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Turns out deep-fried, salted crickets aren’t bad.

Seasoned crickets were part of the offerings at one of the most unusual art openings in recent years at the Yellowstone Art Museum. Two exhibits that celebrate community and the summer season were paired with the opening of the new art wall, Art in Action.

It wasn’t just about the crickets and edible flowers that were served. The crowd was also enthusiastic about the new space designed to allow visitors to express their own creativity. Children as young as 8 and adults into their 70s cut out paper flowers and created colorful designs that they mounted on the wall. Everyone is welcome to come make art, and you don’t have to sign it.

The YAM staff plans to offer a series of community art projects over the next few years. Instructions are mounted in the exhibit space on second floor, adjoining the show, “The Other Side of Midnight: Paintings and Prints by Adolf Dehn.” But you don’t have to follow directions. The instructions are simply suggestions.

Senior curator Bob Durden was pleasantly surprised by the array of art that went up during the opening. A web cam has been set up to chronicle the art wall, and Durden plans to edit the footage into a short film about the public art experience.

You can keep track of the progress at www.artmuseum.org.

“There are some pretty wonderful things on the wall,” Durden said. “It stretches my imagination how that wall is going to turn out. It’s a participatory experience to help our visitors better understand the creative process.”

The paintings and lithographs by Dehn of the jazz scene in New York in the 1920s are striking on their own, but they also serve as a springboard for community dialogue. The Dehn exhibit is part of a collection owned by Joe Sample and is on display through Sept. 18.

Dehn’s family immigrated to Minnesota from Germany in the 1880s, and Dehn was born in Waterville, Minn., in 1895. His parents encouraged Dehn to stick to his convictions, so when he was drafted into World War I Dehn became a conscientious objector and was imprisoned for two years for refusing to serve.

After World War I ended, Dehn drifted to Europe where he found a group of like-minded intellectuals, including the poet e.e. cummings.

Dehn’s humor is evident in his social commentary about class divisions in the U.S. and Europe. The lithograph, “Naked Truth Pursued by Bare Facts,” shows a naked woman surrounded by mostly naked demons. Another piece, “Black and White,” shows a pudgy, older white couple dancing with tall, elegant African Americans.

Durden hopes that Dehn’s messages about race and class in the U.S. will inspire others to think about divisions in our world today.

“He had a pretty good take on the social and cultural climate in America and understood what people’s needs and desires were,” Durden said. “He was there in the Harlem nightclubs of the 1920s watching these wealthy white men ogling these beautiful African American dancers. He saw music as the great equalizer.”

“The Botanical Series: Photographs by Gerald Lang and Jennifer Anne Tucker” was the inspiration for the edible bugs and plants during the opening.

The stems, flowers, leaves and fruit in the series look so three-dimensional, it feels like you could pluck them off the wall. That’s the idea behind the two artists’ technique where they use a scanner to photograph botanical materials. Botanical art has its origins in Egypt and Mesopotamia 4,000 years ago when plants were depicted on tombs and temples.

The YAM exhibit includes images of plants that we often don’t think about as beautiful, like milkweed and dandelions.

The new YAM exhibits are important because they help us view plants, bugs and even human beings from a new perspective. Not everyone wants to eat a cricket, but we can all find new ways to connect with our world.

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Entertainment Reporter

Jaci Webb covers entertainment for The Billings Gazette.