The Nicolaysen Art Museum was first located in a small white house and founded by Mary Oliver Durham and her friends in 1967. They named their enterprise “Gallery A” due to its location on the corner of Park and A Streets. Since its formation, the museum underwent several name changes and site relocations due to the continued growth of its permanent collection and exhibitions. In 1972, the museum was renamed Central Wyoming Art Museum and moved to a new location in a furniture store on Rancho Road. This building was 7,000 square feet so it offered more room for exhibit space, storage, classes and other programs. With larger space came increased mortgage payments, and in 1977, businessman Gerald G. Nicolaysen paid off the museum’s mortgage. As a thank you, the Board of Trustees renamed the museum in his honor.
The first employees for the museum were hired in 1983. Dr. J.M. Neil was hired as the Director and Mary Lou Morrison became the director of the Children’s Center. The Nicolaysen experienced tremendous growth throughout the 1980s. A permanent collection was established and instead of renting all of its exhibits, it began touring many of its own. Again the Nicolaysen was out-growing its home.
In 1984, Casper citizens voted to levy a 1% sales tax purchase land and the construction of a new building. The museum had to raise an endowment large enough to maintain the facility without the use of further tax support. Instead of building an entirely new building, the NIC decided to remodel and add onto the Casper Electric Company building. The new facility opened April 8, 1990 and included eight staff members.
In 2009, the NIC received AAM accreditation becoming only the sixth museum in Wyoming to achieve this recognition. There are only 1,056 out of the 17,500 in the United States that are AAM accredited. The NIC is highly respected in the region for its permanent collection and exhibitions. Our building includes 8 art galleries and the Discovery Center for children. Through our educational outreach partnership with the Natrona County School District and our in-house educational programming, we annually record more than 18,000 contacts with children through art classes, workshops, presentations and tours. In addition to 12 or more rotating gallery exhibitions curated from our permanent collections, installations, and temporary exhibitions, we also produce annually NIC Fest (a summer art festival) and Wednesday Night Live (our summer concert series). In 2015, the NIC celebrated its 25th year anniversary of residence in this specific location.
Our mission is to showcase significant contemporary art of the Rocky Mountain Region. We accomplish this by acquiring, conserving and exhibiting the visual arts on a regular basis, enhancing arts appreciation through educational opportunities, and developing and scheduling programs and events that stimulate, encourage and advance self-expression and knowledge or the arts. The NIC’s Permanent Collection contains over 6,300 objects, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, textiles, drawings, photographs and prints, as well as furniture, hides, books, and ephemeral items such as awards and artist materials.
We encourage you to come in during our Golden Anniversary Year and enjoy many spectacular exhibitions, workshops, and events that we have planned in 2017. Go to www.thenic.org for more information.