Kirkland Museum Breaks Ground On New Denver Facility

Photo: Kirkland Museum groundbreaking
Kirkland Museum director Hugh Grant (right), Colorado historian Tom Noel, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Chambers Family Fund president Merle Chambers paint dots on a banner -- a nod to one of artist Vance Kirkland's techniques -- during the groundbreaking ceremony for the museum's new facility on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015.

Kirkland Museum director Hugh Grant and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock dotted a banner with paint on Thursday in front a backdrop of backhoes and rubble from recently demolished buildings.

The colorful circles nodded to a technique used by artist Vance Kirkland, one of Colorado's most-renowned modern painters. And the construction confirmed that the development of the Kirkland Museum’s future home near 12th Avenue and Bannock Street is now underway.

“(Kirkland) had a tremendous influence on modern art of Colorado, and I think that’s probably his greatest legacy,” Grant said during a groundbreaking ceremony. “The basis of the Kirkland Museum really is the Colorado artists.”

The museum currently has more than 6,000 works by Colorado and regional artists on top of more than 1,000 paintings, drawings and prints by Kirkland. A third collection features international decorative arts from 37 countries, including pieces by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright and Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann.

“I’ll have about 70 percent more exhibition space (and) I’ll be able to make much more chronological sense of our art collections,” Grant said.

Photo: Rendering of new Kirkland Museum
A rendering of the new Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art, set to open near 12th and Bannock Streets in 2017.

The 38,500 square foot building will be four times bigger than the current museum at 13th Avenue and Pearl Street. It will include gallery spaces, a sculpture garden and a cafe. The effort will cost more than $30 million and be privately funded by the Chambers Family Fund, Grant said.

After the museum closes its current site in spring 2016, it will also transport the brick studio that Vance Kirkland used for decades in Denver before his death in 1981 to the new location.

The new Kirkland Museum will open near other major cultural institutions -- including the Denver Art Museum and the Clyfford Still Museum -- in the Golden Triangle neighborhood.

“We anticipate much greater exposure being down here,” Grant said.

Mayor Hancock said the development reflects the city’s growing commitment to arts and culture.

“I don’t think we have a clue how dynamic and vibrant this area is going to be with these collections,” he said.