Local families can once again wander in wonder through sculpted, brass beasts and galleries of organic brushstrokes, inspired by the beauty of the natural world.

Starting Saturday, The National Museum of Wildlife Art will open its doors 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. And the following day it will revitalize its long-standing First Sundays tradition, which offers locals the chance to visit the museum for free on the first Sunday of every month.

“We feel that things are a little safer now with people getting vaccines,” Marketing Director Jennifer Tremblay said. “We’re excited to welcome them into the museum.”

Tremblay said First Sundays are a great way to connect with the community and help people feel like a part of the institution. The museum broadly defines “local,” welcoming residents from over the pass and as far south as Star Valley.

The first First Sunday will be the last chance to catch “Changing Visions,” a display of images by award-winning photographer Noppadol Paothong of the greater sage grouse, an integral bird species of the intermountain West.

Greater sage grouse have been candidates for endangered species status for years. They often live in threatened sagebrush habitats. Paothong tells the story of the species’ struggle and success, capturing the ebullience of mating season and the despair of isolation in hopes of fostering a larger conversation around conservation.

On the first Sunday of June, guests will be able to see “Un/Natural Selections,” a collection of contemporary wildlife art from the museum’s permanent collection, as well as a series called “Valued Species,” featuring highly requested work by Andy Warhol beside art by Ai Weiwei, one of China’s most provocative contemporary artists.

Ai Weiwei’s work last graced the museum’s grounds in 2015 through a set of bronze animal heads that parodied Chinese idolatry of the zodiac. His new series replicates the same iconography but with thousands of colorful Lego bricks.

He and Warhol both use contemporary techniques and color schemes to upend the expected representation of wildlife, if such a thing exists.

With the return to First Sundays, such exhibits are once again accessible to a larger audience, and Event Director Wendy Merrick couldn’t be more pleased.

“It’s a perfect opportunity to spend a couple of hours up here with the kiddos or the grown teens and let them wander through and enjoy the fine art that we have,” Merrick said. 

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

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