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Art Auction gathers collectors of beautiful things

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Editor’s Note: The Big Sky Art Auction is produced by Outlaw Partners. Outlaw Partners publishes Explore Big Sky.

BIG SKY – There’s a big white tent in Big Sky Town Center under which certain creative energy gathers each June—an energy that defines the experience of the Big Sky Art Auction. Now in its seventh annual event, this year’s auction takes place July 13 through 16 and offers a virtual and in-person component, allowing lovers of the arts to bid and browse over 100 unique pieces from artists all over the region.

This year, Outlaw Events, producer of the Big Sky Art Auction and publisher of Explore Big Sky, announced the auction will follow a theme: Collector’s Collecting. The theme aims to educate and encourage art lovers to celebrate collectable art and the event will include a speaker series on the topic.

As the auction nears, take some time to get acquainted with a few of the artists featured in this year’s event. 

Averi Iris Smith

Acrylic paint

Averi Iris Smith will be the youngest artist at the auction, but at 17 years old, she’s already made a name for herself. Drawing inspiration from the Montana landscape in which she was born and raised, Smith finds time between her studies and three sports teams to paint things she loves.

From mountainscapes to bison, she took to acrylic paints, adding her own colorful flair, laying a bright palette and sometimes gold leaf—a thin gold paper—over her pieces. Smith won the 2020 Sweet Pea Festival poster contest, has work displayed in the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport and is Sage Lodge’s featured artist.

By Western Hands

Western arts guild

Western art guild By Western Hands is a Big Sky Art Auction veteran. The guild’s devotion to preserving the wild and free spirit as well as the functional craft of the West captures a unique sense of place. By Western Hands is a nonprofit out of Cody, Wyoming that supports the minds and works of those who have devoted their lives to creating functional, lasting art made from wood, carved leather and bone, beaded textiles, antler, silver and iron, to name a few. This work is vastly unlike anything you’d ever see in a typical furniture store.

The artists of By Western Hands are reflections of a style born in the late 1800s now deeply rooted in American culture and embraced by acclaimed furniture craftsman as having the highest quality of workmanship—only those with an eye toward the Western tradition are invited to join the master craftsman guild.

Courtney Collins

Fine art gallery

Courtney Collins speaks of the artists she represents in her Big Sky Town Center gallery intimately, as though each is a close friend, whether deceased or living. Kevin Redstar, Tom Gillian, Ben Pease, David Yarrow and many other acclaimed Western artists are featured in her space and each has played a role in her journey of opening her gallery.

Working with clients, advocating for artists and a career in gallery curation fell into place naturally for Collins, who moved to Big Sky after growing up in Long Island, New York and going to school in Syracuse and Chicago and living in Jackson Hole. She has now been in Big Sky for 10 years and has built a name for herself.

Echo Ukrainetz


Echo Ukrainetz is a storyteller. That’s because behind each of her pieces is a story. One of her pieces, “The Song of Mountain Chief,” for example, depicts a Blackfoot leader of the 19th century. He was known as a warrior, diplomat and healer to his people until his death in 1942 at age 94 at his home in Blood Indian Reserve, Montana. Ukrainetz is a batik artist, using wax-resistant dye on cloth, a practice that originated in Indonesia.

While working mostly in solitude during the pandemic, Echo and her husband, Ron, are looking forward to reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones and seeing people interact with their work at this year’s art auction.

Robert Rodriquez

Illustrations and paintings

If you’ve eaten Quaker Oatmeal, you’ve probably seen Robert Rodriquez’s work before; He painted the likeness of the Quaker man on the package. From movie posters to liquor labels (including his most recent series for Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans) Rodriquez’s illustrations and paintings bring to life people and places and he and his art have won awards across the country, including an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

At this year’s auction, Rodriquez will feature two large paintings, one of a Lakota War shirt from 1890 and the other a Mexican Parade Saddle. Both, he says, focus on an item rather than a person, forcing the viewer to observe each piece “without the story attached that having a person would bring to the painting,” he said. “… I wanted them to be the story, not the person wearing or using them.”

For more information and to register for this year’s event, visit 

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