Officials at the Charles M. Russell Museum in Great Falls have postponed the annual The Russell Exhibition & Sale that had been scheduled during Western Art Week. The event this year was originally scheduled to run March 19-21.
During a news conference on Monday afternoon, they said the decision was made due to concerns over the rapid spread of coronavirus (aka COVID-19) across the country.
"We take this decision very seriously," said Tom Figarelle, executive director of the museum. He noted that the annual event has a 52-year tradition in Great Falls and is a primary source of revenue for the museum.
Rebecca Engum, executive director of Visit Great Falls, said in a news release, "Postponing The Russell has obvious wide-sweeping effects to Great Falls, but despite temporary economic setbacks to our tourism industry and regional art community, we support the museum's decision to postpone. The health of our community always has to be our number one concern. Looking back this will be a blip in our long successful history of The Russell and Western Art Week."
The CMR Museum posted the following message on its website:
Due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, the C.M. Russell Museum has decided to postpone The Russell 2020. This has not been the easiest decision for the museum to make, but it is the responsible one, which makes it the right thing to do. Let there be no doubt that The Russell 2020 will resume as planned within the next six months. At the end of this month, the museum will share more details about the rescheduling The Russell event. Please know that this decision is not a cause for alarm or panic. We are doing it in an abundance of caution – looking out for our Great Falls community and, on a larger scale, the state of Montana.
All other Western Art Week events in Great Falls at various venues are, at this point, still scheduled to take place as planned.
CMR Museum officials said that the decision to postpone its signature event was done in consultation with other Western Art Week planners.
For a full schedule of the events and where they take place, check out the Visit Great Falls website.
There are no suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Montana as of Monday. However, more than 100,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, and more than 3,400 people have died.
In the U.S., at least 236 people have contracted COVID-19 — the majority on the west coast. Fourteen people have died as a result of the disease — 13 in Washington, and one in California.