Our Founders

Kirkland Museum's Founders

Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art is a testament and credit to the living founders, Hugh A. Grant and Merle C. Chambers. Their appreciation of fine art, passion for good design and dedication to sharing these collections with the public have made Kirkland Museum a must-visit Denver destination.

Hugh A. Grant

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

Hugh A. Grant’s Retirement

After an illustrious career dedicated to sharing the beauty of art and design, our Founding Director & Curator, Hugh A. Grant, has made the thoughtful decision to retire from the day-to-day operations of the Museum. Mr. Grant, 78 years old, has devoted the majority of his life to curating, preserving and promoting the works of Vance Kirkland and countless other fine and decorative artists. His impact on the Museum is immeasurable.

In announcing his retirement, Mr. Grant said, “As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kirkland Museum and reflect on our thriving presence in this new building for the past five years, I believe it’s the opportune moment to gracefully pass the torch of leadership. The Museum stands in excellent shape, a testament to the dedication and passion of our incredible team. Now, it’s time to entrust fresh minds and innovative perspectives with the task of charting a path for the next vibrant chapter in our journey. I have every confidence in the bright future that lies ahead for Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.”

Mr. Grant’s friendship with Vance Kirkland was transformative. He documented Kirkland’s artistic processes, curated exhibitions of his work and was the beneficiary of Kirkland’s estate after his passing. Rather than following Kirkland’s advice to sell the studio and art school building, Mr. Grant dedicated himself to preserving Kirkland’s legacy, and that commitment laid the foundation for Kirkland Museum as we know it today.

Co-founder and Board Chair Merle C. Chambers said, “Today, we stand at a juncture of gratitude and transition. Hugh’s dedication and unwavering commitment to Kirkland Museum have been instrumental in shaping its legacy. We thank him for the indelible mark he has left on our institution. As we move forward, we assure you that our dedicated team, under the guidance of Deputy Curator Christopher Herron and the Board, will continue to honor the Museum’s heritage while embracing new opportunities.”

On behalf of the Kirkland Museum Board, we express our gratitude for your continued support and loyalty. Your passion for the arts and commitment to our Museum have been key to our success, and we look forward to your ongoing participation as we embark on this new chapter.

Warm regards,
Kirkland Museum Board


Hugh A. Grant biography

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

A pioneer of women’s leadership, Merle C. Chambers was one of few women CEOs in the male-dominated oil and gas industry. For more than 20 years, she led Axem Resources Inc., a privately held independent oil and gas exploration and production company. Merle sold Axem and founded Chambers Fund (a private foundation) with a commitment to long-term economic opportunity and social justice. In 2020, she deepened her commitment to equity, democracy and economic security through Chambers Initiative. This strategic alignment of expanded personal giving and foundation grantmaking focuses funding on efforts to remove barriers to equity and create opportunity for all.

Actively involved in civic and cultural affairs in Colorado, Merle believes arts and culture institutions are vital in creating and sustaining vibrant and livable communities, inspiring civic pride and providing educational and engaging experiences. She has supported numerous arts organizations in Denver to sustain their general operations and ensure future viability. Merle has been a major donor to various arts and culture capital campaigns, including the Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Colorado Ballet, Colorado Symphony, Aspen Music Festival & School and the National Museum of African American History & Culture.

Merle was instrumental in the construction of the building housing Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. Her financial support was an investment in Kirkland Museum as a Colorado art institution, and in the further development of the Golden Triangle Neighborhood and Denver’s nationally important art scene.

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 President Clinton appointed her to the White House Conference on Small Business Commission. An innovative leader in philanthropy, Merle has received numerous awards, including National Philanthropy Day’s Outstanding Philanthropist (2002), the Bonfils-Stanton Award for Community Service (2016) and the CBCA John Madden, Jr. Leadership Award (2023). In 2004 she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.

Currently, Merle serves on the boards of Kirkland Museum and Denver Art Museum. In September 2022, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. appointed her to the President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts.