Last weekend, during the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) convention in Denver, the Denver Art Museum announced the hiring of Darrin Alfred (pictured) to the newly created post of AIGA assistant curator of graphic design. He was introduced by DAM director Lewis Sharp and AIGA executive director Richard Grefé.
Founded in 1914, AIGA is the country's oldest membership organization for design professionals, and in 1980, it began to acquire relevant material, winding up with a definitive collection but nowhere to show it. In 2003, former DAM curator R. Craig Miller talked the group into giving it to the museum — lock, stock and barrel.
Graphic design falls within the museum's department of Architecture, Design and Graphics, which Miller founded and nourished until he left about a month ago to start a similar department at the Indianapolis Museum of Art ("Craig's List," June 14). But the department he created at the DAM is the physical manifestation of his vision. During his years here, Miller assembled collections illustrating key movements in various fields and avidly acquired decorative art, industrial design, craft, architectural models and posters, including the AIGA hoard of over 8,000 works. His departure is a tremendous loss.
Alfred, who has a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh and a master's degree in landscape architecture from the University of Colorado at Denver, comes to the DAM from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where he worked for seven years. He isn't being called Miller's replacement; rather, he's filling a new position, funded entirely by AIGA and reflecting the need for direct oversight of the AIGA archives.
Surprisingly, Miller's name wasn't mentioned in the Alfred announcement. But without him, there'd be no AIGA assistant-curator post. That's why Miller is so relevant to this story and why he plays such a big role in my version of it.