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'An amazing contribution': Yellowstone Art Museum displays Joe Sample's donated private art collection

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Posted at 6:02 AM, Oct 19, 2023

BILLINGS — Joseph and Miriam Sample played a huge part in the art scene in Montana before they died. Yellowstone Art Museum patrons will get to see works of art from their own personal collections this fall all for free.

“'A Couple of Art Lovers' is kind of our fun take on Joe and Miriam’s story,” said Kimberly Gaitonde, the Yellowstone Art Museum’s curatorial assistant on Tuesday.

The Samples have donated hundreds of pieces to the YAM throughout the years, and the family’s legacy is still growing there now, even a year after Joe’s death in 2022. It couldn’t come at a better time.

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Joseph and Miriam Sample

“We just received a wonderful grant from (nonprofit foundation) Art Bridges,” Gaitonde said.

This grant will cover admission for the next three years, making it free for visitors.

“Which is so wonderful for the community, especially at this time when the show is opening, of Joe Sample’s work because Joe and Miriam were both so big on accessibility for the museum,” Gaitonde said.

“I think it’s very much an amazing contribution for somebody to give all this away for people to see for free. That’s something people should definitely try to come see if they can,” said teen patron Paige Lafurge.

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Paige and Jordan Lafurge

Paige and her sister, Jordan Lafurge, are aspiring artists themselves. They couldn’t wait to see the 45 new works of Western art from Joe’s private collection, the first exhibition of ‘A Couple of Art Lovers.’

“He built up this really encyclopedic collection of Western art and kept it for himself to enjoy, while also keeping it here in Montana, and preserving it here, knowing at a later time it would be available to the public,” Gaitonde said.

It joins nearly 300 works of contemporary art from Miriam’s collection already a part of their permanent collection. The two had very different tastes.

“I think she saw a renaissance here almost in Montana to document the practices and what’s happening here, and Joe saw a little bit of the history and lineage that led up to that," said Gaitonde.

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Kimberly Gaitonde

Joined by some works from famed artist, Joseph Henry Sharp, Joe’s collection will be displayed until Jan. 7. Miriam’s will be on display starting in November.

“I feel like when you have such a wide variety of artworks from one person in particular or from a few, you can really get into the mind of what they were doing, and how they thought, or how they felt, and I think it’s really cool,” Lafurge said.

“It’s very certain that a legacy was left behind and there was so much that he did in his lifetime that was left for the community, and I think it just means so much that it ended up here,” said Gaitonde.