Late last month the Kirkland Museum announced its plans to relocate from Capitol Hill to the Golden Triangle. This move is exciting for the museum as it brings an important Colorado art collection into close proximity with other nationally significant art museums, including the Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum.
Due to our many years of collaboration, the Kirkland Museum graciously contacted Historic Denver prior to the official announcement, in particular to discuss one aspect of the move: they are taking with them Vance Kirkland’s studio, which is the original building on their current property, with them. It was constructed in 1911, and artist Vance Kirkland began using it, first as a tenant and later as the owner, in the late 1920s. He continued to work in the building until 1981. The building is not a designated landmark in Denver, nor listed on the National Register, but is certainly historic due to its association with one of Colorado’s preeminent artists.
While moving such a resource is not unprecedented, it is a bit unconventional in the preservation world, and so warranted thoughtful discussion by Historic Denver’s board at our February 2 retreat, after which the group agreed to support the museum’s move of the historic studio for several specific reasons.
First, the Kirkland Museum will be moving a short distance from its existing location and will be much nearer to other key art institutions. This will allow the Museum much greater visibility than it currently has and allow for the healthy growth of the Museum. As the owner of a museum property, we recognize the challenges facing the museum in its current location and understand the motivations of the Kirkland Museum in their desire to best achieve their mission, which has the preservation of Kirkland’s work and story at its heart.
Second, the studio structure, and particularly the interior interpretation, is critical to the story of Vance Kirkland and the development of his work as well as to the Colorado art scene. It makes sense that this story can best be told when visitors can experience the historic studio, so the museum without the studio would be missing an important element.
Third, while preservationists are most often concerned with the exterior of a structure, in this instance the interior of the studio is equally if not more important because of the work Kirkland created inside, and the way its layout and furnishings contribute to an understanding of his art.
Fourth, the Kirkland Museum has a long track record of careful stewardship, and we are confident that they will continue to honor and invest in the structure moving forward. However, its longevity in its current location, particularly after the museum’s move, could be uncertain.
Fifth, the particular context of the existing structure in its current location is difficult to “read” as historic. Changes in the neighborhood over time, as well as additions necessitated by the museum’s growth, have obscured the historic structure. Currently few visitors realize the distinction between the old and new, while this distinction can be re-established creatively in the new location.
Each preservation situation is unique, and Historic Denver evaluates each in its own context, seeking to understand the situation and its implications. There is no “one-size-fits-all” preservation solution, and our organization prides itself on recognizing the dynamic energy created by the juxtaposition of old and new, and sees long-term stewardship as critical to any proposal involving a historic structure.
We congratulate our long-time friends and neighbors at the Kirkland Museum on this growth opportunity and while Capitol Hill is sorry to lose this great cultural institution, we look forward to continuing our long collaboration with the Kirkland Museum.
Click HERE to read the Kirkland Museum's Media Release on the Relocation
Click HERE to to read the Kirkland Museum's Fact Sheet on their Building Project
Click HERE to view the Location Map of the Kirkland Museum's relocation
*All photographs courtesy of the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art.