History & Mission

Phoenix Art Museum has grown to an institution with an international reputation for excellence. The Board of Trustees has provided solid leadership and economic stewardship. Our membership is loyal, generous, and supportive and the volunteers within our support organizations are a unique force in driving programming enrichment, and enthusiasm for the Museum. The staff members from 1959 to 2012 have been a passionate, dedicated force following a vision of making this institution the best it can be. From all of these groups and more, donors have shared our vision, and, in turn, invested in the efforts of to this institution to raise the quality of life in metropolitan Phoenix.

Our Mission is simple - Phoenix Art Museum is a vibrant destination connecting people to great art from around the world to enrich their lives and communities.

In the last 50 years, Phoenix Art Museum has hosted more than 400 exhibitions, grown the collection to more than 17,000 works of art and been visited by millions. Here are a few of highlights from the Museum's history.


1915 - Phoenix Women's Club formed and began working to improve the quality of art offerings at the Arizona State Fair and to purchase objects for the Phoenix Municipal Collection.

1925 - Phoenix Fine Arts Associations formed to foster and promote community art interest and to establish and maintain an art gallery.

1936 - President Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA) brought Philip C. Curtis to Phoenix to become the director of Phoenix Art Center.

1940 - Civic Center Association formed to raise funds and formulate building plans for the 6.5 acres of land at the corner of Central Avenue and McDowell Road donated by the heirs of Adolphus Clay Bartlett.

1942 - World War II postponed building plans, but Civic Center Association continued to meet and collect paintings.

1948 - The brick house at 45 East Coronado Road opened as Civic Center House (later known as Art Center) after a fund drive raised money to purchase the three remaining lots along Coronado Road.

1949 - Phoenix Fine Arts Association incorporated and achieved tax-exempt status.

1954 - After assuming responsibility for the administration of 19 East Coronado Gallery, Phoenix Fine Arts Association presented exhibitions by local artists.

1955 - Civic Center Association dissolved, and Phoenix Fine Arts Association took on planning and fundraising responsibilities and enlarged the permanent collection.

1957 - Under the direction of the board of trustees a $1 million fund drive began, and the 19 East Coronado building was razed to make space for construction.

1959 - Museum's Grand Opening. In January the construction contract was awarded to a Michigan architect, Alden B. Dow, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. In November the brand new, three-level Phoenix Art Museum opened.

1961 - Construction plans were announced for the Museum's east wing, which would provide space for exhibition areas, classrooms and offices.

1963 - Art Center at 45 East Coronado was demolished, and construction of the new wing, projected to open in 1965, was underway.

1964 - Important additions to the permanent collection were made when Mr. and Mrs. Donald D. Harrington donated a collection of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, including Monet's Les arceaux fleuris, Giverny (Flowering Arches, Giverny).

1965 - The east wing opens, almost tripling the Museum's size. Among the additions were galleries for Western art, the Sculpture Courtyard and Singer Auditorium.

1969 - The Museum's 10th anniversary. Part of the celebration included a color film of Museum activities and behind-the-scenes life, "A Thousand Worlds to Discover," shown by local television station KTAR.

1972 - Volunteer organizations and support groups continued to play a central role. The docents, who numbered 270, expanded their training program to two years and, with Phoenix YWCA, inaugurated the Art All Around Us outreach program to Phoenix's senior centers.

1977 - Hoping to increase funding for Arizona arts and cultural organizations, the Museum developed and hosted a statewide conference concerning business and corporate support for the arts.

1982 - James K. Ballinger was appointed director. The Museum embarked on its first membership drive, "The Dynamic Phoenix Art Museum," and membership numbered 4700.

1987 - A bond project proposal was submitted to the City of Phoenix for expansion and renovation of the facility. A successful City of Phoenix bond election the following year resulted in $20 million for the project.

1994 - After a successful $40 million endowment and building campaign, construction began for the expansion and renovation designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, New York.

1998 - The Museum presented it first blockbuster exhibition, Splendors of Ancient Egypt.

2001 - Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People opened to sell-out crowds. In March, a City of Phoenix bond election again resulted in funds for the Museum's future expansion.

2006 - The Museum celebrated the completion and grand opening of a $41.2 million expansion that included the Ellen & Howard C. Katz Wing for Modern Art, Greenbaum Lobby, Dorrance Sculpture Garden and Wilde Family Entry Plaza among other improvements.

2007 - Rembrandt and the Golden Age of Dutch Art: Treasures from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam was the first blockbuster exhibition in the new wing. Other notable exhibitions included Curves of Steel: Streamlined Automobile Design. Acquisition highlights included Anish Kapoor's monumental indoor sculpture Upside Down, Inside Out.

2008 - The Museum hosted Masterpiece Replayed: Monet, Matisse and More and Richard Avedon: Photographer of Influence. Notable acquisitions included Julian and Suzanne Walking, an LED light sculpture by Julian Opie installed on the southeast exterior of the building, and Josiah McElheny's Last Scattering Surface, a light installation gracing Greenbaum Lobby.

2009 - The Museum celebrated its 50th anniversary.