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School of Art and Art History Records

Identifier: U005


Collection contains the records of the School of Art and Art History at the University of Denver. Though a structured course of study in art began at the University of Denver in 1895 and was officially incorporated as a department in 1915, records in this collection begin in 1948 and span until 2010. Collection contains correspondence, reports, press clippings, exhibition information, program handbooks and more. Some material remains unprocessed.


  • Other: 1948-2010


Biographical / Historical

The University of Denver taught art techniques, theory, and history in various formats since the University was first founded in 1864. While there was no dedicated department or program for art and art history at first, the University recognized the importance of “Academic Fine Arts” , and taught classes through the College of Liberal Arts and the later College of Fine Arts on studio art and art appreciation. In 1882, a College of Fine Arts, occasionally the University of Denver Art School, first appears in university documents. In 1895, the School of Art was formally established to provide students a structured course of study in art. In 1904, art combines with music in the College of Music and Fine Art. The School of Art was not officially incorporated into the University of Denver as a professional department until 1915.

In 1928, during a revival in interest in art, DU purchased the Chappell House from the Denver Allied Arts Association and takes over the Chappell School of Art, co-founded by John Edward Thompson. The Chappell House accommodated DU’s School of Art and the Denver Art Museum—mutually beneficial roommates.

Not long after the purchase of the Chappell House, the School of Art was reorganized yet again when DU hired the influential artist Vance Kirkland as the founding Director and Professor for the Department of Art in 1929. DU did not count art courses towards students’ degrees at the time, which Kirkland disliked and was unable to change. He left in 1933 to found the Kirkland School of Art which was accredited by the University of Colorado. In 1946, Kirkland said he would return to DU only for a salary higher than the Chancellor’s. The University agreed to his conditions, and paid for the use of the Kirkland School of Art name. Kirkland returned to DU’s School of Art and taught there until his retirement in 1969.

The School of Art started spreading to different locations, with studio and instruction space spread across several buildings on the Civic Center Campus and the University Park Campus. In 1950, the School of Art faculty voted to set the goal to move all School of Art activity to one campus. Moving all activity to one campus was not accomplished until 1961 when all School of Art classes and studio space moved into four temporary buildings on the University Park Campus. In 1965, DU purchased the old Post Office on University Boulevard and Wesley Avenue. This created 5,000 square feet of permanent instruction and studio space for the School. The Chappell House was demolished in 1970. Thanks to an endowment from Rose and King Shwayder, DU was able to provide a more permanent home for the School. THe construction of the Shwayder Art Building began in 1977, and was completed in 1979.

The School of Art received Division I accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art (now known as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design) in 1981. The School of Art was renamed to The School of Art and Art History in 1994. In 2001, thanks to a generous donation from Victoria H. Myhren, the lobby of the Shwayder building was remodeled into the principle gallery where students of the School of Art and Art History exhibit their work.


18.0 Linear Feet (21 containers)


The collection is unarranged.

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428