Warming up to culture: a checklist

Warming up to culture: a checklist

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Lose weight, eat healthier, get organized, exercise more, watch less TV. Ah, the sounds of resolutions past, and perhaps present, too.

Here’s an alternative (or complementary) one: Spend two hours a week during January and February’s cold days connecting or reconnecting with Missoula’s cultural communities.

It’s an easy resolution to keep, helps avoid cabin fever and doesn’t require a 12-month commitment. Most events are cheap or free. And in the end you’ll know more about Missoula, a bonus for anyone who wants to stay “in the know.”

Some events take advance planning — researching times and places, signing up, buying tickets — but many can be done on a whim. If your pocketbook allows, try a new restaurant, coffee shop or pub along the way, because food is a cultural community, too.

Here are eight ideas to get you out the door for these winter weeks. Keep it going if you want; you’ll know more about Missoula if you do.

1. Check out a museum. Take your pick: history or art. If you go to the Missoula Art Museum in the next few weeks you’ll see the artwork that will be auctioned off for the MAM Benefit Auction on Feb. 1, and the pieces offer a great overview of artists who’ve been connected with the museum, some for decades. The Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana opens “Monte Dolack: The Artist’s Nature” Friday, Jan. 17, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts, Radio-TV Building. And the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula has a new exhibit opening Jan. 31 that spotlights Missoula’s early Jewish residents and their contributions to the community.

2. Take in a basketball game. Your choice: high school or the UM Grizzlies, men or women. It’s art, watching athletes perform as individuals and together as a team.

3. Meander through Midtown Missoula. Why? Because Midtown will continue to be in the news over the next few years as an up-and-coming part of town. Many established businesses — the Dram Shop, Notorious P.I.G, Big Dipper Ice Cream, The Bridge Pizza, The Trailhead — have already opened, or plan to open, second locations in this area of town. Rattlesnake Creek Distillery recently announced it is moving from downtown to Midtown, hoping to open by summer. So drive around, explore the area, stop for a beer, bowl of soup, pasty or burger at one of the eateries in the zone, or take in a movie at the AMC Dine-In at Southgate Mall. Learn more about the area at the Missoula Midtown Association (“Halfway to Everywhere” is its slogan) website at missoulamidtown.com.

4. Catch some music. Coffee shops, bars, restaurants, breweries — so many places in Missoula have music sometime during the week. An hour spent sipping a cocktail or coffee listening to Montana musicians can clear the mind of winter fog, at least for a while. Other options:

• The Missoula Symphony, with concerts Feb. 1-2 (a Mozart-Mendelssohn program with the Missoula Symphony and Chorale and music director finalist Paul McShee of the University of Connecticut), Feb. 7 (the annual family concert, “Sleepover at the Museum”) and Feb. 29-March 1 (a Torke-Sibelius-Dvorak program with music director candidate Scott Seaton, currently music director of North State Symphony in Northern California).

• The University of Montana School of Music, whose offerings are often overlooked but are superb. There are at least 15 musical events on the calendar for the rest of January and February, with possibilities like this Friday’s fast-paced, eclectic Fusion XI Concert (jazz, percussion, winds, piano, opera, bands, orchestra, choir), the faculty and guest artist series, various percussion, jazz and opera programs, and much more.

• String Orchestra of the Rockies, with a lecture-concert on Feb. 23, celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth.

5. Take in live theater. The Montana Repertory Theater offers “The War of the Worlds: The 1938 Radio Script” by Howard Koch Jan. 21-Feb. 9, and the Missoula Community Theater stages Ken Ludwig’s “Leading Ladies” Jan. 23-Feb. 2.

6. Visit the Missoula Public Library. Missoula’s new $37.5 million library will open in mid-2020, so now’s the time to visit the old one to honor the role it has played in the community. This Friday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. is Cheap Date Night, when the library shows a new-release movie (“The Peanut Butter Falcon”). Other branches — including Frenchtown and Big Sky High School branches — offer free movies on other days, too. And there are other events of interest, such as history talks, story times for families, knitting clubs and book clubs. Check the schedule at missoulapubliclibrary.org.

7. Listen to writers’ words. Two of Missoula’s independent book stores — Fact & Fiction and Shakespeare & Co. — have literary events scheduled in January or February, or both. Hearing a writer talk about his or her craft is humbling: They pour their soul into a work. The talks are free and there’s no obligation to buy the book, but of course, it sure helps if you do. Remember: Reading more is a good New Year’s resolution, too!

8. Take a foods class. The Good Food Store doesn’t offer cooking classes these days, but the Missoula Food Bank and Missoula Lifelong Learning Center do. The current list includes making Indian food, seafood bisque, soufflés, sushi, Valentine cupcakes for kids, bread in a bag, using your Instant Pot, canning, wine appreciation and more. Check out the offerings at missoulaclasses.com. Many are already full but it’s worth adding your name to the waitlist, just in case — and keep watch, because others are added as new schedules are developed.

Mea Andrews worked as a reporter and editor at the Missoulian for 27 years before retiring. She likes to explore Montana and Missoula but needs some coaxing during the winter months. Contact her at meaandrews406@gmail.com.

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