A Tradition of Western Culture and Art

Trends come and go but art is forever. There will never be a day where it’s considered “out of fashion” to hang an original painting on the wall or display a bronze on the mantle. This is especially true of Western art – where artistic styles may fade in and out of popularity, but the subject matter makes it enduringly relevant.

Western Art Week in Great Falls is a testament to that relevance. For nearly five decades it has brought people from all over Montana (and far beyond) to celebrate art and Western tradition in Charlie Russell’s hometown. In 2016, Western Art Week is bigger than ever with more than ten shows for art enthusiasts to visit. The longest continually running of these is the WHA (Western Heritage Artists) Footprints on the Trail Art Show at the Holiday Inn. Now in its 35th year, Footprints on the Trail is home to roughly 60 exhibiting artists, providing the public with a great opportunity to buy affordable, high-quality art.

Calendar of Events

Wed, March 16

Artist rooms open 7pm -10 pm
Preview Night
A reception and awards ceremony will be held at 7pm. Over 50 artists will be displaying a preview piece. See the artists in their rooms and enjoy free cake and punch.

Thu, March 17

Artist rooms open 10 am-10 pm
Live music from 1pm until 4pm provided by Joe Ryan.
Military Appreciation Night: Fundraiser for K-9 Care Montana
A Quick Draw begins at 6pm. Artists work against the clock to create original artwork. Upon completion, these pieces are auctioned off to the highest bidder. This event will also feature a silent auction and wall sale, with each WHA artist represented.

Fri, March 18

Artist rooms open 10 am-10 pm
Live music from 1pm until 4pm provided by Up the Creek, featuring Joe Boland and Jim Anderson.
The Paint-Around
A social hour and preview of the silent auction artwork will begin around 5pm. The Paint-Around will start at 6pm. The Paint- Around produces blended artworks, fused with the talent and style of multiple artists. Onlookers can purchase these one-of-a- kind pieces in an auction that takes place at the end of the event.

Sat, March 19

Artist rooms open 10 am-10 pm
Art demonstration; live music from 1pm
until 4pm provided by Eden Bridge, featuring Jolene Schalper and Geoff Haggard.
Art Competing for Causes
This event supports Breast Cancer Awareness, Cancer Awareness, Grizz Biz Kids, and Hobson BPA. A live art preview and silent auction begin at 5:30 poolside followed by a quick finish at 6pm. The live auction with quick finish art, along with other art, and western collectibles begins at 7pm. A limited number of table seats are available which include wine and hors d’oeuvres.

Sun, March 20

Artist rooms open 11 am-4 pm


In Montana we have many opportunities to absorb Western culture – many of us live it every day – but what the Footprints on the Trail Art Show provides is a once a year opportunity to experience it through a new set of eyes. Each piece of art tells a story. Maybe it’s one we can relate to. Maybe it’s one we’d like to relate to. Maybe it’s one that intrigues us even if we don’t understand why. Western art calls upon us to look within in ourselves and draw connections to our own experiences and interests.

The WHA seeks to promote these relationships between the viewer and the artwork, not only through their skills as artists but through personal interactions as well. Each artist is present in his or her exhibiting room, available to answer questions and share stories about their work. Some artists can even be found working on a piece in progress. These interactions are fun, insightful, and free so visitors are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities.


Buying art shouldn’t be scary. Yet, when we’re told to think about buying art, many of us drum up images of big pieces and big prices. After all, the big sales are the ones that get talked about the most and they’re the ones most likely to stick in our minds. But buying art is actually a lot more affordable than many think. Most shows, like Footprints on the Trail, offer a range of prices so that there’s something for everyone.

This includes young people. Many people in their 20s and 30s are going to college, finding jobs, starting families, buying homes, paying loans, and building careers. With all of that going on, it’s easy to see why a young person would be intimidated by thought of buying art; however, the WHA would like young readers to know that beautiful artwork is within your reach (and within your budget) at Footprints on the Trail. Why settle for store-bought prints or movie posters when real Western Art could be hanging on your wall? Art is an investment, sure, but it’s an investment that you can see and enjoy every day.


The Footprints on the Trail Art Show contains a variety of unique artistic talents. There are painters, bronze artists, photographers, and representation from many other mediums. For instance, this year’s WHA Featured Artist, Lois Huntzucker, specializes in detailed pencil art. Sandra Haynes creates meticulous scratchboard etchings. Dave Dubé designs images on old paper documents. Janet Christenot weaves wheat into artwork, Dave Roos makes metal masterpieces, and Julie Wulf creates spirited silk paintings.

Many artists utilize more than one medium or canvas. Diana Roen paints with oils, watercolors, and even soil, and Mitzi Nelson paints on traditional canvases, feathers, and leaves.

Adding further to the variety, styles within mediums vary widely between artists. R. Wayne Waddoups burns Western imagery into the cross sections of trees while Ken Acton uses cross sections to carve intricate scenes. Jerry Simchuck, Tom Maguire, Carmen Luna, Sally Johnson, and James Meredith are all masterful wood carvers with a focus on wildlife, but each artist has a distinctly different style. This diversity provides buyers with many options when exploring the Footprints on the Trail Art Show.

The 35th Annual WHA Footprints on the Trail Art Show will run March 16-20, 2016 at the Holiday Inn during Western Art Week in Great Falls. For more information on the show’s exhibiting artists and events, visit WesternHeritageArtShow.com.

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