In January 2014, Hugh Grant, founder of Denver’s Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, announced that the beloved cultural attraction would be vacating its original Capitol Hill location at 1311 Pearl Street and moving into a new facility to be erected at the corner of West 12th Avenue and Bannock Street. In September 2015, ground was broken on that new museum, designed by Olson Kundig, and it’s been rising at an astonishingly quick clip since then.
And now, surely the most unusual — and ambitious — aspect of Grant’s plans, the relocation of the historic Vance Kirkland Studio to a site just north of the new building, is about to take place. The building will be moved starting at 8 a.m. Sunday, November 6; the job is expected to take seven or eight hours — and the public is invited to witness the unusual sight.
Built in 1910-1911, according to a design by Biscoe and Hewitt, the handsome studio was originally commissioned by artist Henry Read. The Arts and Crafts-style building is austere, essentially a rectangular form carried out in dark-red brick that’s topped with a barrel-vaulted roof covered in tiles. (The tiles have been removed in anticipation of the building’s upcoming journey.) The roof also has north-facing skylights, since artists of the period highly valued northern light. At its new location, the building will have the same directional orientation as it had originally, so those skylights will still face north.
Read, who was among the founders of the Denver Art Museum, used the building as his personal studio and the home of his art school. Vance Kirkland, Denver’s most famous modern artist, moved to the Mile High City in 1929 and took over the studio in 1932, working there until until his death in 1981. Grant sees the studio as a key element of the Kirkland Museum experience, which is why he felt he couldn’t leave it behind.
The antique structure will be mounted onto six remotely controlled sets of articulating wheels. It will first head west, slowly moving down the relatively steep hill on 13th Avenue (see map below). It will then turn left and head south on Broadway, proceeding to West 11th Avenue, where it will turn right, going west to Bannock Street, and then north up Bannock to its new home between West 12th and West 13th avenues. The elaborate process — which includes closing of streets and taking down traffic signals and wires — is being overseen by Mammoth Movers and Shaw Construction.
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The Kirkland Museum — comprising both the new building and the old studio — is set to be unveiled a year from now, in the fall of 2017.