The New Kirkland Museum Breaks Ground, Will Elevate Denver's Art Scene

The Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is one of this city's great cultural treasures, and tomorrow, September 10, developers will break ground on a new facility for the museum, at the corner of West 12th Avenue and Bannock Street.

Dedicated not only to the preservation and exhibition of the work of Vance Kirkland, one of Colorado’s greatest artists, but to Colorado art in general, and to international decorative art, the Kirkland long ago outgrew its cozy space at 1311 Pearl Street on Capitol Hill; its three collections are enormous — numbering into the many thousands of articles. That's why museum founder Hugh Grant announced in January 2014 that the museum would build a dazzling new facility in the Civic Center Cultural Complex.

The current facility is comprised of the historic 1910-1911 Kirkland Studio, along with a large 1990s addition. Plans are to relocate the studio building to a site immediately north of the planned new museum building. The studio, designed by the firm of Biscoe and Hewitt for the artist Henry Read, is in an arts and crafts style, and is one of the oldest buildings in the city to have been originally designed to serve as an artist’s studio. Kirkland at first rented the studio and then later purchased it, working there from 1932 until to his death in 1981.

The new museum will cover nearly 40,000 square feet (including the relocated studio) and have two floors and a full basement. The design, by the Seattle architectural firm of Olson Kundig, has a neo-modernist air about it. There’s a central pavilion flanked by a pair of recessed single-story wings; all three elements are linked together by a cantilevered overhang which, at the southeast corner, covers the main entrance. The central pavilion has a set-back upper story that’s capped by cantilevered overhanging eaves above glass curtain-walls. The studio is to be sited beyond a garden forecourt and connected to the new construction by an unobtrusive recessed corridor.

The ground-breaking ceremony, taking place at 2 p.m., will include remarks by Grant, and by his wife, philanthropist Merle Chambers, whose Chambers Family Fund is entirely underwriting the project. Jim Olson, a principal at Olson Kundig, will talk about his firm’s design ideas for the museum. Other featured guests will include Mayor Michael Hancock and historian Tom Noel. The museum is scheduled to be completed in the spring of 2017.