The Brinton Museum offers “exquisite art in an ideal setting” that is set to become even more ideal come June.
On June 15, the Forrest E. Mars Jr. Building will open, and it is likely to make The Brinton a destination museum much like the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Director and Chief Curator Ken Schuster has said.
The 24,000-square-foot addition features gallery and education space, a gift shop and a rooftop bistro with views of the Bighorn Mountains.
The expanded gallery space will exhibit pieces of the Bradford collection not currently displayed in the Brinton Ranch House. It will also have three new galleries dedicated to artists integral to the development of Sheridan County as a haven for the arts: Hans Kleiber, Bill Gollings and Ed Borein.
The addition to The Brinton Museum includes three floors. The first and second floor are buried underground to prevent light degradation. The 6,000 square feet of gallery space — triple what The Brinton currently has — are climate controlled, and preservation of artwork is front and center, Associate Curator Barbara Schuster said.
The building also features educational space for groups like Sheridan College, Science Kids and local school districts.
The museum was built into the hillside in order to preserve the landscape in the area, which was important to its namesake Bradford Brinton and to the Schusters, who have run the museum for more than 25 years. It features a rammed earth wall that is 2 feet thick, 51 feet high—the tallest in North America—and 209 feet long. The wall’s purpose is three-fold — to strengthen the structure, ensure its longevity and symbolically define the space by bringing together the geographical and spiritual nature of its Western and American Indian art collections.
Once the addition is complete, the museum board will launch a campaign to renovate the current museum to house classroom space, a printmaking studio, a leatherworking shop and more.
Lest all the attention be put on the new addition, though, The Brinton Museum already offers visitors plenty to enjoy.
Opened to the public in 1961, the museum, formerly the Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum, features a historic ranch house and cabin built in the late 1800s, abundant flower gardens that replicate the original gardens kept by Helen Brinton, a vast expanse of artwork in the ranch house and exhibits from local and national artists in the main gallery.
Ken Schuster has said he hopes The Brinton Museum will not only preserve historical arts but also preserve the work of contemporary artists and inspire local art collectors.
“On the one hand, we can say art is the least important thing we need to be alive,” Ken Schuster said. “On the other hand, art transforms us from just existence into the next level of being. It makes us human beings and not just one step above animals.”
Climate controlled galleries will display works from Frederic Remington to Charles Russell and Edward Borein to Winold Reiss, along with the largest Hans Kleiber collection in the world and the returning Gallatin Collection: more than 100 historic treasures of American Indian art and artifacts. Recently gifted to The Brinton Museum, the Gallatin Collection has been on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago for the last 40 years. More frequent and extensive contemporary exhibits also now have a home on the third floor of the new building, near the bistro.
“Boots, Brushes, and the Bighorn Mountains” will be one of the inaugural exhibitions celebrating The Brinton Museum’s new Forrest E. Mars Jr. Building. It includes works by nationally and internationally recognized artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries – including Thomas Moran, Frederic Remington and Charles Russell, as well as important loan material and paintings and prints from the permanent Brinton collection. The third-floor reception gallery will feature a new 46-piece collection of vibrant impressionist paintings by contemporary Western artist Gregory Packard. Both inaugural shows will open June 15 and run through Sept. 7.
• Location: 239 Brinton Road in Big Horn
• Phone: 307-672-3173
• Website: www.thebrintonmuseum.org
• Hours: Monday to Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
• Admission: Adults $10, seniors 62 and older $8, students 13 and older with valid ID $8, bus tours $5/person
• Special event: The Brinton Museum will celebrate Bradford Brinton’s 135th birthday with an outdoor gala dinner and dance on June 26.