remarkable show, particularly in the case of the Turkish weavings, which were used to define the interior space in nomadic tents. The new Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC), itself a work of art, has four concurrent exhibits up, including "People of the Rivers," "Hometowns," and "The Davenport Hotel: The Glory Years, 1914-1945." The featured exhibit is "Social Landscapes," by contemporary artist James Lavadour, who lives and works on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, explores society's relationship to the land with earthy, fiery colors, skeletal shapes and references to historic landscapes by Turner and Moran.

Another good starting place, if you want to start from the very center and work your way out, is the Lorinda Knight Gallery. If you've never been here before, you owe it to yourself to get on the gallery's mailing list. Recent shows have included Mexican photography, recycled "piece work," and paintings inspired by the ocean depths. The current show, geometric abstractions by Mary Henry, is another not-to-be-missed event. The 88-year-old artist continues to explore new dimensions within the "rules" of her form, namely thick black lines and flat planes of bold color made most popular by Piet Mondrian in the 1920s and 1930s. The winner of a 2001 Flintridge Foundation grant, Henry reveals in her work a talent enhanced, rather than dulled, by age.

A few blocks away, you'll find the Douglas Gallery and their exhibit of "Contemporary Representational Artists." Their collection of fine art is near-dizzying --there's an impressive selection here -- and you'll see works by both local and international artists, including Jane Wooster Scott, Zoltan Szabo, Beth Weber, Jo Simpson and more. Of special note in this show are Polish glass-blower Mariusz Rynkiewicz and the enormously popular Russian painter Yuri Gorbachev.

Got kids? The Visual Arts Tour even has fun for them in the form of "Shadow Puppets" at the Children's Museum. Learn how to make bunnies, horses, bunnies, dinosaurs and bunnies. (You can tell we're still beginners!)

Another fun kid-friendly spot is Art by Yourself. Those in the know say this is the place to have your next birthday party, whether you're four or 34. Art by Yourself was one of the hottest places to be during the first First Night Spokane, with tile making indoors and raku kiln demos out in the alley. "Landscape Raku" by owner Andrew Baucom and Rick Stuart will be on display for the Visual Arts Tour, along with live tunes by Jess Crisman.

Sometimes you'll come across a stop on the tour that feels like entering a completely different world. And in Spokane, in early February, what could be more welcome? Butterfly Garden, a few doors north of Art by Yourself, is immediately inviting, with its buttery yellow walls and air redolent of fresh flowers. Owner Hector Auffant, a Puerto Rican transplant, has filled his shop with Latin-American home furnishings, which are made even homier by the presence of Butterfly Garden's resident cat and a family of cockatiels. Spokane artist Marty Johnson, also of Puerto Rican descent, brings her mixed media paintings to dwell in the Butterfly Garden for the month of February, and there will be live Latin music the night of the tour as well.

Things get steamy towards the east end of downtown, with Colburn Gallery's Spokane Watercolor Society Membership show, along with the juried exhibition "Teapot Tribute." Two Fat Blues provides the musical spoon for your saucer.

Speaking of vessels, it's worth your while to check out the current Spokane Art School show, "Funktional," by Margaret Gregg. A ceramicist influenced by her residency at the Archie Bray Foundation, Gregg plays with bold color, funky shapes and new interpretations of the familiar. Her functional pieces include candlesticks, bowls, platters, mirrors and, of course, teapots.

Have you been looking for a nice Michelangelo for the foyer, or perhaps a Rodin for the study? can set you up. These fine sculpture reproductions will have your crib looking like the Louvre in no time. The downtown showroom in the Old City Hall building features crystal and bronze sculptures from Ebanco of Spain for the tour.

Group shows offer a variety of forms and styles all in one place. Get ready for V-Day with "Art from the Heart" at the Flour Mill's newly remodeled Pottery Place Plus. Then there's almost 31 flavors over at the Steam Plant Square, with works by 29 local artists, including Patti Sgrecci, Gay Waldman and Amy Michelson.

Several local art events even get in on the fun, including the opening night of the annual Works from the Heart auction at the former Lamonts space. A benefit for the MAC, Works from the Heart features a staggering variety of works by more than 100 artists, including Dale Chihuly, Donald Clegg, Beth Lo and James Lavadour. This is your best chance to see everything before the auction itself, on Feb. 9. Inland Craft Warnings celebrates 20 years next November, and you can see some of the pieces from this year's event as well as speak to some representatives at the Chase Gallery. In a similar vein, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about Artist Trust, a fine organization that regularly awards grants for Washington state artists, also at the Chase Gallery.

Finally, all those who buy art the night of the Visual Arts Tour will be entered into a drawing for the Grand Prize: two tickets to the Works from the Heart Auction and a $100 gift certificate from the Spokane Arts Fund.

Museum of North Idaho: Living History Walking Tours @ Museum of North Idaho

Tuesdays-Saturdays. Continues through Oct. 17
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