The Luther Bean Museum, founded in 1975, is located on the campus of Adams State College in the college’s first and oldest building, Richardson Hall. The building, as it stands today was completed in three stages with the south wing, where the museum is located, having been completed in 1930.
Upon entry into the museum visitors are first taken back by the sheer beauty of the space. Greeted by a 30ft vaulted ceiling and original architectural features such as the arching wooden beams spanning the 50ft wide main hall area, maple wood floor, the large ceramic tiled fireplace and the wrought iron chandeliers with stenciled shades.
Richardson Hall and the museum space were designed by William N. Bowman a famous architect in the early 1900’s based out of Denver, CO. Bowman is listed on Colorado Historical Society’s “Architects of Colorado” website.
The museum’s collection highlights the cultural diversity of the San Luis Valley in such collections as the Native American pottery including pottery by Maria "Marie" Martinez, Acoma, and Santo Domingo Pueblos; Navajo and Rio Grande Valley weavings that includes a weaving by Eppie Archuleta; paintings by Stephen Quiller, Woody Crumbo and Bill Moyers; bronzes by Bill Moyers (ASC Alum 1939); a Masonic sword from Colorado’s first Lieutenant Governor, Major Lafayette Head; and a bronze by Allan Houser. The museum’s Woodard Collection encompasses antique furniture, Sevres porcelain figurines, Havelin china, santos, retablos, ivory and sandstone figurines collected from around the world. We also have the only known collection of memorabilia of former Colorado Governor and ASC founder William H. "Billy" Adams. A visit to the museum wouldn’t be complete without spending some time admiring the 49 feet wide by 12 feet tall mural depicting the naming of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains painted by J. Noel Tucker in 1937 (see photo).
The museum hosts several art exhibits per year featuring local artists as well as hosting cultural and historical events such as: Colorado Art Education Association Art Exhibit; San Luis Valley Junior High/Senior High Juried Art Exhibit; readings by authors Robert Root and Eric Dolin; Friends of the ASC Music Dept “Noteworthy” reception; La Puente’s Positive Activities Lift the Spirit program art exhibit; Hispanic Heritage “Folk Music” performance and reception; poetry readings by ASC English majors; and the annual SLV Historical Society special guest speaker presentation.
The museum’s original function was as the college’s library, 1930-1954. It was designated as the Luther Bean Museum in honor of Dr. Luther E. Bean. Dr. Bean, one of ASC’s first faculty members as professor and director of the Education Department for 25 years, had a great love of history. It was due to his efforts in helping to establish the Fort Garland Historic Fair Association in the late 1920’s that saved Ft. Garland located in Ft. Garland, CO from being demolished. Dr. Bean was also the faculty advisor for the College’s Outing Club (now called the Adventure Program) which is the 3rd oldest such program in the country. Luther Bean would take Outing Club students out on hikes, camping trips and excursions to show them the beauty of the Valley, impart historical and cultural stories to the students so that they might learn what the Valley has to offer and so that they might understand the historical significance of places such as Mt. Blanca, the Great Sand Dunes and the Rio Grande River. Dr. Bean himself climbed to the top of Mt. Blanca (at an elevation of 14,345) 22 times.
The Luther Bean Museum continues to evolve and progress as it looks to its mission -- to preserve, enhance, and promote the study of the diverse culture and history of the San Luis Valley and Adams State College.