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Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

The Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art is a museum of fine and decorative art located in Denver, CO, United States.

In addition to being the oldest commercial art building in Denver and the second oldest in Colorado, Vance Kirkland’s studio and art school structure, which has been preserved as part of the larger Kirkland Museum, is also the oldest commercial art building in the world.

The building was designed by architects Maurice Biscoe and Henry Hewitt in the characteristic Arts & Crafts style, which is still in use today. A commission from Henry Read, one of the 13 founding members of the Denver Artists’ Club, which eventually evolved into the Denver Art Association and then the Denver Art Museum, was made possible by the generosity of the Denver community. The Read’s Students’ School of Art was housed in this building, which was previously located at 1311 Pearl Street.

Kirkland was appointed as the first Director of the modern School of Art at the University of Denver in January 1929, a position he has held since. His resignation from the University of Denver in 1932, following the university’s refusal to offer credit for art classes toward graduation, led to him leasing Read’s Pearl Street property. Having operated the Kirkland School of Art, which was accredited by the University of Colorado, until 1946, when he returned to his previous position as Director of the Art School at the University of Denver, he retired in 1969. Kirkland had already owned the building at 1311 Pearl Street, which he utilized as his private painting studio until his death in 1981, at which point he sold it.

Kirkland left his assets to Hugh A. Grant, a long-time family friend, in his testament after his death. Grant oversaw the development of an adjacent facility, which added 8,830 square feet to the old studio. The project was completed in 1998 under Grant’s guidance. The expansion, which was completed in 2000, provided additional exhibition space and guest amenities while respecting the integrity of the old studio. Kirkland Museum first opened its doors to the public in April 2003, under the direction of Grant, who served as its founding director and curator. The museum temporarily closed its doors to visitors on May 2, 2016, in preparation for its relocation at 12th Avenue and Bannock Street.

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