Editor’s Letter | Heading to Montana

Western Art Week returns to Great Falls

By Kristin Hoerth

Hold Her Zeb, I’m Commin’ by C.M. Russell at The Russell Exhibition and Sale.

Hold Her Zeb, I’m Commin’ by C.M. Russell at The Russell Exhibition and Sale.

This story was featured in the March 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

It’s March, and that means Great Falls, MT, is the place to be when it comes to the world of western art. To the uninitiated, this small city (third largest in the state, behind Billings and Missoula) on the Missouri River might not seem like a major art market. But as the home of quintessential western artist C.M. Russell, it’s been playing an important role for years.

Charlie Russell (1864-1926), known as “the cowboy artist,” lived in Great Falls from the late 1890s until the end of his life. By the time he arrived, he had spent time working as a cowboy on Montana ranches and living among the Plains Indians in Alberta, Canada; both experiences gave him firsthand knowledge of the subjects he painted, sculpted, and drew. He became not only a local celebrity but also an internationally known chronicler of the West. Today, visitors to Great Falls can see his work at the C.M. Russell Museum and tour the log-cabin studio where he created most of his significant pieces.

And this is the backdrop for Western Art Week, during which lovers of western art converge to attend a variety of shows, auctions, and other special events around town. The centerpiece of it all is The Russell Exhibition and Sale (see page 26), which got its start in 1969, when the Great Falls Advertising Federation created the C.M. Russell Auction of Original Western Art. The event endured for four decades, until 2011, when the museum took over and changed the name slightly. To celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, “we have some exciting things up our sleeves to really make a splash,” says Duane Braaten, the museum’s director of art and philanthropy.

In other locations around town, there’s a lot more western art to be found: The Out West Art Show & Sale returns to the Best Western Plus Heritage Inn (see page 38), featuring 100 artists and galleries displaying their work. The March in Montana Auction, with some 700 pieces of art, memorabilia, and antiques, takes place at Elks Lodge No. 214 (see page 48). And there are even more shows at other exhibition venues and hotels throughout the city. Charlie Russell himself would no doubt be proud of the artistic bonanza to be found in his hometown.

This story was featured in the March 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

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