March 15 — 19 marks big art doings in Great Falls, Montana.
Western Art Week
With 700 artists descending upon the city, exhibiting in spaces large and small, Western Art Week in Great Falls, Montana, has become a not-to-miss event for Western art lovers. “There’s every kind of art inspired by the Western landscape, for any kind of collector, whether established or new,” says Rebecca Engum, executive director for Great Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau.
With nearly a dozen shows at various locations all over the city, Engum says, the art is all Western-themed — but it’s not just wildlife and landscapes — and the styles range from realistic to Picasso-esque. Here are some of the top shows this year.
A series of auctions and sales to benefit the C.M. Russell Museum, The Russell culminates Saturday, March 18, in a live auction of original works by the iconic artist. There’s also the Russell Skull Society of Artists exhibition, with works by two dozen painters and sculptors recognized for keeping the traditions of C.M. Russell alive.
The majority of artists participating in The Russell are also represented at the long-running Out West Art Show, with many exhibiting for more than 20 years here. The more than 135 participating artists include masters from Oil Painters of America, Cowboy Artists of America, Pastel Society, and Paint America.
At this, the longest continuously running show during Western Art Week, you’ll find an eclectic, contemporary group of more than 60 Western Heritage Artists exhibiting work in a variety of genres, from painting and sculpture to woodcarving and leather. You’ll also find photography, including the enhanced images of Eric Reese and Craig Edwards’ rugged Missouri river scenes and panoramas of the open plains.
At this smaller, relaxed show, you’ll find not just refreshments but artists on hand to talk about their work. Alongside carvings and jewelry, check out Todd Mandeville’s paintings of abandoned old trucks and tractors in eastern Montana fields.
Five Great Things to See in Great Falls
The Great Falls Visitor Information Center is open year- round, seven days a week. Load up on maps, brochures, calendars of events, general info, and coupons — not to mention the terrific view of the city and the confluence of the Sun and Missouri rivers.
After the Visitors Information Center and the C.M. Russell Museum, here are our top picks for things to experience in Montana’s third-largest city.
Watch the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition come to life via Ken Burns films and other interactive displays. Plus see the bronze statue of Seaman, the Newfoundland dog that accompanied the explorers. Access the River’s Edge Trail for a lovely walk along the water.
First recorded in 1805 by none other than Lewis and Clark, this is one of the largest freshwater springs in the country. It’s great for hiking, fishing, bird watching, picnicking, or simply soaking up the great outdoors.
Twelve miles northeast of Great Falls, the dam is a hydroelectric plant on the Missouri River with a spectacular suspension bridge and a designated picnic area. It’s part of the Great Falls Portage National Historic Landmark, designated to recognize Lewis and Clark’s travel around the series of five waterfalls in close proximity that give the city its name.
Military buffs will love this place. Malmstrom has one of the largest military model aircraft displays in the Northwest, along with several real retired birds on the grounds: an F-101B/F, Voodoo, and a Mitchell bomber among them. On top of that, there’s a World War II-era barracks room and flight suit and survival equipment displays.
Located in the old International Harvester building from 1929, this museum tells the story of the state’s history through thousands of artifacts, photographs, and archives, all collected from central Montana. Permanent exhibitions focus on the history of the region; other exhibits may celebrate local art or the history of Montana.