By Chip Jones

It’s true. There was a time not long ago when giants roamed the Earth. I know because I saw them. You knew they were giants because of their size of course, but also the way they walked and talked. Their every action just seemed to be bigger than most. The first ones I met were in Montana at their annual rendezvous.

“Inspiration is a passion that ripples through time.”

In the early Spring of 1975, I was a young teenage boy growing up on the family ranch and hearing the stories of Charlie Russell and his work. I was enthralled with the color and honesty he captured in his paintings. They radiated feelings of honor, integrity, and a gritty truth about a changing world one could believe in. My parents recognized my yearning and interest for art, and they packed the family up and headed to Great Falls to explore the art show that everyone was talking about.

As we pulled up to the Heritage Inn, huge bronze sculptures of buffalo, elk and Natives rose up to greet us and I knew this day would be full of adventure. We followed all the cowboy hats and entered a world of music, laughter and color that seemed to weave together and reach into my mind, whispering stories of Montana mountains, prairies, and the people who had lived there. The hotel was alive with energy as folks from the Old West strolled the halls and rooms. I danced from room to room gorging on the feast of colors and textures, spread out for everyone’s enjoyment. I started collecting cards and signatures from artists that were holding court surrounded by their friends and admirers. “Howdy, young man,” I heard as I spun around and looked up into a smiling face crowned with a wide, black cowboy hat. “Are you an artist?” he asked. My mind raced. “Could I be?” I had never met a giant before, but that idea burned in me.

“Aspire to inspire, it’s a gift you give to the future.”

I became a believer in Giants that day as my family and I watched them paint and sculpt, in amazed wonder as their creations came to life. A little touch of red here, a thumb scrape there. They laughed and told stories while they created their magic, enjoying old friendships and making new ones, never knowing the effect they had as passion and love filled the air. The crowd drank it in like sweet spring water as I whispered to myself, “I want to live like that.”

“Unknowingly, each kind gesture or thoughtful word kindles the passion of another.”

Little did I know that I would be around such giants for so many years. The artists at the Out West Art Show possess a tenacious passion for life and the courage to chase their dreams and it is why, I think, we like them so much. Their stories, full of courage, honesty, honor, and caring, are what inspires us and serves as a catalyst that drives a legacy like Charlie Russell’s. Change and challenges are easily faced when everyone works together, and the art becomes richer with each retelling.

So, I invite you to join us at the Heritage Inn once more, where you can find inspiration in every room and walk among Giants.

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