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Run, Updike, run!

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If you navigate the Missoula Chamber of Commerce website, or any number of other Internet sites devoted to promoting Missoula, you’ll find a quote attributed to author John Updike—that Missoula is “the Paris of the ’90s,” presumably due to our town’s one-time preponderance of writers living on the cheap. Sorry to burst your bubble, Missoula, but the quote is never sourced, and the Independent checked in with a reliable source close to Updike this past week who reports that the prolific author “has no memory of ever making that statement.” Nonetheless, the elusive Missoula/Paris connection has grown slightly stronger in recent days with the arrival of the new Little Paris art gallery/studio in a small shack behind Officers Row Building 27 at Fort Missoula. The gallery was opened by artist Niki Sardot, who works with clay and paint, though her primary source of income is derived from her custom-made decorative fireplaces.

Sardot has worked and taught art in Missoula since 1996, doing renovation work on homes including the one purchased in 1998 by actress Andie McDowell and later honored by the Missoula Historic Preservation Office. Sardot is not a big McDowell fan, however, saying the actress took credit for Sardot’s work in an article in In Style.

“I’ve created an interesting place to be inspired to study art,” Sardot says of Little Paris, which is designed to look like an outdoor gallery in Montmartre. The walls are splashed with murals of Parisian streets, partially covered by Sardot’s own paintings and photographs of her faux-art floor tiles, designed to simulate rugs. Other artists are also on display, and there’s even the odd Monet reproduction.

Sardot, who has never actually visited Paris, notes that more shacks are available for rent at Fort Missoula ($200 a month for tenants with cultural and artistic merit), and hopes other artists will follow her lead in order to build a small colony at the Fort. Considering the opening of Little Paris and the recent announcement of a large addition planned for the Art Museum of Missoula, the city may soon want to invite Updike back to see if he’d care to repeat that statement he apparently never made in the first place.

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