Our History


The former Yellowstone Art Center opened in October in a building that once housed the historic Yellowstone County Jail. In the earliest years, there were just three staff and an operating budget of around $70,000.


Under the leadership of Director Donna Forbes, the Yellowstone Art Center achieved accreditation from the American Association of Museums.


The YAC received the Governor’s Award for Service to the Arts, leading to recognition of its statewide importance and the successful completion of a $6.2-million expansion campaign.


The new, state-of-the-art Yellowstone Art Museum opened to the public.


Monet came to Montana, along with other international artists, through a landmark exhibition of masterpieces on loan from the private collection of billionaire William I. Koch.


The YAM mounted the exhibition The Most Difficult Journey: The Poindexter Collections of Modernist Paintings. This exhibition, drawn substantially from the permanent collection, and from the holdings of the Montana Historical Society in Helena, traveled nationally. The year finished with an exhibition of Ansel Adams’s photographs, which was one of the best attended of exhibitions in the Museum’s history.


The YAM began a four-year series commemorating the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. A retrospective exhibition of works by preeminent Montana-based sculptor Deborah Butterfield traveled nationwide. Educational programming was honored with a three-year grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to expand educational outreach.


The Yellowstone Art Museum celebrated its 40th year of bringing historic and regional contemporary art to the people of Montana and tourists from across the country and around the world.


Former Senior Curator Gordon McConnell and former Executive Director Terry Melton were honored with solo exhibitions.


The YAM launched a matching gift campaign to secure a generous $2.15 million grant from the Charles M. Bair Family Trust, exceeding the goal before the 2007 deadline. By the end of the year, a well-developed capital and endowment campaign were under way to sustainably expand the YAM and its programs.


The YAM received a second three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to enhance and continue its stellar art education outreach program.


The YAM was the Montana recipient of a generous gift of 50 Minimalist and Conceptualist works of art from the private collections of Herb and Dorothy Vogel. The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, administered a program that distributed 50 works to each of the 50 states from the Vogels’ unprecedented collection.


In August, the YAM opened its innovative Visible Vault, a space where we store our permanent collections in a publicly accessible way. The Visible Vault also includes an artist-in-residence studio. The YAM was awarded a $600,000 grant from the Michigan-based Kresge Foundation to complete this project as well as assist with a new permanent collection gallery.


50th Banners Front Building View

The YAM was again awarded a three-year grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for its education outreach program. In June, we completed the $6-million Phase I of our Expansion Campaign, capping a five-year effort, and received record-breaking visitor attendance of Capture the Moment: The Pulitzer Prize Photographs, which opened in August 2011.


We experienced a landmark year with the unveiling of the Bair Gallery–a tremendous achievement–as well as our well-received permanent collection exhibition, Boundless Visions, which opened in August.  Due to the generosity of our donors, the museum’s endowment–the current phase of our campaign–is growing.  We hope to leave a lasting legacy that our citizens and future generations will be proud of, with an additional $2 million endowment goal by the end of our 50th anniversary in 2014.


The YAM celebrated its 50th anniversary with many amplified activities.  Face to Face, Wall to Wall was one of several extraordinary and memorable exhibitions.  The Art of the Brick® broke all previous attendance records.  The YAM published a commemorative book, and hosted many extra special events, including a sold-out gala.


Accrediation at AA48 photo by Q2The YAM has achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. Accreditation signifies excellence to the museum community, to governments, funders, outside agencies, and to the museum-going public. Of the nation’s estimated 35,000 museums, only about 1,000 (fewer than 3%) are currently accredited. The YAM is one of seven museums accredited in Montana.