Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
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Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art  
Original Studio

Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is a member of the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This program is a consortium of America's most significant artists' spaces that are open to the public and does not include an historical designation.

The original studio (1910-1911), which is preserved as part of the larger Kirkland Museum, is the oldest commercial art building in Denver and the second oldest in Colorado (after the Van Briggle Pottery in Colorado Springs). Designed in a distinctive arts and crafts style, it was built by Henry Read (1851-1935). Read, one of thirteen founders of the Artists' Club-later to become the Denver Art Museum-commissioned architects Maurice Biscoe and Henry Hewitt to construct the building at 1311 Pearl Street. This location served as Read's Students' School of Art, and, until 1922, a meeting place for the fledgling Denver Art Museum.

In 1929, Vance Kirkland founded the current School of Art at the University of Denver. In 1932, he leased Read's Pearl Street property, later purchasing it, and opened the Kirkland School of Art. He used the studio until his death in 1981. The Vance Kirkland Foundation was established in 1996 to preserve the legacy of this distinguished Colorado painter.

In 1998, under the direction of Hugh Grant-executor of the Kirkland estate and present director of the museum-construction began on an adjoining facility. Completed in 2002, the addition allows for expanded exhibition space, visitor amenities, and wheelchair accessibility, while maintaining the integrity of the original studio.

The exterior wall and original roof tiles of the 1910-1911 building can be viewed from the main exhibition room of this new addition, reinforcing the museum's commitment to maintaining and preserving the original architectural integrity of the building. The addition itself is very much in keeping with the mission style of the old studio, with its brick archways, Frank Lloyd Wright windows, and simple, elegant exhibition rooms. The result is a rather seamless movement from old to new that provides visitors with room to thoroughly view the collection while preserving the historicity of the structure.

The following are significant events that contributed to the importance of Kirkland Museum.

Kirkland recounts that Henry Read and other members used their homes and the Pearl Street building for meetings involving the Artists' Club/Denver Art Association when that organization was deeded Chappell House (1300 Logan, razed 1970).
Students' School of Art, Directed by Henry Read (1851-1935).
The University of Denver appoints Vance Hall Kirkland Director of the Chappell School of Art. The new school is given the use of the Chappell House, which is also being used by the Denver Art Museum.
After the University of Denver refuses to give full academic credit for the art courses, Kirkland leaves the University and establishes the "Kirkland School of Art" at the 1311 Pearl St. studio.
The studio on Pearl Street was known as "Kirkland School of Art".
Kirkland uses 1311 Pearl Street as his personal studio.
University of Denver asks Kirkland to return and re-convene the School of Art as its Director on the University campus. When he returns to the University, many students from his "Kirkland School of Art" follow him.
Three lions (originally made by Denver Brick and Terra Cotta Company circa 1900) are acquired from the Flatiron building (16th & Court Place) to be placed in front of the Kirkland Studio.
Kirkland decides to leave the University. He leaves behind the legacy of having the University's largest undergraduate school with 400 majors.
Vance Kirkland dies, willing his estate to Hugh Grant (Founding Director & Curator of Kirkland Museum).
Using the 1311 Pearl Street studio, the Vance Kirkland Foundation was granted non-profit, 501(c)(3) status as an operating foundation. The rooms are generally operated as Kirkland once used them, with much of his original furniture, rugs and dishes on display.
Construction begins to add 7,933 sq. ft. (first floor, 3138 sq. ft.; lower level, 3925 sq. ft.; and enclosed patio garden, 870 sq. ft.) to the original 3011 sq. ft. The combined area will be 10,944 sq. ft., allowing for more gallery and storage space.
Construction on the new addition is completed in September and renovation begins on the original 3,011 sq. ft. studio.
Kirkland Museum opens to the public.

The dates of the Pearl Street building coincide with those of:

  • Denver's landmark of the period, the Daniels and Fisher Tower (16th & Arapahoe, 1910-1912)
  • Gas and Electric building - now the Insurance Exchange Building (15th & Champa, 1910)
  • Moffat Mansion (8th & Grant, 1910, razed 1972)
  • Central Bank and Trust Company (15th & Arapahoe, 1911, razed 1991)
  • Immaculate Conception Cathedral (Colfax & Logan, dedicated 1912)
Shortly before the above buildings were constructed, the Colorado Museum of Natural History (now Denver Museum of Nature and Science) was opened. The Pearl Street building is located seven blocks east of the Denver Art Museum, five blocks southeast of the Colorado State Capitol and within the same block as the popular Molly Brown House Museum (1340 Pennsylvania, 1889)
Henry Read

In 1890 Henry Read, an English born and trained artist, came to Denver. He began the Students' School of Art in 1895. Mr. Read was one of the thirteen founding members of the Artists' Club (1893), which later became the Denver Art Association (1917) and finally the Denver Art Museum (1923). The Students' School of Art originally rented space, but in September 1910 construction began on a freestanding building at 1311 Pearl Street in Denver. The two architects, Maurice B. Biscoe (1871-1953) and Henry H. Hewitt (1875-1926) designed the building in an arts and crafts style.