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 and school building (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 & Crafts style, it was built by Henry Read (1851-1935). Read, one of thirteen founders of the Artists' Club, commissioned architects Maurice Biscoe and Henry Hewitt to construct the building at 1311 Pearl Street for Read's Students' School of Art. The Artists' Club (1893) later became the Denver Art Association (1917) and finally the Denver Art Museum (1923). According to Vance Kirkland, between 1911 and 1922, occasional  functions were given in the 1311 Pearl Street building 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 the new addition. The addition itself is very much in keeping with the Art & Crafts 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.

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

Kirkland recounted that Henry Read and other members of the Artists' Club (1893), which later became the Denver Art Association (1917) and finally the Denver Art Museum (1923),used their homes and the Pearl Street building for meetings and functions until that organization was deeded Chappell House (1300 Logan, razed 1970) in 1922.
Students' School of Art, directed by Henry Read (1851-1935), open at 1311 Pearl Street.
The University of Denver appointed Vance Hall Kirkland Director of the Chappell School of Art located in Chappell House at 1300 Logan. The Denver Art Museum was also housed at Chappell House.
After the University of Denver refused to give full academic credit for the art courses, Kirkland left the University and established the "Kirkland School of Art" at 1311 Pearl Street.
1311 Pearl Street was the "Kirkland School of Art."
Kirkland used the 1311 Pearl Street as his personal studio.
University of Denver asked Kirkland to return to the School of Art as its Director on the University campus.
Three lions (originally made by Denver Brick and Terra Cotta Company circa 1900) were acquired from the Flatiron building (16th & Court Place) to be placed in front of the Kirkland Studio.
When Kirkland retired from the university in 1969, his was the university’s largest undergraduate school with 500 students.
Vance Kirkland died, 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.
Construction began 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 was completed in September and renovation began on the original 3,011 sq. ft. studio.
Kirkland Museum opened to the public on April 2.

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 & Crafts style.