Denver Art Museum unveils $ 175 million renovation

The redesigned Martin Building at the Denver Art Museum. Photo by Eric Stephenson


The modernized campus (re) opens to the public on Sunday October 24, with a free day.

Museums have long been regarded as “booths of wonders”, the custodians of some of the most beautiful, puzzling and stimulating masterpieces ever created. They also have a complicated history of acquiring, exhibiting, and possessing stolen art and artifacts. In the 21st century, museums have become educational centers, interactive places that don’t hesitate to tackle complex subjects, where people of all ages not only see art but learn from it.

The new grand staircase at Duncan Hall
New grand staircase seen from Duncan Hall. Photo by James Florio Photography

The $ 175 million renovation of the Denver Art Museum (DAM) reinvents a lot of things. The north side campus, for example, has a brand new glass-walled Sie Visitor Center. In the Bartlit Learning and Engagement Center, interactive studios and labels written for kids have been added to the galleries to help them engage them throughout the site. The galleries of the Martin Building (formerly known as the North or Ponti Building), which houses seven floors of the museum’s permanent collection, have all been revamped and a new space dedicated to architecture and design has been added. But all of this pales in comparison to how DAM leans towards inclusiveness and a more modern identity.

“Museums are such an important and interactive place, with education programs, social programs. They really are a social bond within the community, ”says Christoph Heinrich, director of the Frederick and Jan Mayer Center at DAM. “With our collections, we can give an idea of ​​the world, of different cultures, of different ways of thinking. Never has it been more important in our time to open your mind and realize a new way of thinking.

Throughout the updated North Campus, visitors will notice a commitment to inclusive storytelling, in large part by allowing creators to share their own stories and stories through video and text. “I think it’s a different approach,” says Heinrich. “It’s an approach that doesn’t just present [a piece of] beadwork and say, “It’s so beautiful and so intricate,” but really tells the story of people and what it was for and why they used certain materials. “

Native Art Galleries of North America
Native North American Art Galleries. Photo by James Florio Photography

This is especially evident in the North American Indigenous Arts Gallery on the third floor, where historical and contemporary works coexist and visitors can read Indigenous labels and hear the artists themselves in short video clips. These were filmed by Steven Yazzie, a multidisciplinary artist and citizen of the Navajo Nation who also sits on the museum’s Indigenous Community Advisory Board.

“We can allow our visitors to connect directly with artists and hear artists’ testimonials about what they try to convey in their art and the themes that are important to them,” says John Lukavic, arts curator indigenous. “This includes indigenous voices. It centers Indigenous perspectives on issues of social justice… we are able to educate our visitors about these issues that impact Indigenous communities, as well as celebrate successes and recognize the past and trauma.

To this end, a Reflection Space, lined with excerpts from a poem by American poet laureate Joy Harjo of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, was created to give people a space for quiet reflection.

There is also a gallery called “Home / Land” where the DAM recognizes that it is on the lands of the Arapahoe, Cheyenne and Ute. Artwork from these regional nations and interviews with tribal members complete the space, as does a studio dedicated to DAM’s Native Arts artist-in-residence program.

You will notice that the thread connecting history to today also unfolds in other spaces, such as the Contemporary section of the Western American Art Gallery, where superb works by artists such as Deborah Orapallo and Ed Mell, among others, contrasting, stereotypical, non-native works exhibited. In the Northwest Coast Alaska Native Gallery, a 20th-century welcome message from a Native Canadian tribe is paired with a large-scale contemporary glass commission and video focusing on how land rights issues still plague indigenous communities.

“The idea was to make it clear that these are ongoing traditions,” says Heinrich. “We are not dealing with extinct peoples here. We present tribes that have a certain tradition and culture that is still alive. “

Admission is free for all visitors on Sunday October 24. Advance tickets are “sold out”, but a limited number will be available at the reception desk, depending on capacity limitations. After that, the museum will revert to its hourly ticketing system; tickets are $ 8 to $ 13 and youth 18 and under enter free.

Dalia the singer

Dalia the singer

Daliah Singer is an award-winning Denver-based writer and editor. You can find more of his work on

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