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Denver Art Museum Announces Curatorial Appointments
Thomas Smith. Courtesy of the Denver Art Museum.

DENVER, CO.- The Denver Art Museum announced today the addition of Thomas Smith as associate curator of Western American Art and the planned retirement of Peter Hassrick, director of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art for the last three years.

Smith was most recently curator of the art of the American West at the Tucson Museum of Art in Tucson, Arizona, with prior work at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, the C.M. Russell Center for the Study of Art of the American West at the University of Oklahoma and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. Smith will oversee implementation of several programs and exhibitions currently on the calendar for the Institute, including Charles M. Russell: The Masterworks in Oil and Bronze in fall 2009 and Charles Deas and 1840s America in 2010. Smith will begin work at the Denver Art Museum in early November, 2008.

“I am excited to be joining an institution with a major center for the study and collection of the art of the American West,” said Smith. “I look forward to working with the collection and program that Peter and his colleagues have so successfully built in a very short timeframe.”

Peter Hassrick joined the Denver Art Museum in 2005 after serving as the long-time director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. Hassrick, a leading scholar in the field, developed Denver’s fledgling Institute into a robust program including exhibitions, publications and national symposia. Hassrick’s accomplishments during his short tenure include raising more than $6 million to endow the department, nearly doubling the Museum’s gallery space dedicated to Western American art, developing a strong exhibition program featuring rotating spaces within the permanent galleries as well as major traveling exhibitions like In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein, which debuted at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History and opens at the Denver Art Museum on November 8, 2008.

“The opportunity to build the Institute and participate in such an exciting time in the Museum’s history was a thrill,” said Hassrick. “Thomas’ energy and passion for the collection and the field are exactly the right next step for the organization—we are lucky to have him.”

Hassrick will step down in April 2009, allowing overlap with Smith during a pivotal time in the Institute’s development. New galleries featuring the Museum’s historic collections of Western art will debut in February 2009 following an extensive renovation of the 7th floor of the Museum’s North Building. Smith’s arrival in Denver comes on the heels of the opening of A Place of Refuge: Maynard Dixon’s Arizona at the Tucson Museum of Art. Organized by Smith and featuring more than 130 works, A Place of Refuge is the largest exhibition to date of Dixon’s work and a major exhibition for the Tucson Museum.

The Institute of Western American Art was founded in 2001 following the very successful Painters and the American West exhibition, drawn from the esteemed Anschutz collection, and a major donation of more than 700 objects from the collection assembled by Dorothy and William Harmsen Sr. The Institute was renamed in 2007 following a multimillion-dollar endowment contribution by Denver collector Tom Petrie. Former Institute director and curator Joan Carpenter Troccoli will continue work as a senior scholar for the department, focusing on writing and curatorial duties associated with exhibitions and publications. Hassrick, Troccoli and associate curator Ann Daley, who retired in September 2008, completed a display of the major works from the collection in the Dietler Galleries of Western American Art in the new Frederic C. Hamilton Building, which opened in October 2006.

The Denver Art Museum is located on 13th Avenue between Broadway and Bannock Streets in downtown Denver. Open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m.; closed Mondays, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admission for Colorado residents: $10 adults, $8 seniors 65+ and college students, $3 for visitors aged six to 18, free for children under six. Admission for non-Colorado residents: $13 for adults, $10 for seniors 65+ and college students, $5 for visitors aged six to 18, free for children under six. General Museum admission is free the first Saturday of each month, thanks to Target and the citizens who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). For more information, call 720-865-5000 or visit

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