Visual Arts

The Kirkland Museum is moving -- and it's taking the artist's historic studio with it

The Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art announced today that it will move to a new complex to be erected on the northwest corner of West 12th Avenue and Bannock Street -- and that it's taking that part of the current building that once housed Vance Kirkland's studio along for the ride.

See also: Frederic Hamilton's generous gift to the DAM

When Kirkland founder and director Hugh Grant called me last week to tell me about it, my first question was: What about the studio? I'm referring, of course, to the north wing of the current museum, a red brick Arts and Crafts-era building with a striking barrel vault that was constructed in 1911 by painter Henry Read to house his Student School of Art.

In 1932, it was purchased by painter Vance Kirkland, and it served as his studio, school and workshop until his death in 1981.

So, how is Grant moving the building? Well, fasten your seat belts. "We're moving it and we've been talking with the top building mover in the country about it -- unfortunately it won't fit under the bridge at the museum, so we have to go down Broadway," Grant says.

Although he realizes that moving an historic building is not exactly kosher from a preservation standpoint, Grant pointed out that he's spent his whole adult life preserving the studio and that the move would ensure its future preservation. And in a town like Denver, where major landmarks are routinely scraped, moving one seems like a pretty small violation of the creed.

At this point, there are only conceptual plans which are being carried out by the Seattle-based firm of Olson Kundig Architects. Known for its neo-modern aesthetic, Olson Kundig is recognized in Denver for LoDo's Red House on Wazee Street near 17th Avenue; the firm also designed the home of Grant and his wife, Merle Chambers, in the Polo Grounds.

The two-story building -- and the relocated studio -- will rise just down Bannock from the Clyfford Still Museum, which is on the southeast corner of West 13th; the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Public Library and the History Colorado Center are all within a block or so. It will have a combined space of over 19,000 square feet, or slightly more than twice the size of the current facility. Ground will be broken in 2015 with a completion date in late 2016 or early 2017.

"Now, we're only seven blocks from the Denver Art Museum, but it might as well be seven miles," Grant says. "But with this new museum, we'll be right around the corner."

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Michael Paglia is an art historian and writer whose columns have appeared in Westword since 1995; his essays on the visual arts have also been published in national periodicals including Art News, Architecture, Art Ltd., Modernism, Art & Auction and Sculpture Magazine. He taught art history at the University of Colorado Denver.
Contact: Michael Paglia