The C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls is postponing its annual art auction due to the potential infectious risk of coronavirus.
No other Western Art Week shows scheduled for Mar. 18 to 22 had announced plans to postpone as of Monday afternoon.
The 52-year-running Russell Exhibition & Sale to Benefit the C.M. Russell Museum regularly draws art enthusiasts from around the country and down from Canada, where the country's first COVID-19-related death was reported earlier Mar. 9.
Tom Figarelle, executive director of the C.M. Russell Museum, says the museum’s leadership and board of directors postponed with the safety of museum members, artists and the greater community in mind.
“There's things that we can control and there's things that we can’t. One thing that we would not be able to validate is whether or not that attendees from across North America have already been exposed to the virus and if they're bringing it here," he says. "So if we can mitigate risks, the things we can control, I think it is incumbent upon us to do so.”
Figarelle says this is the first time the auction has been postponed.
The auction accounts for roughly 40 percent of the museum’s revenue budget. It’s just one of 15 shows scheduled for Western Art Week, which is the big economic anchor for Great Falls mid-spring.
“We’ll see it in overnight visitation and all the things that come with that: the dining, the shopping, the fuel purchases, the rental cars, the flight,” says Rebecca Engum, executive director of Visit Great Falls.
Engum adds Visit Great Falls supports the museum’s choice. “"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."
Figarelle says the Museum plans to announce a rescheduled date for the auction later this month.
“The show will go on. It just won’t go on in March.”