We crave color when April arrives. And at venues around the region our hunger is satisfied with eye-popping art and color -- lots of it -- in four new shows opening this week.

The Loading Dock Gallery at Lowell's Western Avenue Studios is awash in color with "Paper Transformed." On view all month, it showcases fanciful, fantastic, 3-dimensional paper creatures and unique woven art. Join the artists for a reception Saturday, April 6, from 4-6 p.m., following First Saturday Open Studios, from noon-5 p.m., at Western Avenue Studios and Lofts, 122 Western Ave. The gallery is open Wednesday-Saturday, noon-5:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Visit www.theloadingdockgallery.com.

Color's at the forefront at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, where "Zhostovo: A Russian-American Odyssey," a new mini-exhibition of vividly painted trays and boxes, is on view in the lobby April 6-Oct. 20. These treasures are created in the traditional Zhostovo-style -- brilliantly painted floral compositions against black, red, blue or green backgrounds -- by American decorative painter/teacher Tricia Joiner and Zhostovo master painter Slava Letkov, who worked at the Zhostovo Tray Factory outside of Moscow. They have collaborated for nearly 20 years, teaching painters here and abroad the techniques and style. Featured are factory and exhibition trays, furniture pieces and challenging class projects.


Joiner teaches a three-day Zhostovo painting workshop June 7-9 at the museum; registration is required by May 31. Visit www.museumofrussianicons.org for info.

Back in Lowell, more color abounds at the New England Quilt Museum on Middle Street, where "Explorations II: Inside the Quilt Artist's Studio" opened April 2. Running through June 23, it explores the question "How did she do that?" that's often asked when someone views an art quilt. The exhibition explores signature techniques of 24 artist members of New England-based Studio Art Quilt Associates. Five artists included in the show present their techniques in a program Saturday, April 6, 1-2 p.m. Visit www.ne quiltmuseum.org.

Finally, colorful game art takes center stage in April in "World Builders: Game Art" at Ayer Lofts Gallery on Middle Street, Lowell. A show for gamers and non-gamers, it offers a glimpse of the artistic process essential to the design of digital game worlds. It opens with a reception Saturday, April 6, 5-8 p.m., and will be open Saturdays and Sundays, noon-4 p.m., through April 28. Visit www.ayerlofts.com.

Nancye Tuttle's email address is nancyedt@verizon.net.

Gallery Notes

FIRSTS AT FAM: The Fitchburg Art Museum -- FAM -- hosts its monthly First Thursdays event April 4. Between 3-7 p.m., admission is free, and there are guided tours through the galleries at 4:30 p.m. The Fitchburg Farmers Market will be there, too, and a special activity rounds out the fun. ... On Saturday, April 6, celebrate "The Legacy of Otto Piene" from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Held in conjunction with the current blockbuster exhibition "Fire and Light: Otto Piene in Groton, 1983-2014," the program includes a performance of Piene's Light Robots by artist John Powell and a panel discussion with Lynette Roth of Harvard Art Museums, George Fifield of Boston Cyberarts and Seth Riskin of MIT. Piene's widow, Elizabeth Goldring, a poet and media artist, will offer a poetic reflection. Free with museum admission. Visit www.fitchburgartmuseum.org.

FREEBIE SUNDAY: Check out the exhibits and displays at the Worcester Art Museum on Sunday, April 7, without paying a dime. It's the monthly Free First Sundays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Visit www.worcesterart.org for details.

GENDER BENDERS: In fashion, gender-bending is nothing new. For proof, visit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where the new exhibition "Gender Bending Fashion" recently opened and runs through Aug. 25. The show looks across a century of haute couture and ready-to-wear fashion in America and Europe, exploring styles that challenge the rigid definitions of dress. Featured are more than 60 boundary-pushing designs from groundbreaking contemporary designers, including Palomo, Alessandro Michele for Gucci and Rad Hourani, in the context of historical trends, such as the peacock revolution of the 1960s. There are historic pieces as well as "gender benders" worn by such iconic influencers as actress Marlene Dietrich and rock idols David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix. Visit www.mfa.org for info.