By Erica Boniface
For three decades, Bonfils-Stanton Foundation has honored more than 100 distinguished Colorado individuals and organizations through our Annual Awards Program. Recipients are given $35,000 cash reward – but also the opportunity to continue to inspire and engage others to make our communities more vital.
We love following up with past recipients to a] see what they’re been up to since being honored and b] to talk more about the Annual Awards and how being recognized has changed their lives.
The Founding Director and Curator of Kirkland Museum, Hugh A. Grant, was honored in 2009 in the Arts & Humanities category. Since we honored him, Hugh has gone on to lead the design and construction of a brand new home for the Kirkland, a dramatic expansion of its footprint in Denver’s cultural landscape.
BSF: Hi Hugh! Wow, 2018 has been a big year for the Kirkland Museum with its reopening in March at the new location in the Golden Triangle District off 12th and Bannock streets. Tell us more about the move and opening – how has the new location been so far?
HG: Yes, 2018 has been a whirlwind! Kirkland Museum’s beautiful new yellow baguette tile building designed by Jim Olson of Olson Kundig allows me to display the collection chronologically, while still in our signature salon style whereby international decorative art is shown with paintings, sculpture and ceramics by Colorado artists in the same galleries. So far, we’ve exceeded all of our expectations in terms of visitorship, membership and Museum Store sales. We couldn’t be more excited.
We somehow managed to pack up, move, unpack and display over 4,300 works with no breakage, a phenomenal tribute to our Collections Department.
For our first temporary exhibition, we mounted a showcase of prints contrasting important Colorado printmakers with national printmakers such as Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, James Whistler, Charles Burchfield, Stuart Davis and many others.
Our second temporary exhibition is now open—a retrospective of the work of Elizabeth Yanish Shwayder, a significant Colorado sculptor who uses the mediums of bronze, paper and Plexiglas [acrylic], which is documented in a 53-page catalog published by Kirkland Museum.
BSF: You’re the Founding Director and Curator of Kirkland Museum. This may be tough to answer since there are probably many things you love – but, for you, what is your favorite part of the job? What keeps you going?
HG: My favorite activity at Kirkland Museum continues to be acquiring new pieces for the fine and decorative art collections, thereby further diversifying and improving these collections. I also display and rotate artworks which now number over 33,000, which I have gathered, including generous gifts. Many exceptional Colorado artists are in danger of being forgotten. I am able to preserve and promote their work by having them in the collection.
BSF: Tell us a couple fun facts about Kirkland Museum that some visitors and art lovers may not know.
HG: The display at Kirkland Museum allows visitors to time travel through 150 years of paintings and decorative art in 6 historic galleries, plus 12 more art areas. In other words, when you enter Kirkland Museum, Dr. Who and his Tardis, or the Star Trek gang, have nothing on you!
Kirkland Museum includes Vance Kirkland’s historic studio & art school building, built in 1911. We moved the entire three-room brick building [plus the outhouse (!)] 8 blocks to Bannock Street in 2016. Because of Kirkland’s studio, Kirkland Museum joins the studios of Jackson Pollock & Lee Krasner, Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, Charles Russell, N.C. Wyeth, Georgia O’Keeffe, Augustus St. Gaudens and other sites as a member of Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This brings much prestige to Colorado art history.
BSF: You’ve won many awards in the span of your career – including a Heartland Emmy Award for Best Entertainment Program. But in 2009, you were named a Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Honoree for the organization’s Annual Awards Program. What did the honor mean for you on a personal level?
HG: Being recognized by the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation for saving and publicly raising the awareness of Colorado art to an international audience, through Kirkland Museum, has been an incredible honor. In the six months we have been open, there have been visitors from 23 foreign countries, all 50 states and D.C. For Canada, we have had 12 of the 13 territories and provinces. The only one missing is Yukon. Where are Sergeant Preston and his trusty dog Yukon King when you need them ?
Many of those visitors expressed admiration for Colorado’s art history. This surely must add to the image of our state as a cultural center.
BSF: What are you looking forward to most in 2019? Any big plans on the horizon?
HG: Kirkland Museum just received a grant as part of Bloomberg’s Arts Innovation and Management program. This support will help us continue to promote Colorado’s distinguished art history by publishing a tour/highlights guide and more catalogs, increasing our educational programming and member events, expanding our community outreach and broadening our impact for the Denver arts community.
We are planning two new temporary exhibitions of, you guessed it—Colorado artists! The many artists we show who are no longer alive, can live on through their artworks at Kirkland Museum. For those who are alive, they often are able to sell more of their works because of their exposure at Kirkland Museum. New Mexico is very good at promoting its art history and people feel comfortable buying into that art history. The Denver galleries tell me I am having the same psychological effect for buyers of Colorado art.