By A. Nadine Pickthorn Photos by Matt Doyle
I became aware of the C.M. Russell Art Auction and Exhibitors Art Show in the early 1980s. It was well known for being the most successful Western art event across the country. As soon as I felt I could have a chance to be juried into the show, I applied and was given the chance to participate. I asked the jury to also invite Connie Tveten so we could share an exhibit room, which they agreed to do. We had a very successful art show our first year. (Many of the clients who purchased art from us back then have remained among our staunch supporters to this day.) It was an exciting time for us, and we both felt grateful for the opportunity.
It didn’t take Connie and I long to see we needed to create some excitement to become more successful. We decided to open our exhibit room the night before the official show. (That is how the old original show began opening on Wednesday evening all those years ago.) We had our art show attendees lining up along the hall to our exhibit room for up to an hour before we opened. Back in those days, we had buyers fly to Great Falls in their own jets for Western Art Week, not only from out of state, but from other countries as well! The halls of the Heritage Inn were so filled with attendees that it was difficult to get from one exhibit room to another. We had to have security on duty throughout the event. Those were the days!
In 2009, due to disagreements between the C.M. Russell Museum and the Great Falls Ad Club, the original C.M. Russell Art Show ended. As 2010 approached, for the first time in 25 years, we did not have an art show during Western Art Week in which to participate. So, Connie and I teamed up once again to create our own! We had started a Wild Bunch Art Show in Glasgow several years earlier, so our natural inclination was to create a second in Great Falls. Other artists from the Heritage Inn found out about our plans and joined us, and we had enough to pull it off in 2010. (Support was so strong in fact that Pam Harr informed me we could set up our artwork on a street corner and she and her husband, Harvey Rattey, would join us there.) By 2011, we had seventeen artists participating and a waiting list. We quickly became a destination for Western Art Week attendees, as we pride ourselves on being super creative, super friendly, and treating our collectors like royalty.
To all my treasured collectors, thank you from the bottom of my heart. All of us at the Wild Bunch Art Show look forward to our reunions each year. We hope to see you soon!