GUNNISON, Colo. – Western’s newest graduate program, Master of Arts in Gallery Management and Exhibits Specialization, is set to partner with the AR Mitchell Museum of Western Art of Trinidad, Colo. Earlier this year AR Mitchell Museum Board President Suz Porterfield reached out to the American Museum of Western Art – Anschutz Collection in Denver, for professional management advice and was recommended to Western’s MGES program. The connection could not have worked out better for both parties, as Western’s art facilities are currently being renovated leaving its students in need of gallery space, and the Mitchell is in need of trained professionals to work with their collection.
The AR Mitchell Museum is home to collections of Western art, Native American artifacts, Hispanic folk art, and the most important collection of AR Mitchell’s work. Mitchell, the “King of Western Pulp Cover Illustrators”, was one of the most influential cowboy artists of his time, documenting life in the West through cover illustrations on books and magazines, and landscape paintings of ranches across Northern New Mexico and Southeastern Colorado. He also taught at Trinidad Community College, instructing Western’s own Ethel Rice, who partly attributes her passion for art to “Mitch.”
Rice, who served as a librarian at Western for thirty-six years, and secured the conservation of the University’s art collection, was instrumental in the development of the MGES program through the University Foundation. Rice collaborated with Dr. Heather Orr (Western Professor of Art History, Art Department Chair, and MGES Program Director) to secure funding for a visiting professorship and four student scholarships from the Grosland fund.
Like all rural museums, the Mitchell has struggled with attendance and attracting professionals to work with their collections. This is where the MGES program comes in. The MGES students will work on-site at the Mitchell as the first part of their summer residency from August 7-19. The program offers a “hybrid” low-residency learning environment of online courses with residencies in both program practicum on the Western campus and an arranged internship at an art gallery or museum. With the limited access to the Quigley Gallery because of building renovations, the partnership could not come at a better time.
“The partnership between the MGES and the AR Mitchell provides a wonderful symbiotic relationship, said Orr. “Our students have the experience of undertaking an intensive practicum project, that builds their portfolio through service and experiential learning, and the AR Mitchell Museum benefits from the combined expertise of our faculty, staff and students (many of whom already have solid gallery and museum training), and the final exhibit project.”
About Western State Colorado University:
The first college on Colorado’s Western slope and the fourth oldest public college in the state, Western State Colorado University in Gunnison delivers a full, four-year, liberal arts curriculum with graduate programs.