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CMR Museum 'Art & Soul' campaign raises $40M

CMR Museum in Great Falls
CMR Museum director Tom Figarelle
Posted at 11:05 AM, Mar 22, 2023

The C.M. Russell Museum announced the completion of the largest campaign in Great Falls history during their Western Art Week event. The Art and Soul campaign has successfully raised $40 million, exceeding the original campaign goal by $15 million.

C.M. Russell Museum director Tom Figarelle stated, "This campaign generated money from the museum, but it really built enthusiasm for the Art and Soul of the American West, the same American West that Russell painted in the 1880s to the 1920s. The same American West that we get to honor on a daily basis at the museum. This amount of money allows us to expand our mission to ensure financial stability into the future."

The most successful fundraising endeavor in the museum’s history was publicly launched in 2020 with $17 million raised including a cornerstone gift of $2.5 million from Ian and Nancy Davidson — at the time, the largest cash gift in the museum’s history.

Over the last three years, generous donors from Great Falls, the state of Montana, and Charles M. Russell enthusiasts from across the country have rallied to show their support for the museum.

Campaign co-chair, Tom Petrie said, "the Russell Museum has been in business for over half a century as a museum, and before that, as a memorial. Over the economic cycles, it had to survive through fundraising. By going at it the way we have here, the endowment is going to be an important and growing component of the financial stability of the institution."

Through the Art and Soul Campaign, the museum has added $13 million to the museum’s general operating endowment which, when combined with existing invested funds, brings the museum endowment to nearly $20 million. The lead gift toward the endowment came from Jessie and Gary Van Ness who contributed $3 million. This endowment will provide critical funding to support the day-to-day operations of the museum and ensures a firm financial footing in the long-term while lessening the reliance on yearly fundraisers such as The Russell.

"It's going to be the salvation of the museum," said campaign co-chair, Gene Thayer. "It will keep us in business forever and ever. The main thing was to establish a large amount of money in our foundation and help with the cash flow of our museum."

Capital support was also included in the campaign, resulting in over an acre of green space being added to the museum campus thanks to the generosity and support of Nancy and Joe Masterson. Additionally, the support of other donors allowed the entrance and atrium of the museum to be updated, as well as a variety of other facility upgrades. Gifts of art added nearly $15 million to the campaign including Russell masterworks Death of a Gambler and The Hold Up.

The C.M. Russell Museum is the first museum of Western art in the United States and traces its origins to 1930, when the log cabin studio of artist Charles Marion Russell (1864 – 1926) opened as the Russell Memorial in Great Falls, Mont. The C.M. Russell Museum Complex has grown substantially over the decades, with the mission to share the life, art, and times of Charles M. Russell as we learn from the past, honor the present, and inspire the future cultures of Russell's West. The museum complex includes a vast collection of art, artifacts, and archival materials associated with Russell and other significant Western artists and the fully restored Russell home and studio, a National Historic Landmark.

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