betty kunesh cowgirl magazine

The purpose of the Betty Kunesh Legacy Award is to honor women in the West that have left a mark in their families, communities, and Western heritage, just like Betty.

Betty Kunesh is Art of the Cowgirl’s founder, Tammy Pate’s, grandmother, and the true inspiration for the event. Art of the Cowgirl would like to honor other women like Betty with the cowgirl spirit through this award.


Betty Kunesh, born Alma Elizabeth Williams of Rapelje, Montana, is not only the matriarch of her family but the true inspiration behind Art of the Cowgirl. As the grandmother of Tammy Pate, founder of Art of the Cowgirl, Betty instilled a love of horses, art, and the Western way of life in Tammy from a young age.

The daughter of Inez and Robert Owen Williams, Betty was the second born of eight children.  As homesteaders of Rapelje, her father, a Welsh immigrant who came to the United States at twelve-years-old, mother and all of the children lived simply in an area that is referred to as the Big Coulee, a vast ranch and farmland tucked into the south-central region of Montana.  Driving south of the town of Ryegate, Montana, will find you on a dirt road down the rimrocks into the Big Coulee, where a patchwork of dirt roads, wheat fields and cattle pastures will still lead you to the original Williams Ranch today.

Betty grew up horseback.  She helped her father break horses to ride and drive from a young age, along with learning the duties of keeping the house and caring for her family.  Her aptitude as a horsewoman was matched by her appreciation of the world around her and her ability to convey that in art.  She became a talented artist, her main subjects being the animals and natural world of her beloved prairie.

On July 3rd, 1941 Betty married Eddy Kunesh during the Livingston Rodeo.  Eddy was also a talented horseman from the Big Coulee.  They built their home just south of Ryegate, Montana, the Crazy Mountains to the West, Snowy Mountains to the North and Betty’s beloved Big Coulee a few miles to the West.  Betty and Eddy raised two children, Shirley and Bobby, ranched and raised, trained, and sold horses.  Their shared greatest joy was in their grandchildren, and they both made sure they always had the very best horses!  

Tammy, born Tammy Clark, shared a very special bond that continues to this day. Of all of her grandchildren, Tammy showed the most interest in painting and drawing along with being the best cowgirl she could be.  Betty taught Tammy how to see the beauty of everyday things. Betty was never rich in monetary ways, but her life has been enriched by the everyday beauty around her.  That is something she passed onto Tammy and taught her to capture in not only art but in how she faces every day. 

Betty’s gift as a mentor was not limited to her family.  Community is something she holds dear even to this day.  In her 99 years, she has influenced the lives of so many, from teaching all of her girls to cook, sew, paint and appreciate good horses, to doing the same for neighbors and friends, to spending countless days cooking for the community and being a confidant to the ones she holds close to her heart.  Her life has been her own Fellowship and was the inspiration behind the Art of the Cowgirl Fellowship Program.

Betty Kunesh Legacy Award

In honor of Grandma Betty, Art of the Cowgirl has created the Betty Kunesh Legacy Award.  This award is to be given to a woman who has been nominated by someone who they have influenced. The hope is to honor those special women who are not always in the limelight: the women who work hard their whole lives leading by example, embracing fellowship and community. 



Nominees should be any Western woman who embodies the cowgirl spirit and is making an impact in the Western lifestyle. The nominee must be a resident of the United States or Canada.


The nominee should demonstrate the following attributes:

  • Visionary and pioneer spirit
  • Leadership, commitment and dedication to preserve and perpetuate the Western lifestyle and cowgirl spirit
  • High moral and ethical standards in all facets of her life and work
  • Generosity and mentorship


The 2022 Recipient has been chosen for the 1st Annual Betty Kunesh Legacy Award. The winner will be announced during Art of the Cowgirl on Friday, January 21, 2022.

The award will be presented at Horseshoe Park and Equestrian Centre during Art of the Cowgirl. The winner will receive a buckle and a special presentation.

Nominations for the 2023 Award will open Fall of 2022.

For more information and to purchase event tickets to attend the Art of the Cowgirl 2022 event please visit