C.M. Russell Museum postpones Western Art Week events due to COVID-19

The C.M. Russell Museum announced Monday afternoon that it is postponing all of it’s Western Art Week events including the auction due COVID-19.

The events were scheduled for March 19-21 in Great Falls and the event typically draws hundreds of people from across the U.S. and Canada.

The events will be rescheduled for sometime in late summer, according to Tom Figarelle, the museum’s executive director, but new dates have not yet been selected. The museum expects to announced new dates by the end of the month.
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The Russell sale typically drives about 40 percent of the museum’s revenue, Figarelle said, so they’d likely make some adjustments over the coming months, but still anticipate holding the event.

Figarelle said it was a staff recommendation, accepted by the board of directors, to postpone the event to protect the public health of attendees and the community.
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Sandra Thares, owner of the O’Haire Motor Inn and a caterer during Russell events, said the majority of Russell Skull society artists and Russell board members stay at her inn and she was seeing 65 percent cancellations for Western Art Week before the museum announced the postponement.

She said guests who come in to enjoy all the shows have not cancelled yet.

Thares said the museum communicated with her and other event vendors before announcing the decision and shared that many of their ticket holders had been canceling their trips to Great Falls. Thares said many of their significant art buyers fall into the demographic that is at risk from complications of coronavirus.

Sale art will remain on display in the museum galleries for the foreseable future, Figarelle said.

Other Western Art Week shows, including the two largest, are going on as scheduled.

John Godwin with The Out West Art Show said they are moving forward with their multi-day event.

Godwin said there are so many moving parts to their show and the board decided to proceed as planned and encouraged the public to attend their free events at the Heritage Inn.
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The Out West Art Show this year includes seven galleries and 120 artists, Godwin said.

The Great Western Living and Design Show is also going on as planned at Montana Expo Park.

Chuck Fulcher said the respect the museum’s decision to postpone their events and not bring people from all over the world to Great Falls and risk bringing COVID-19 to the community, but that their show is a regional event from states that don’t yet have confirmed cases of the virus.

Rebecca Engum of Visit Great Falls Tourism said the COVID-19 outbreak is concerning as it’s causing cancellations of events for Western Art Week, but also other meetings, conventions and leisure travel from some of their target markets like Seattle, Chicago and Denver, where there’s heightened concern over the outbreak.

According to Visit Great Falls Tourism, the following Western Art Week shows are confirmed to go on as planned:

DG House & King Kuka Exhibit

Jay Contway and Friends Art Show

March In Montana Art Show

Montana Watercolor Society at Out West Art Show

Missouri Falls Fine Arts Show and Sale

Celebration of Native Plains Artists

Studio 706 Art Show

Western Collectibles & Antique Show

Western Heritage Artists Footprints on the Trail Art Show

Wild Bunch Art Show

KGT Art Show

Russell museum staff are contacting ticket holders to discuss options for partial refunds, or converting the ticket price to a charitable donation to the museum.

Questions can be directed to the following Russell Museum staff members regarding event changes:

Ticketing: Jessica Nebel, 406-727-1939; jnebel@cmrussell.org

Artists: Kelcy Wedekind, 406-604-4761; kwedekind@cmrussell.org

Media: Christina Horton, 406-604-4746; chorton@cmrussell.org

Sponsors: Brianne Laurin, 406-604-4744; blaurin@cmrussell.org

Volunteers: Kailey Judisch, 406-604-4758; kjudisch@cmrussell.org

General Inquiries: Barbie Brunelle, 406-604-4742

Other Western Art Week event questions:

Rebecca Engum, Visit Great Falls, 406-750-1198; rebecca@visitgreatfalls.org