In 1984, 10 founding trustees chose Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with its abundant wildlife, beautiful mountain setting, and high tourism, as a unique and appropriate setting for an art museum focused on images of wildlife. The original museum opened as Wildlife of the American West Art Museum on May 16, 1987 on Jackson’s Town Square.
By 1992, the National Museum of Wildlife Art had outgrown its three-gallery, 5,000 square-foot storefront. A capital campaign was launched to raise $10 million for a new facility and $2 million for an operating endowment. In September 1994, the Museum opened its new facility, a 51,000 square-foot state-of-the-art building that allowed for expanded exhibition space, museum programs, and educational programming.
Representing the culmination of a lifetime of study and collection of wildlife art by Joffa and Bill Kerr who, over a 30-year period, developed a collection of wildlife art unsurpassed in the United States, the Museum is comprised of 14 distinctive galleries, Sculpture Trail, Museum Shop, Rising Sage Café, Children’s Discovery Gallery, Library, and administrative space.
The Museum’s permanent collection of over 5,000 cataloged items includes paintings, sculpture, and works on paper by over 100 distinguished artists ranging from early American Tribes through contemporary masters. The Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions are augmented with innovative educational and scholarly programs emphasizing art appreciation, art history, natural science, creative writing, and American history.
The Museum has become an important educational center and meeting place for the Jackson Hole region. In 1994, the National Museum of Wildlife Art received the Wyoming Humanities Award for exemplary efforts in fostering the humanities in Wyoming. In 2008 the Museum received designation as the “National Museum of Wildlife Art of the United States” by order of Congress, and in 2012 the new three-quarter-mile Sculpture Trail designed by award-winning landscape architect, Walter Hood was completed. More than 80,000 people visit every year, and over 10,000 children visit the Museum each year, often as part of their school curricula.