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Great Falls hotel transforms into Western art paradise

Posted at 5:44 PM, Mar 13, 2024

GREAT FALLS — From hotel rooms to art studios, the rooms at the Heritage in Great Falls have been transformed to make way for the Out West Art Show.

Artists were busy Wednesday setting up studios for the Out West Art Show at the Heritage Inn, which for the first time since before covid, is the site of 'The Russell' Art Auction.

“It is wonderful having ‘The Russell” back,” said Out West Art Show Director Chip Jones, a Stevensville artist. “We have probably over 50-percent of our artists that have pieces in either the Friday night or the Saturday night auction. So, we're big supporters of the museum and all the artists are super excited to have them back in the building with us.”

Jones has been coming to the show for 30 years featuring his splash bronze pieces.

“So I use cast iron ladles and I throw the bronze at about 2,300 degrees to create the textures in it,” said Jones.

Chip Jones
Chip Jones

Jones says the key to running a successful show as both an artist and administrator lies in the planning.

“So I've been working on this show probably 40 hours a week for the last three and a half months. So getting it all organized, I've got a lot of great volunteers. We've got some people that are helping out at the front desk. So we have about 30 people in the background putting everything together,” said Jones.

Bronze sculptor Tyrel Johnson of Billings likes the fact that the Out West Art Show is run by artists and appreciates the inclusivity. He likes to incorporate wood and other materials into his works, like ‘After the Fire,’ inspired by a blaze in Big Timber when he was in high school.

Tyrel Johnson
Tyrel Johnson

"There was a burnt out corral. There must have been, I don't know, nine, ten, 11 ravens sitting on burnt fence posts and all the rest of the corral was just on the ground smoldering, and they were all staring at the setting sun,” said Johnson.

Sarah Boston of Great Falls has grown up with the Out West Art Show, attending as a child, later giving her time as a volunteer, and now a juried artist.

“I mean, it was always a life goal of mine to be in this show,” said Boston. “I grew up with a couple of artists in my family who were Western artists, and I always wanted to be like them. Then, of course, you have Charlie Russell.”

Sarah Boston
Sarah Boston

Sarah started as a graphite artist, but made her way to oils where she enjoys paying tribute to native cultures as depicted in a portrait of a Blackfeet named Jesse.

“The whole idea of this piece is that he just came out of a sweat and it's called ‘New Life,’” said Boston.

Both Sarah and Tyrel will be a part of the show’s quick finish on Thursday.

“We'll have 12 of our finest artists out there where they'll be finishing up a piece of art. And then we'll have a quick auction for those 12 pieces of art and a lot of that goes right back to the Young Masters program, which is our charity,” said Jones.

12 artists will also take part in a quick draw event and auction on Friday. Saturday will feature another quick finish and auction.

The Out West Art Show goes from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and is free and open to the public.