The oldest cultural institution in the state of Nevada, the Nevada Museum of Art was founded in 1931 as the Nevada Art Gallery by Dr. James E. Church, a Professor of German and Classics at the University of Nevada, Reno. Church was the first on record to summit 10,776-foot Mount Rose and build a snow survey station on the mountain, he was intricately connected to the area’s natural resources and an early example of the Museum’s interest in art and environment. In 1949, the Gallery obtained a facility and the foundation of a permanent collection at the bequest of Church’s friend and co-founder, Charles F. Cutts. In 1978, under the guidance of its first professional staff, the Nevada Art Gallery purchased Hawkins House, a national historic landmark building overlooking Reno’s Truckee River. Upon moving into the new facility, the organization’s name was changed to the Sierra Nevada Museum of Art.
In 1988, the E.L. Wiegand Foundation provided the Museum with a new 15,000 sq. ft. facility and the institution was renamed the Nevada Museum of Art / E.L. Wiegand Gallery. Five years later, the Museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, a credential held by less than 5 percent of the nation’s museums. That same year marked the construction of a dedicated space to host the E.L. Cord Museum School and the start of an ambitious program to increase its permanent collection.
During a White House ceremony in 1999, the Museum was awarded the prestigious National Award for Museum Service by the Institute for Museum and Library Services honoring outstanding museums that demonstrate a commitment to public service with innovative programs that address social, economic, or environmental issues.
The Museum’s expanding programs, growing permanent collection, increased attendance and quadrupled membership base made it necessary to launch a $22 million campaign in 2001 to build and endow the Nevada Museum of Art, The Donald W. Reynolds Center for the Visual Arts, E.L. Wiegand Gallery. Designed by architect Will Bruder, the new Museum opened in 2003 and welcomed more than 120,000 visitors in the first year.
As the only nationally accredited art museum in the state, the Museum features exhibitions by national and international artists as well as a permanent collection divided into four thematic focus areas: the Robert S. and Dorothy J. Keyser Art of the Greater West Collection, the Carol Franc Buck Altered Landscape Photography Collection, the Contemporary Art Collection, and the E. L. Wiegand Work Ethic in American Art Collection. These thematic, rather than historical or stylistic specializations, are a natural outgrowth of the institution’s collecting practices over the years.
Following the success of the first Art + Environment Conference presented in 2009, the Museum launched the Center for Art + Environment (CA+E). The Center’s Archive Collections and Library serve scholars and researchers seeking information related to creative interactions between people and their natural, built, and virtual environments.