Message from J. Landis Martin and Christoph Heinrich
The end of each year allows us to reflect on the good fortune and experiences we shared with our visitors, our members, our donors, volunteers, and staff. This past year is no different and gratitude is exactly what we feel when we think back on the support and strength our community showed under unprecedented circumstances. It has been an honor for us to continue to offer beauty and inspiration in the midst of the challenges we all faced. For us at the Denver Art Museum, and for many people around the world, art has been a steadfast source of comfort and joy.
It is a vital part of my overall wellness to have art in in my life and be transported to perspectives of other's views especially those of the artists so beautifully curated at the exhibits at the DAM. Thank you!
It is hard to remember what happened in “normal” times, but if we think back far enough we remember the excitement of Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature, the exhibition that started off last fiscal year. Monet, which brought in record-breaking attendance, featured more than 120 paintings spanning the celebrated French Impressionist’s career and focused on his enduring relationship with nature and his response to the varied and distinct places in which he worked. Those first few months were a non-stop whirlwind of activity at the museum.
Then, just as we caught our breath and turned our focus to welcoming members and visitors back to the Martin Building, which has been closed to the public since November 2018 and was slated to reopen partially in spring 2020, COVID-19 struck. After much discussion, we closed the museum to the public on Friday, March 13, and went from frantic activity on campus to a level of quiet never seen before. We staffed the buildings to keep the museum and collections safe, while our public-facing activities came to a halt, just as they did in other museums, schools, and businesses around the world.
With the museum closed to visitors, the staff did an amazing job pivoting to the new realities of an even more digital world. We quickly launched a Museum from Home section on our website, sharing ways to continue to experience art and creativity. Cross-functional teams worked tirelessly behind the scenes to create DIY project tutorials and curator-led exhibition tours to take the place of our usual programming. Staff members filmed tips on conserving your personal artwork and writing labels for your children’s paintings and drawings. And art continued to serve as a source of inspiration as we all adapted to the new reality.
At the end of June, we were thrilled to be able to reopen our doors to the public. We launched new cleaning protocols and operational procedures to meet health and safety guidelines to keep our visitors and staff healthy and safe during these unprecedented times. Martin Plaza was activated to welcome visitors and help set the stage for socially distanced, masked visits to Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington and Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom, which had been on hold during the closure. A new virtual exhibition guide provided tips for visiting as well as additional materials to enhance the exhibition experience and provide educational resources. A visit to the DAM was once again a reliable source of respite and escape for many of our guests who told us how happy returning to the galleries made them feel.
DAM did a better job of Covid safety/precautions than anywhere else I've been in the last 4 months. And that Norman Rockwell exhibit was amazing! Thank you for giving my teenage son and I something 'normal', fun, and educational to do. We both loved it and will be back soon.
This summer, we also were reminded that art is a critical element in collective conversations in our culture and society. Art around our city, country, and in the world reflected the outpouring of grief, solidarity, and sadness at the brutal killing of Black Americans and people of color. Here at the DAM, we publicly reaffirmed and rededicated ourselves to the museum’s commitment to collecting and presenting art works by artists of color and presenting their work and voices in our galleries and programs.
Contemporary works on view in Norman Rockwell took on a greater significance and helped foster in-gallery and virtual dialogues about the racial inequality and injustice that has been part of our collective history. Since the summer, the museum has expanded its efforts to build the institution into a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable place to work and experience art and creativity.
In fall 2020, the museum rolled out a Racial Equity Lens, designed to guide work in every department to ensure that equity is built into decision-making processes, and a Road Map to guide our work from the inside out also was introduced. We are grateful for the leadership from the board of trustees, community members, staff, and volunteers who have supported moving this work forward.
As the pandemic lasted through the summer and allowable capacity in the museum remained low, we continued to focus on digital offerings. The learning and engagement and curatorial teams worked together to offer 11 virtual lectures since March. Over 2,200 people attended those lectures—some even logging in from as far away as Japan and Australia. Our popular Untitled program, which had its January edition in person, moved online for the rest of the year. Untitled: Creative Fusions at Home continued to surprise and delight thanks to the artist co-creators who developed fashion shows, free form spoken-word performances, inspiring musical numbers, and more.
Art Lives Here Creativity Kits were developed and, with the help of our devoted volunteers, distributed to continue to provide access to creativity and art objects. These free kits were distributed to schools and community centers serving elementary and middle school children and families in and around Denver as part of our ongoing commitment to providing opportunities for artmaking, intercultural and intergenerational dialogue, and community-building. And while we were unable to offer our usual interactive, hands-on family activities in the galleries, the team offered digital games and prompts to help supplement a family visit to the museum. Through all of these many programs, we were reminded that art is an essential source of connection.
This past year, we launched a new brand including a new visual identity and redesigned website. While the original plan was to introduce this new look for the museum with the opening of the Martin Building, we decided it was still a great time to show how the museum has been evolving and reinforce our commitment to being a welcoming and accessible place where art is for all.
We look forward with great anticipation to the day in the not-too-distant future when we can reopen on a larger scale. We will welcome more visitors back to our galleries and into our exhibitions. We will celebrate the new Martin Building and Sie Welcome Center—inviting the community to explore redesigned collection galleries and enjoy The Ponti, our new restaurant, or the more casual Café Gio. And we will once again see school kids in our halls and hear our wonderful docents giving tours. Things will slowly get back to “normal.” In the meantime, thank you for your continued dedication and support which allows us to continue to offer the community inspiration, connection, and conversation through the power of art. We couldn’t do any of it without you.
- J. Landis Martin, Chairman, Board of Directors
- Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director