Aspen, CO 81611
The structure that housed the former Aspen Art Museum on North Mill Street was originally built in 1888 for the Hunter Creek Power Plant. Aspen was the first city west of the Mississippi to have streetlights powered by hydroelectric energy - generated by the power plant-although it was initially developed to service the mining operations in the city.
In the fall of 1976, the City of Aspen received a mandate from voters to acquire what had become a historic building for community use. After putting together a task force, it was recommended that the City develop the power plant into a visual arts center, believing that an art space would best serve the community and offer the most creative and adaptive use of the site. By November 1977, the Aspen Center for the Visual Arts was incorporated within the state of Colorado, and in August of the following year, the board selected the organization’s first director, Philip Yenawine.
On June 16, 1979, the Aspen Center for the Visual Arts opened to the public with the exhibition American Portraits of the Sixties and Seventies. Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, Chuck Close, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Mapplethorpe, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Warhol were among the artist’s included in this inaugural show.
The first year three years of programming featured a wide range of exhibitions including one-person shows by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg. Then in 1984, the board approved a name change to the Aspen Art Museum to better reflect the institution’s curatorial ambitions, and the following summer formed its National Council.
In 2005, under the leadership and vision of newly appointed director Heidi Zuckerman, the Aspen Art Museum further refined its mission of exhibiting contemporary art under three main criteria: first-time US solo museum exhibitions by significant emerging contemporary artists from around the globe; solo exhibitions by important or established contemporary artists that focus on new, unrecognized, or underappreciated aspects of their artistic output; and group exhibitions curated to address prescient or topical contemporary cultural, social, or political subject matter. These criteria continue to direct programming at the current Aspen Art Museum today.
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