This year marks the 50th anniversary of the C.M. Russell Museum’s 5th grade essay contest, which is devoted to the artist.
Paula Egan-Wright, one winner from the first essay contest all those years ago, got the chance to return to Great Falls Public Schools on Wednesday.
She said, “I remember walking home from school and thinking what I would say. I can remember toiling over the phrases. I can remember reading it on Norma’s show and I still remember phrases from it, so that’s pretty good for 50 years.”
All these years later, Paula returned to Riverview Elementary to talk to some of this year’s 5th graders about Charlie Russell through puzzles, poems and songs.
Riverview 5th grader Madelyn Osterman said, “I learned that Charlie Russell cared about almost everything. He cared about Native Americans, the land, and animals.”
Riverview 5th grader Ethan Young said, “I learned that he was one of the most wealthy artists in all of the world at one point. He was one of the most important people in Great Falls.”
Paula now works as teacher at a French school in Ankara, Turkey, where she teaches English and French. She also teaches her students about Charlie Russell.
She said, “I did some of the same activities with my Ankara kids that I did with the kids here. I think when I was growing up I thought well, ‘He’s apart of Montana so we learn about him.’ But, to see how much esteem other people put in his work and how they identify his work, it brings me to realize that what we were learning as children wasn’t just for our sakes because of Montana, it was important on a world scale.”
Charlie Russell was always a big part of Paula’s life. Both of her parents were involved with the Russell auction.
She said, “So, I was always watching from the sidelines.”
Paula added in college she applied for a Russell Art scholarship and also happened to win that.
She came back to Great Falls for the 25th Russell Auction to put one of her paintings in the auction.
Paula said, “It did kind of pre-determine to come back to Great Falls for many things.”
Paula also had the chance to guest-teach in French classes at C.M. Russell High School and on Thursday she will be a special guest at the 50-year anniversary event at Giant Springs Elementary School at 5:30 p.m.