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Moving day is always a challenge. But in the case of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, finding a new home also meant moving the actual building.
The museum’s original Capitol Hill location was designed around the Arts & Crafts-style studio and art school of Colorado artist Vance Kirkland. There, visitors could see the space where the central figure in Colorado’s modern art scene painted, including the straps he used to suspend himself, face down, above his later works.
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As the Kirkland Museum’s attendance and art holdings grew, the move to a new location became inevitable, but the Kirkland team knew they couldn’t leave the old studio behind. “The studio has always been the heart of the Kirkland Museum experience, so moving [it] was always part of the plan,” says Maya Wright, the museum’s education manager and historian. So when board member Merle Chambers considered the new site at 12th Avenue and Bannock Street, the fact that the studio could make the eight-block trip to the new location was definitely a plus. “I think Merle saw a building moved in her youth, so she knew it was possible,” Wright says.
On Sunday, November 6, 2016, the three-room, 1,384-square-foot building was hoisted atop eight sets of articulating wheels and made the journey to its new home.
The new site sets the stage for a unique museum experience. “[Architect Jim] Olson calls the space his jewel box,” Wright says of the bright-yellow main building, designed by Seattle-based architecture firm Olson Kundig. “He wanted the building to be a part of the collection; to be a piece of art. Inspired by the Denver sunshine and Vance Kirkland’s paintings, he played off the vibrant colors of the collection.”
The 38,500-square-foot modern building offers a simple layout designed to evoke the feeling of visiting a modern home. Its galleries feature salon-style displays in which furnishings, accessories, and artwork of a certain era are shown together as they might be in a home, with paintings hung above furniture. Visitors experience the collection of international decorative art, Colorado and regional art, and works by Vance Kirkland—which spans the period from 1875 to 1990—in chronological order, ending at Kirkland’s original studio.
With three permanent galleries, two spaces intended for temporary exhibitions, and Kirkland’s studio, the museum can now feature approximately 6,000 pieces from the 30,000-piece collection; the original location could only show 3,900—which means that whether you’re a longtime fan of the Kirkland or a first-time visitor, there’s plenty to discover.
If you go: Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, 1201 Bannock St., will open to the public on March 10. Children under 13 are not permitted.