Western Art Week: Electric City buzzes with art

Downtown Great Falls, March 18-22

Art Beat

Who knew a birthday party for Charlie Russell would turn in to a community-wide celebration of western art?

The roots of Western Art Week date back to 1969 and the inaugural Russell Auction, held to benefit the C.M. Russell Museum. Always held the week of March 19 (Russell’s birthday), the event has continued to grow and evolve, attracting thousands of artists and art enthusiasts from around the world.

See artwork ranging from originals by Russell and his contemporaries, to more contemporary interpretations of the western life and landscapes. Interact with the artists in their showrooms and watch as they create custom works at several quick-draw events. Bid on original works, or simply watch the action.

Finally, sit back at the end of the night and relax at one of the many after-show venues.

Here’s our round-up of Western Art Week events:

The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum, March 19-21: All 274 pieces of classic and contemporary western artworks available for bidding during The Russell are on display at the museum through March 19. Subjects range from traditional western images of cowboys and Indians, to landscapes, wildlife, and still-life images. The signature fundraising event for the museum kicks off with a Preview Party, offering an opportunity to view auction works and reunite with friends, old and new, 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the museum ($40-$50).

Meadow Lark Country Club hosts Art in Action, a quick-finish event featuring an auction, entertainment and brunch,10 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday; 26 nationally known artists work in a variety of media during the quick-finish event while interacting with the crowd ($50-$60).

Action moves to the Mansfield Center at 6 p.m. for the First Strike Friday Night Live Auction, featuring 117 lots of art submitted exclusively by living artists. Both experienced collectors and burgeoning bidders alike have the opportunity to compete. Hors d’oeuvres, beverages, and live music by The Dirty Shame are part of the evening ($40-$50).

Saturday’s free Russell Educational Symposium, 9 a.m.-noon at the Mansfield Center, is titled “A New Vision of Wilderness: 19th Century American Art, Conservation and the National Park Movement.” Presenters Joan Troccoli, Peter Hassrick and Joni Kinsey focus on wildlife and land conservation themes and the upcoming exhibition, “Harmless Hunter: The Wildlife Work of Charles M. Russell,” to be displayed in the C.M. Russell Museum this summer.

Panorama of live Russell Auction
Panorama of live Russell Auction

The main event, The Russell Live Auction, features historic and contemporary fine art, hors d’oeuvres and beverages, 5 p.m. Saturday. This elegant evening includes a gourmet dinner and beverage service and is a must-attend event for collectors from across the country (sold out). Call 727-8787 or visit cmrussell.org for details.

Russell Skull Society Artists’ Suites, March 19-21 at the Mansfield Center: Twenty-two painters and sculptors whose efforts keep alive the traditions of C.M. Russell will exhibit and sell their work from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. The public is invited to visit the Artists’ Suites and enjoy live music, a cash bar, plentiful seating, and Cowboy Cocktails from Big Mouth BBQ.

A “toast” at noon Thursday includes Living History performers honoring Charlie Russell on his birthday. A concert by Jack Gladstone follows at 3 p.m. The entertainment schedule for the three-day event also includes Mary Lou Loney, performing throughout; the Joel Corda Band, Almeda Bradshaw, Mark Tronson and Britta Lee, Friday; and Aaron Parrett and Jeni Dodd on Saturday.

Call 727-8787 or visit www.cmrussell.org.

March in Montana Auction and Dealer Show, March 18-21 at the Townhouse Inn: Seven-hundred lots of fine western art and cowboy and Indian antiques and collectibles fill this 28th annual show and sale, sponsored by the Coeur d’Alene Art Auction and Manitou Galleries.

The dealer show is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 18-21, and the two-day auction takes place at noon Friday and Saturday. Live, internet, absentee and telephone bidding are available; lots are posted online and in the full-color catalog ($30). Call 307-635-0019 or visit www.marchinmontana.com.

Western Heritage Artists “Footprints on the Trail” Art Show, March 18-22 at the Holiday Inn: This 34th annual show, which features works in an array of media by more than 50 artists, kicks off with Preview Night at 7 p.m. Wednesday, featuring music by Jeni Dodd.

During the Quick Finish and Auction, 6 p.m. Thursday, artists spend 45 minutes creating artworks, followed by a sale of these quick creations, with a percentage of proceeds supporting the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

The Paint-Around, 6 p.m. Friday, is a timed event, where each artist has 10 minutes to work on a piece before passing it on to their neighbor. These blended, one-of-a-kind artworks, will be sold via live auction.

Art Competing for Causes, 5 p.m. Saturday, includes a silent auction and a Quick Draw, with a live auction at 7 p.m. The net proceeds support local causes. Call 868-9649 or visit www.westernheritageartshow.com for details.

The Great Western Living and Design Show, March 19-22 at Four Seasons Arena, Montana ExpoPark: This third annual show features 100 vendor booths brimming with fine art, handcrafted furniture, western fashion and jewelry from western artisans and craftsmen. The line-up includes artists like Alan Michaels from L.A., who displays western leather jackets, and Andy Sanchez, whose award-winning furniture features jewel inlays.

In addition to the fabulous art show, entertainment includes authentic western music by Pollo Loco and Almeda Bradshaw. Call 761-0288 or visit www.thegreatwesternshow.com.

Wild Bunch Art Show, March 18-21 at the Hampton Inn: The sixteen artists from three states show and sell their work during the annual event, which kicks off with a meet-the-artists gala reception, 5-10 p.m. Wednesday. Exhibit rooms are open 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily, and a portion of proceeds benefit the Great Falls Children’s Museum.

Participating artists include Leith DeWeese, Pam Harr, Jeffrey Hoff, Andrew Knudson, Joan Kosel, Ronald Lowery, Todd Mandeville, Larry Ochsner, LeAnn Ochsner, Laurel Ovitt, A. Nadine Pickthorn, Harvey Rattey, Jeffrey Renner, Kim Shirley, Bridget Stiverson and Connie Tveten. Call 868-9649 or visit www.anadinepickthorn.com/wild-bunch-art-shows-great-falls for details.

Missouri Falls Fine Arts Show and Sale, March 20-22 at La Quinta Inn and Suites: The Arts Association of Montana returns to Western Art Week with 15 fine artists, including Sally Beall, Lee Bialczak, Doris Boyle, Janet Christina, Marie Daniels, Jean Fleming-Mazur, Joel Long, Julie Myers, Steve Nelson, Ron Paulick, Jean Radke, Darlene Sanford, Darlene Stephenson, and Kathleen Zuelke.

Ceramist Judy Ericksen is this year’s featured artist; meet Judy and the other AAM artists 4-8 p.m. Friday; the show is open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m.-noon Sunday. Call 453-4076 for details.

Out West Art Show and Sale, March 18-21 at the Best Western Plus Heritage Inn: Works by more than 140 artists fill 114 exhibit rooms. The show kicks off from 6-9 p.m. Wednesday with the opening celebration, featuring live music. Thursday brings a performance by Missouri River Dance of “The Story of the Buffalo Dance.” Friday and Saturday highlights include a Quick Finish at 2:30 p.m. and an auction of those works from 4-5:30 p.m. Call 899-2958 or visit www.outwestartshow.com.

Jay Contway and Friends Art Show, March 19-22 at the Hilton Garden Inn: Professional artists from the western United States and Canada host their own exhibits. Call 452-7647 or visit www.jaycontway.com for details.

Studio 706 Artist Guild Spring Show, March 19-21 at the Mansfield Convention Center’s Gibson Room: Twenty-six member artists showcase an array of art during Western Art Week. A reception is on tap 5-7 p.m. Thursday; guild artists give demonstrations throughout the event, which is open 5-9 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Call 781-4635 or 452-5771 for details.

Trunk Show featuring Jackie Larson Bread, March 19-21 at the C.M. Russell Museum Store: Acclaimed Blackfeet beadwork artist was instrumental in the development of pictorial beadwork, and her work is featured in the permanent collections of The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, the C.M. Russell Museum, Museum of the Rockies, and the Montana Historical Society Museum. Call 727-8787 or visit www.cmrussell.org.

Western Collectibles and Antique Gun Show, March 19-21 at Montana ExpoPark: Browse antique firearms, western memorabilia, Native American relics, and more from 3-7 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Call 452-5436 or visit www.greatfallsgunshow.net.