Western Art Museums of the Year

heard museum phoenix arizona true west magazine
In 2019, the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, celebrated its 90th anniversary. The Heard is internationally acclaimed for its leadership in partnering with North American Native peoples in the preservation and promotion of tribal arts and craftsmanship.
— Courtesy Arizona Office of Tourism —

The American West—and Western art—have always been about change. The same can be said about Western art museums. The 2018-2019 season was full of changes.

For example, the Western and Indian art galleries at the Denver Art Museum remain closed during renovations, but the recently acquired Hermon Atkins MacNeil bronze “The Sun Vow” is part of “Treasures of British Art: The Berger Collection” that runs through January 5. And Mary Burke, a fixture at the Sid Richardson Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, announced her retirement and is being replaced by Scott Winterrowd, former education director at Dallas’s Meadows Museum.

The biggest changes, of course, remain ever-evolving exhibitions—proving that Western art remains vibrant and constantly on the move.

1.  Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ Ninety years after its founding by Dwight and Maie Bartlett Heard, the Heard continues to champion American Indian arts and American Indians of yesterday, today and tomorrow. “Grand Procession: Contemporary Plains Indian Dolls from the Charles and Valerie Diker Collection” runs through April 17, and “Through the Lens of Barry Goldwater,” from the famed Arizona senator’s slide collection, opens September 20. Heard.org

2. The Brinton Museum, Big Horn, WY: Housed at a historic ranch (the 1892 house is worth the admission) near Sheridan, The Brinton continues to seamlessly blend history, art and nature. Hurry: “The Spiritual Nature of Earth, Hide and Metal,” an invitational exhibit of clay, leather and metal art, closes September 2. TheBrintonMuseum.org

brinton museum big horn wyoming true west magazine
Just outside Sheridan, Wyoming, in the town of Big Horn, The Brinton Museum is home to an extensive collection of Plains Indian cultural material and art.
— Courtesy Wyoming Office of Tourism —

3. Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenburg, AZ Founded in 1960, this Southwestern institution overcame a 1972 fire to become one of the liveliest art museums around, but don’t forget its history and oral history collections or  the fun annual events, Cowgirl Up! and heART of the West. WesternMuseum.org

charlie dye cullin the herd true west magazine
One of the primary ways Wickenburg, Arizona’s, Desert Caballeros Western Museum celebrates the history of the Grand Canyon State is through Western art, such as Cowboy Artists of America co-founder Charlie Dye’s Cullin’ the Herd.
— Courtesy DESERT Caballeros Western Museum —

4. Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, NY Established in 1923 as the Remington Art Memorial, the home of Remington’s widow is the go-to spot to learn about the artist and his art. But this isn’t just about Remington or just the West. Check out the 2019 “Members Juried Art Exhibit,” which runs through September 15. FredericRemington.org

Frederic Remington Art Museum Ogdensburg new york true west magazine
Located in Eva Remington’s home in Ogdensburg, New York, the Frederic Remington Art Museum is home to many of the rarest and finest examples of the Western artist’s sculptures and paintings.
— Courtesy Frederic Remington art Museum —

5. Olaf Wieghorst Museum, El Cajon, CA: The Denmark-born Wieghorst (1899–1988) settled here in 1945 and made a name for himself as a great Western painter. If you like Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell, this accomplished artist is worth discovering.
WieghorstMuseum.org

6. A.R. Mitchell Museum of Western Art, Trinidad, CO: Trinidad still feels like an Old West town, so there’s no better place to learn about hometown hero Arthur Roy Mitchell (1889-1977), one of the golden era of pulp magazines’ top illustrators, who left New York in the 1940s to come home and paint and teach art. ARMitchellMuseum.com

a.r. mitchell no time for coffee true west magazine
The A.R. Mitchell Museum in Trinidad, Colorado, celebrates the life of the Western artist, including his popular pulp-magazine and book cover art, such as No Time for Coffee.
— Courtesy AR Mitchell Museum —

7. Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE Founded in 1931, the Joslyn showcases a wide array of art. “The Race to Promontory: The Transcontinental Railroad and the American West,” which closed in January, provided a great history lesson, and the Joslyn’s collection of early Western artists is phenomenal. Joslyn.org

8. National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK: The William S. and Ann Atherton Art of the American West gallery wows newcomers and returnees on a daily basis. “Layered Stories—America’s Canyonlands” runs through October 20, and “Caballeros y Vaqueros” opens September 14, so look out. NationalCowboyMuseum.org

national cowboy and western heritage museum oklahoma city oklahoma true west magazine
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is one of the nation’s premier museums dedicated to the culture, history and art of the American West.
— Courtesy National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum —

9. CM Russell Museum, Great Falls, MT: Charlie Russell’s home, studio and art are featured in great exhibits. Plus, a James Ersfeld Memorial symposium from Western Writers of America, “Writing the West: From The Ox-bow Incident to Killers of the Flower Moon,” is scheduled September 27-28. That’s hard to top. CMRussell.org

10. Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, IN: Always known for its Indian art, the Eiteljorg has reinvented its Western art galleries into a diverse, informative and enthralling experience. Eiteljorg.org

11. Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA: Exhibitions “Immigrant Artists and the American West, Native Portraiture: Power and Perception, Places to Call Home: Settlements in the West” and “Winter in the West” continue into 2020. How much better can this mecca get? TacomaArtMuseum.org

12. Booth Western Art Museum, Cartersville, GA: Western art appreciation grows in the South thanks to the Booth. “Lonesome Dove: Bill Wittliff Photographs” opens September 19 and runs through February 9, a fitting tribute as Wittliff, who adapted Larry McMurtry’s novel into the hit miniseries, died after an apparent heart attack June 9 at age 79. BoothMuseum.org

13. National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, DC: A component of the Smithsonian Institution, the collection stretches from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego. Another branch is in New York City. NMAI.SI.edu

14. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK “Americans All! and Enduring Spirit: Native American Art” remain perennial highlights for visitors. Plus, “Bob Dylan: Face Value and Beyond” runs through September 15. Gilcrease.org

15. The Bryan Museum, Galveston, TX The Bryan celebrates Texas and Western history through art and more. Its first Hands on Texas History Festival debuted June 29. TheBryanMuseum.org

16. Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS: “Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style closed in June, but “Heritage of the West: Charles M. Russell” is always showing, always popular. WichitaArtMuseum.org

17. Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ: Western art is the  key element here. “The Western Sublime: Majestic Landscapes of the American West” opens October 19 and runs through February 9. TucsonMuseumOfArt.org

Johnny D. Boggs’s next novel, Buckskin, Bloomers & Me, is due out in December from Center Point Large Print.