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Boulder Art Association History



In 1923, Boulder Art Guild was born when Jean Sherwood, art patron and clubwoman, with CU’s Dean of Arts and Sciences, FBR Hellems, agreed that Boulder needed an Art Club. For Hellems, it was a desire to provide CU students with a well-rounded liberal arts education. “Do you realize that many of our students have never seen a really great original painting?” With Sherwood as founder and Hellems as its first President, BAG quickly grew to 200 members and spent its first 10 years bringing an ambitious series of traveling art exhibits to gallery space provided by CU President George Norlin in the north balcony of the old CU library.

BAG displayed college student work, high school art, and the work of local artists from the Boulder Artist Guild. They held Sunday afternoon talks and offered art classes for the community including a Business Men’s Sketch Class, Studio Art for Women, and a Children’s Summer Art Institute. By 1933, the CU Library needed its space for its own operations. The Boulder Art Guild became a transient organization.

In 1937 the BAA made a bold move and opened its own Sherwood Gallery in rented space where Arapahoe crosses Boulder Creek. For two years, they displayed art, set up an art library, held two all-county juried art shows, offered workshops, a class in photography, made room in its space for the fledging Boulder Historical Society. It hosted 5,000 visitors a year. Jean Sherwood died and shortly after, the organization could no longer cover the rent. The organization closed the gallery and disbanded in 1939.

For the next 20 years no formal art organization existed in Boulder. Boulder artists continued to meet and create art as an informal group, called the Creative Interest Group. They met in local homes and enjoyed the support and facilities of the CU Fine Arts faculty. This small group grew in size during the post-war years. In 1958 the artist group was large enough to reorganize itself as the BOULDER ART ASSOCIATION. It celebrated its return to the Boulder community with a Beaux Arts Ball held at the Boulder Country Club.

The newly reorganized BAA no longer needed to provide the traveling art shows as it did in 1923 because the Denver Art Museum, founded in 1949, fulfilled that mission. But BAA revitalized the other practices and traditions of the original BAA – community outreach, county art shows, and a gathering place for artists and art lovers alike. Since 1958 BAA has continued uninterrupted. In 1961 the BAA’s annual tradition of hosting a regional art show began. In 1963, BAA in conjunction with other local art groups founded the Boulder Art Center, now known as the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. In the 1990s, BAA members helped to establish “The Flatirons Center for the Arts,” now known as The Dairy Center for the Arts.

The Boulder Art Center in 1937
The BAA’s home location
in the 1990s to early 2000s
A Current BAA Meeting