Our Founders

Kirkland Museum's Founders

Hugh A. Grant

Hugh A. Grant
Founding Director & Curator, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art

Grant established the Kirkland Foundation in 1996 to document, rediscover, collect, preserve, exhibit and publish Colorado artists. The Colorado & regional art collection is concerned with a period from 1820 to about 1990 (traditional through modern), with an emphasis on the 1850s onwards, and contains about 8,000 works by more than 800 Colorado artists.

Grant built the majority of Kirkland Museum’s celebrated international decorative art collection—recognized as one of the most important displays in North America which includes notable examples of every major design period from Arts & Crafts through Postmodern. Kirkland Museum has the estate collection of Vance Kirkland (1904–1981), the distinguished Colorado painter, whose works have received more than 350 exhibitions at 70 museums and 35 universities encompassing 13 countries, many organized by Grant.

Grant and Kirkland Museum have loaned many artworks to institutions in Colorado as well as nationally and internationally. Grant has authored numerous articles on art for books, magazines, catalogs and brochures.

Grant won the Heartland Emmy Award for Best Entertainment Program of 2000 for his role as Executive Director of The Artist and The Muse, a ballet that aired on PBS stations, also winning 11 other awards. Grant wrote the scenario for this ballet, chose the 20th-century classical music, and dovetailed the scenario and music together, which was then performed by Colorado Ballet. Grant has also been Executive Producer of two other art documentaries airing on PBS stations. Grant has appeared in three HGTV “Hey Remember” decorative art programs. Grant has won two bronze (2nd) Chris Awards and a Silver CINDY (2nd). Antiques Roadshow, the PBS television series, taped at Kirkland Museum for two days in July 2009.

Other awards Grant has received include the 2015 Citizens of the Arts Award from the Fine Arts Foundation, the 2009 Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Award for Contributions in the Field of Arts and Humanities, the 2000 Historic Denver—Ann Love Award for Historic Preservation, the 2000 AFKEY Award from the Alliance for Contemporary Art (AFCA) at the Denver Art Museum and the 1999 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.

He received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Denver (2003) and a BA from Colorado State University in Ft. Collins (1967). His first two years at college were at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.

Merle C. Chambers

Merle C. Chambers
President, Chambers Fund
Founder, Chambers Initiative

Merle Chambers founded Chambers Fund in 1997 with a commitment to long-term economic opportunity and social justice. In 2020, Merle introduced Chambers Initiative, a new philanthropic endeavor that aligns her personal giving with the work of Chambers Fund. Through Chambers Initiative, Merle is deepening her commitment to social justice, equity, democracy and women’s economic empowerment by investing expanded resources in unwinding of systemic barriers that have been in place for generations.

Actively involved in civic, cultural and philanthropic affairs in Colorado, Merle has dedicated her time, expertise and resources to improving the lives of women and families in Colorado. Merle is past president and a founding board member of The Women’s Foundation of Colorado, and was instrumental in establishing the Chambers Center for the Advancement of Women at the University of Denver where The Women’s Foundation of Colorado is located.

For more than 20 years, Merle led Axem Resources Inc., a privately held independent oil and gas exploration and production company that participated in some of the Rocky Mountain region’s most spectacular industry successes. As CEO of Axem, she pioneered women’s leadership in the oil and gas industry as one of few women CEOs in a male dominated field.

In recognition of her success with Axem Resources, Merle was the first woman inducted into the Rocky Mountain Oil & Gas Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the Colorado Business Hall of Fame, served on the National Petroleum Council, an advisory body to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, and was appointed by President Clinton to the White House Conference on Small Business Commission. After growing Axem significantly, she sold the oil company in 1997.

Merle is a patron of the arts, has traveled extensively and was the third woman to reach both the North and South Poles by plane. In recognition of her leadership and innovation in philanthropy, Merle has been honored to receive numerous awards, including National Philanthropy Day’s Outstanding Philanthropist award (2002), the Bonfils-Stanton Award for Community Service (2016), and induction into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame (2004).

Merle began her career as an attorney in San Francisco and moved to Denver in the late 1970s. She received her BA in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1968 and was a student protestor during the Free Speech and Civil Rights movements. She holds a JD from Hastings College of the Law and a Master of Tax Law from the University of Denver.

Merle Chambers serves on the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art Board of Directors.