In an unprecedented move, the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls has postponed its annual Western art event and auction, The Russell, due to potential infectious risk regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus) to attendees and the local community.
The event, which draws hundreds of art enthusiasts from around the United States and Canada to Great Falls, was originally scheduled for March 19-21 and is a centerpiece of Western Art Week festivities. The Russell Museum leadership and board of directors announced the postponement Monday, March 9.
“We take this decision very seriously,” said Tom Figarelle, executive director of the C.M. Russell Museum. “The Russell Exhibition and Sale has a beloved 52-year tradition in Great Falls and is a primary source of revenue for the museum, but given the potential and likely spread of the Coronavirus at The Russell events, we feel postponement is in the best interest of the Great Falls community and our patrons, staff, volunteers and partners.”
The Russell Museum plans to announce the rescheduled date by the end of March and currently anticipates holding The Russell within the next six months. Initial communications to attendees, volunteers, event vendors and others have been made and will be ongoing as the event is rescheduled.
As of Monday afternoon, no other Western Art Week shows coinciding with The Russell had announced a decision.
“Postponing The Russell has obvious wide-sweeping effects to Great Falls, but despite temporary economic setbacks to our tourism industry and regional art community, we support the museum’s decision to postpone,” said Rebecca Engum, executive director of Visit Great Falls. “The health of our community always has to be our number-one concern. Looking back this will be a blip in our long successful history of The Russell and Western Art Week.”
Engum is currently speaking with organizers of other Western Art Week events in Great Falls regarding the status of those events.
Figarelle emphasized the museum’s affection and loyalty to artists and patrons. “Safeguarding the health of our treasured friends and our hometown is the utmost priority with our decision,” he said. “We look forward to reuniting in the spirit of our namesake Charlie Russell in the coming months.”
For details and contact information, visit the museum’s website. For more information about Western Art Week events, call Rebecca Engum at Visit Great Falls, 406-750-1198, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.