The NIC began in 1967, when Casper’s Mary Durham, along with a group of friends, hosted the first art show in a little white house that still stands today at the corner of “A” and Park streets. At this time the non-profit art gallery was named simply, “Gallery A.”
In 1972, the newly renamed Central Wyoming Art Museum found the room it needed in a former bus station on Rancho Road. This 7,000 square foot building provided more exhibit space as well as rooms for classes and other educational programs.
Meeting the mortgage payments of the Central Wyoming Art Museum became increasingly burdensome until 1977 when Gerald G. Nicolaysen, a Casper area rancher, paid the mortgage bill in full. In recognition of the benevolence, the Board of Trustees changed the institution’s name to the Nicolaysen Art Museum.
Coming to a Vacant Lot Near You
Under the leadership of local citizen, George Bryce, an in-depth study uncovered the need for a full-scale museum in the region. Mr. Bryce approached the city of Casper with a proposal to build a new facility. He was instrumental in obtaining pledges for the endowment fund and meeting with architects and planning committee members while serving as the president of the museum’s board of directors. The Nicolaysen Board approached the One Cent Commission in 1984 with the hope that we could provide a multi-use cultural center that would require no ongoing local tax dollar support. The One Cent Commission eventually provided $3,000,000 for the building of a new facility at the Casper Lumber Company building at 400 East Collins Drive.
Construction and renovation of the former Casper Lumber building, previously Casper’s first electric company, began in February of 1989, lasted 330 days and cost 2.6 million dollars to complete. The building was gutted, leaving only the brick walls. The original brick part of the building became the lobby (later named Bryce Hall), the administrative offices and the Discovery Center. After two additions on the east and west to create the galleries, prep room, collections storage area, and museum shop, the building was transformed into a 25,000 square foot, full-service art museum. The newly-improved Nicolaysen Art Museum opened to the public at its new location on April 6, 1990.
Exhibitions and Collections
The Permanent Collection is estimated to contain 6,300 objects, including paintings, sculptures, textiles, decorative arts, drawings, photographs, prints, and other works on paper.
The core of the general permanent collection is contemporary art created by local and regional artists or artists with strong ties to the region. Much of the artwork is greatly influenced by traditional western art while other works are more rooted in contemporary styles. The permanent collection highlights the wide variety found in contemporary art of the Rocky Mountain Region. Additionally, the collection also includes a number of works created in the early to mid-twentieth century and artists of national and international significance.
From the beginnings on the corner of “A” and Park Streets with only volunteers and a dream, to the present location of Beech and Collins, the NIC continues to thrive and inspire the community of Casper, the state of Wyoming, as well as this western region.