GREAT FALLS — The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls announced this week that 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.
“The $3 million gift will go to the endowment which will help fund the program’s exhibitions and all the events here at the C.M. Russell Museum. I can’t describe how excited we were to receive this gift. The Van Ness’ just really knocked one out of the park," explained Duane Braaten, the museum’s director of art and philanthropy.
The donors, Jessie and Gary Van Ness have been long-time supporters of the museum.
“Jessie’s father actually did meet Charlie Russell as a young boy. It’s really fun that now this gift ensures the stability of the museum in the future with such a wonderful tie to the past," Braaten noted.
“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 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.