Denver Art Museum’s Petrie Institute of Western American Art reaches endowment goal

Challenge grant donors fund Western American art programming and scholarship into the future

(Denver, Colo.) — February 15, 2011 — The Denver Art Museum’s (DAM) Petrie Institute of Western American Art, which develops original scholarship and Western American art exhibitions and programs for the public, has reached its endowment funding goal. More than $7 million was raised in three years by a challenge grant campaign to fund collections, programs and scholarship in perpetuity.

The challenge was created in 2007 by longtime DAM trustee, Tom Petrie, who with his wife Jane donated $5 million to the endowment, including a $3 million outright cash gift, and a challenge to match additional donations dollar-for-dollar up to $2 million. The successful endowment campaign ends today, with 48 donors contributing to meet the fundraising goal.

“I’m pleased with the community’s response to this challenge that Jane and I put forward to endow the Institute,” said Tom Petrie. “I credit former Denver Art Museum Director Lewis Sharp for his vision 10 years ago to create this department and (former Institute director) Peter Hassrick for giving a reality to that vision. Moving into the future, our community can look forward to continued Western exhibitions, scholarship and art collections for years to come.”

A member of the Denver Art Museum Board of Trustees since 1998, Mr. Petrie is Vice Chairman of Bank of America, with a distinguished career in investment banking. Mr. Petrie is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and holds a MSBA from Boston University and an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.

“This was an incredibly creative and successful campaign to ensure that Denver and Colorado residents and visitors benefit from a dynamic Western American art program,” said Christoph Heinrich, the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “We thank Tom and Jane Petrie for their generosity, and the energy put behind this effort, and we hope to share this innovative strategy among our museum peers as a way for new museum departments to flourish with community and donor support.”

The Denver Art Museum created the Western Art department in 2001 after receiving a significant gift of more than 700 art objects from the Bill and Dorothy Harmsen Family. The permanent collection galleries are located on the 7th level of the North Building, which hosts historical western art, and the 2nd level of the Hamilton Building, which is home to modern and contemporary western painting and sculpture. This year, the Petrie Institute of Western American Art celebrates its 10th anniversary. Led initially by Joan Carpenter Troccoli and then Peter Hassrick, the western initiative at the DAM for the past two years has been directed by Thomas Smith, whose previously served as curator for the Tucson Museum of Art. The Institute has achieved significant milestones in that time, including more than 10 scholarly publications and several special exhibitions – most recently the first-ever comprehensive retrospective of quintessential western artist Charles Marion Russell in 2009 titled Charles M. Russell: A Retrospective of Painting and Sculpture and Charles Deas and 1840s America exhibition in 2010, both of which garnered national acclaim.

“The Denver Art Museum has quickly become the national leader in programming and scholarship in the field of western American art,” said Thomas Smith, curator of Western American art at DAM and director of the Petrie Institute. “We will continue our efforts to elevate the field and promote the significance of the West in the larger context of American art.”

“Under the leadership of Thomas Smith and his able staff, we will continue the pace of growth in programming, collecting and scholarship,” said Tom Petrie. “The Petrie Institute will move forward in the coming years with its efforts with developing its collection, creating western art exhibitions to travel nationally and internationally, and hosting innovative exhibitions and educational programs for members and Denver Art Museum visitors.”

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Charles M. Russell’s In the Enemy’s Country, part of the DAM’s own Western American Art collection, was featured in the Petrie Institute of Western American Art’s 2010 retrospective of the Montana artist’s work. The endowment of the Institute ensures such innovative exhibitions continue in perpetuity.