GREAT FALLS — The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls announced it has received the largest cash gift in the museum's history - a $3 million donation from Jessie and Gary Van Ness to the museum’s Art & Soul Campaign.
With the donation, the museum has exceeded its $20 million endowment goal to provide the museum financial support well into the future.
“I’ve always been inspired by art and, in particular, artists themselves. Coming to Great Falls for The Russell and interacting with the artists each year is galvanizing – looking at a piece of artwork then discussing it with the person who created it is incredibly special,” said Jessie Van Ness in a news release from the museum. “Gary and I have been so encouraged by the success of the Art and Soul Campaign and current leadership of the museum at the staff and board level. We are thrilled to make this gift to the museum endowment.”
Through the Art & Soul Campaign, the museum is working to preserve the legacy of the museum’s namesake, Charles Marion Russell - the world-renowned “cowboy artist.”
“The generosity of donors like Jessie and Gary has been incredible. We are so blessed to enjoy their support, passion and belief in the museum and the importance of Western art in our culture,” said Tom Figarelle, director of the museum. “An endowment of this size is meaningful. It will elevate the museum’s exhibitions, programs and annual operations well into the future. Most of all, it will safeguard the art and soul of the American West by ensuring that the timeless values Charlie embodied are celebrated for generations.”
The announcement was made to a sell-out crowd at Charlie’s Miniature Roundup, a new event during Western Art Week featuring works of art no larger than 144 square inches and submitted by members of the Russell Skull Society of Artists (RSS) and other artists invited by the RSS and C.M. Russell Museum Board of Directors.