For one fantastic week in March, Great Falls becomes the Western Art Capital of the World. The event, now in its 50th year, is always held in March in honor of famed cowboy artist Charlie Russell’s birthday and still takes people by surprise. Many attendees think they know all about Western Art Week, but time and time again, the event takes people by surprise. This is probably why so many make Western Art Week a priority in planning their year’s adventures. The 2018 event runs March 14-19. To prepare you for experiencing this event, here are just a few of things you don’t expect.
1. The Number of Shows
Ask an “old-timer” about Western Art Week and they are likely to refer to it as Russell Auction weekend. There is a chance they may mention a few of the other shows, such as March in Montana, Western Heritage Artists Footprints on the Trail, Out West Show, Great Western Living & Design Show, or even the Western Collectibles & Antique Gun Show, but people are surprised to learn there are 14 shows! The shows are located throughout Great Falls and each has their own style. Some shows have taken over rooms inside hotels, where each artist has a gallery of their work inside the room. Other shows are a fully open concept with the art displays grouped by artist throughout the room. Still others utilize a trade show style vendor display set-up with each table showcasing something different. Once you experience Western Art Week, you will naturally find your favorite shows and make them a priority to begin with next year.
2. The Variety of Art
You are guaranteed to experience first-hand, artwork that captures alluring landscapes, rugged independence, tenacious adventures, and majestic wildlife. You will also find modern western art inspired by the landscapes and lifestyles of the West. Most people expect to see original art from CM Russell, Henry Francois Farny, Kenneth Riley, Frederic Remington, Gerard Curtis Delano, W. Steve Seltzer, Don Prechtel, (John) Edward Borein, and Franz Trevors, and you definitely will. You will also find Belinda Bullshoe, DG House, Chuck Fulcher, Jay Contway, Kira Fercho, Ron Paulick, Brenda Wolf, Echo Ukrainetz, The King Kuka Family, Steve Tilleraas, and others. There are over 700 artists featured during Western Art Week with their art available as original oil paintings, giclees, bronzes, photographs, sculptures, watercolors, prints, pencil sketches, scratchboards, pastels, and much, much, more!
3. The Affordability of the Artwork
This goes hand in hand with variety. Since there are so many art options available, you will find price points that are surprisingly affordable. An original Russell will go for millions. However, you could fall in love with a piece by an artist testing a new technique and take home an original for $45. You can find artwork from an artist you follow for years and make the investment. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on the artwork you get during Western Art Week, we can guarantee when you do make that investment, you will cherish it. And, when you share the story behind the purchase, your friends will want to join you next year.
4. There is Furniture
In Montana’s Basecamp for Art & Adventure, we think of art in the broadest definition possible, and the artistry behind the furniture for sale during Western Art Week is rugged, breathtaking, comfortable, unique, and true works of art. Lamps, couches, tables, chairs, coat racks, mirrors are hand-made with the same craftsmanship as the rest of the art. The furniture at Western Art Week provides functionality and creative accents to a home, maybe even more than an original oil.
5. The Engaging Artist Conversations
It may not need to be said, but we are going to say it; during Western Art Week, you get to visit directly with the artist who created the artwork you are looking at. You will learn about the inspiration for the piece, where the barn is actually located, who that man holding the sheep is, how they found the headlight to create the 3-D art piece, why they chose glowing eyes for the fish sculpture. You will find out how long the artist has been working their craft, why they choose that particular media, why they will never do buffalo, and why this piece is so far from everything else they have ever done. You may also find someone who creates works for art others love as a way to relax. The point is, you don’t know what you will learn, but the opportunity to visit with the artist will lead you down a road you will be glad you took.
6. Formal Education and Lectures
Essay contests, scholarships for young artists, and technique workshops are part of Western Art Week events. There are quick finishes, symposiums that take you deeper into the artist’s life, ceremonies that award conservation efforts, and panels that discuss the long-range impact art has on society. Western Art Week is truly an all art adventure where art lovers need to take time to determine how you’ll want to engage and experience all there is to do.
7. There is Jewelry
Goodness my, and it’s more than just elk ivory rings! Hand-beaded earrings, artfully crafted agates set in sterling silver for necklaces, and gemstones displayed in a modern ring setting. The jewelry, just like the furniture and art, is full of variety, affordability and unique expressions.
8. The Live Music Performances
There is no art form left untouched during Western Art Week and you will find singer-songwriters playing originals, legacy groups belting out their hits, and expert musicians strumming away showcasing their talents, to awe-inspired passers-by. Pollo Loco is sure to give a concert, maybe even two, at the Great Western Living & Design Show and Native American Dancers perform during the Out West show. Each show does music their way, so, plan accordingly to ensure you don’t miss anything!
9. The Runway Fashion
Individual artistry is demonstrated in our style and high fashion is steeped in creativity. Fashion designers take center stage during Western Art Week’s runway shows. Noted Blackfeet fashion designer Belinda Bullshoe recently exhibited her fashion at Paris Fashion Week. At the Russell Runway Show, you will see wearable art of the American West.
10. A Week is Simply Not Enough Time
With all that Western Art Week offers, you won’t get to it all if you truly engage in the experience. Beyond the 14 shows, the auctions, the events, the musical performances, there is a pancake breakfast, cowboy church, and more events throughout Great Falls you wouldn’t expect. However, when experiencing Western Art Week, expect the unexpected.