GREAT FALLS — After a prayer and the singing of the Blackfeet anthem, ground was officially broken Friday on the new $1 million transformation of Fifth Avenue North and the empty lot across from the C.M. Russell Museum into a green space for the museum.
"It's going to have over an acre of contiguous grass space. There'll be landscaped areas that feature natural grasses, a reinterpreted outdoor sculpture garden and a grand entrance into the museum that will feature Russell's statue greeting all visitors as they arrive. So overall, the experience will just set the conditions for, then, a great visit inside our galleries,” said museum director Tom Figarelle.
Planning for the expansion has been underway since 2019 and was made possible thanks to a donation from husband and wife Nancy and Joe Masterson.
"We're a country that had a western past. We're the only country that I know that's had a western past and I like the fact that we're trying to preserve our western past,” said Nancy.
"We're very pleased with the quality of the people that we've worked with to put this thing together. So we've been in it since day one and have had the opportunity to have a great deal of input in it and we feel very good with the results,” Joe said.
At a presentation before the groundbreaking, Montana Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras spoke abut the importance of the expansion.
“This is just an opportunity to attract more people to Montana,” said Juras.
Work is expected to start next month and be complete in July. The expansion is part of a much larger, long-term expansion project the museum is working on.