You don't have to be a Boy Scout to enjoy the new Yellowstone Art Museum show.
The "2003 Norman Rockwell Art Tour: Scouting Then and Now" is as American as apple pie. No one conveyed the scouting spirit better than Rockwell.
The show, produced with the cooperation of the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas, is in Billings for a brief run Thursday through Sunday at the YAM.
A highlight of the show are 35 paintings by Rockwell, whose first and only salaried position was working as a young artist for Boys' Life magazine in 1913. This brief period was before he became a world-famous illustrator. Subsequently, for each of the 64 years until the end of his life, the Boy Scouts commissioned one work a year to focus on Scouting.
The impressive grouping is owned by the National Office of Boy Scouts of America. Each painting is worth between $2 million and $3 million, said Case Haslam, endowment director for the Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
Haslam helped coordinate the exhibit's Billings run, scoring a major coups for the people of the Yellowstone Valley.
"It's only traveling to a few cities," Haslam said this week, "and the nearest city is St. Paul, Minn."
The show will also visit cities in Florida, the Carolinas, Illinois and Michigan.
The exhibit is two-part, with the Rockwell paintings and paintings by others who captured the spirit of scouting.
In addition, a privately owned Scouting memorabilia exhibit is on display. It was collected by Kelly Williams of Pueblo, Colo., who loaned it to the YAM.
"It was the region's unusual good fortune to acquire this loan, too," said Haslam, who values that part of the show at another cool $1 million.
That part of the show includes historical patches, documents, Scouting posters, World War II Scouting memorabilia, early documents tracing Scouting's ties with the YMCA and every uniform of the organization, incorporated in 1910.
The other major painters represented are Joseph Csatari and Hy Hintermeister.
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The exhibit got a leg up from Sen. Conrad Burns' office. The senator's aide, J.P. Donovan, was an Eagle Scout and offered to handle public relations for the show.
Thanks to sponsorship from First Interstate Bank and The Gazette, the museum is waving its admission fee Thursday and Friday so the public can enjoy the show free of charge.
Support from the bank and newspaper came about because of the "family spirit of the exhibit and affection for Scouting," Haslam said.
The Boy Scouts provided their own preparator to help install the exhibit with YAM curatorial staff. A banquet is planned Friday, and the chief executive of Boy Scouts will be here for that dinner and celebration.
Another former Scout, Lyle R. Knight of First Interstate Bank, will emcee the banquet. He is Western regional president of BSA.
Robert Knight, YAM executive director and also a former Scout, is thrilled to have the exhibit. He said Scouting "epitomizes the American spirit. The museum is ecstatic to share these incredible paintings with the community and region."
Scouting represents 5 million youths across the United States and is one of the country's largest youth-based organizations.
The BSA celebrated its 90th birthday in 2000.
Christene Meyers may be reached at 657-1243 or at email@example.com.
|If you go
The "2003 Norman Rockwell Art Tour: Scouting Then and Now" is up for a brief run at the Yellowstone Art Museum, 401 N. 27th St.
The museum will offer free admission Thursday and Friday. The show hangs through Sunday.
Saturday and Sunday, admission is $7 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and college students, $3 for ages 6 to 18 and free for ages 5 and younger.
Also on display at the YAM are these exhibits: "In Response to Place: Photographs from the Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places"; "In Memorium: Celebrating the Lives and Work of David Shaner, Bill Stockton and Peter Voulkos"; "Basia Irland's "Hydrolibros: A Sculptor's Research into the Phenomenon of Water"; and "A Day in the Life of Billings."