Great Falls recently hosted Western Art Week, a collection of 13 art shows all featuring a variety of art for sale. The longest show runs for five days, not quite a week, but the days are jam packed. The art shows take place the third weekend in March around the time of Charlie Russell’s birthday.
Most folks think of western paintings during Western Art Week, but in addition to that, you’ll find an amazing variety of art including sculptures, handcrafted wooden pieces, furniture, jewelry, hand dyed fabrics and more.
The longest running show is The Russell: An Exhibition and Sale to Benefit the C. M. Russell Museum. An artist quick finish and auction took place Friday during the day, then ticket holders headed downtown to an evening First Strike auction. Models showed off western fashions during a Saturday afternoon fashion show and the evening wrapped up with an auction. The final auction is elegant, fast-paced and truly exciting – the highest bid was on a Russell painting for $1.1 million. You could definitely feel the excitement in the air when the auctioneer recognized each bid. And, a $1.1 million bid had the crowd on the edge of their seats.
Each show is unique and many are free to attendees. The Out West Show was at the BW Heritage Inn and had art demos each day followed by evening auctions. Furniture was removed from sleeping rooms and artists’ work was displayed. Doors are open and people wander from room to room.
The March In Montana show holds two auctions of some very high end art and collectibles. Their show was relocated to the Elks Club this year and auctions were held early so they wouldn’t conflict with The Russell’s events.
One of my favorite shows is the Great Western Living & Design Show held at Montana Expo Park. I like all of the art shows but this one is so different – I saw horseshoe sculptures, hand woven towels, wooden and leather furniture, custom crafted entry doors…all so unique.
Other shows included Jay Contway & Friends, Western Heritage Artists, the Wild Bunch, Missouri Falls Art Show, Studio 706 Art Guild and the Montana Watercolor Society. First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park also hosted a show in the visitor center in the park. Native American fashion, western collectibles and antique guns could also be found in different venues around Great Falls.
Visitors really can spend five days viewing all of the art during Western Art Week. It’s an event worth seeing – it will happen again next year, March 14-18. I hope to see you there!