History of the Museum
In 2004, a group of Colorado artists and art supporters came together with the goal of starting an art museum in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with the mission to present fine art to the public reflecting the culture and heritage of Northwest Colorado. Around the same time, the First National Bank Building (Rehder Building) on 8th and Lincoln was bequeathed to the City of Steamboat Springs by the estate of Helen and Henry Rehder. With the stipulation that the building be used as a museum, the Steamboat Art Museum (SAM) incorporated in 2005 and opened its first exhibit in the historic Rehder Building in December of 2006.
In 2010, SAM signed a 99-year lease with the City of Steamboat Springs to permanently house the Museum in the Rehder Building. From 2009-2013, major construction projects to the exterior and interior of the original 1905 building and the 1920 addition were completed, transforming the original 1905 building into museum exhibition space and museum store. In December of 2017, through the support and generosity of the community of Northwest Colorado and beyond, the Steamboat Art Museum completed an $850,000 historic rehabilitation of the 1920 building, creating a true world-class art exhibition space, art studio and library.
2006 and 2007 Founding Board of Directors, Steamboat Art Museum (photo 2020)
Pictured (l-r): Rod Hanna, Linda Jensen Hamlet, Margot Jensen Gasch, Richard Galusha, Shirley Stocks, Robert Dieckhoff, Christine Hands, Stephen Zittell, Kathleen Laterzo.
Not pictured: Bill Hamilton, Judith Harrington, Nancy Westphale, Wayne Westphale.
The Steamboat Art Museum serves the communities of Steamboat (pop 12,000), greater Routt County (pop. 25,000), as well as visitors from all corners of the world. To date, SAM has presented over 45 exhibitions, and has had over 150,000 visitors and program participants through our doors. Annually, SAM presents two major exhibits featuring the work of top tier artists or artists groups, and each year, our annual Plein Air Event and Exhibit is featured in the autumn. In 2019, (pre-COVID) SAM had 16,000 visitors of all ages view our exhibits, attend workshops, special events, and participate in educational outreach, with about 50% coming from outside Routt County. SAM has gained national recognition for offering art experiences of the highest caliber for visitors, members, collaborative partnerships, artists, volunteers and staff alike.
In a remote region where art museum exposure is limited by geography, SAM fills an important cultural niche for NW Colorado, easily accessible in the heart of downtown Steamboat. SAM’s exhibits give rise to unique programming for all ages. Educational outreach is developed specifically with, and for, targeted groups from regional schools, afterschool, homeschool, and at-risk groups, the physical and cognitively impaired, seniors and other human services groups. SAM offers frequent workshops and lectures, taught by regional reputable artists or exhibit featured artists, that provide important professional development in various creative subjects and media. Subjects include studio and plein air painting in watercolor, oil and pastel, bookbinding, drawing, and art history.
SAM’s Museum Store represents the work of over 25 local artists, crafters, authors, and vendors, providing revenue for these creative small businesses as well as SAM, and is the primary source for art supplies for Steamboat. A volunteer force of 50 conducts docent tours, helps with fundraisers, and oversees the galleries and Museum Store.
Our facility is ADA accessible and has become an important community amenity available for meetings, gatherings and rental by other organizations. A membership program, sponsorships, and fundraisers help to support our operational needs, and we have chosen to keep SAM admission free, believing that anyone should visit our exhibits, regardless of their ability to pay.
SAM is working to fulfill our mission “to promote and present the visual arts to the community of Northwest Colorado, reflecting our culture and heritage” by offering quality cultural experiences and opportunity for collaboration in our region.