UM Art Historian to Speak on MMAC as a Great Research Collection

February 20, 2015

MISSOULA – H. Rafael Chacón, professor of art history and criticism at the University of Montana’s School of Art, will present a talk for the Montana Museum of Art & Culture at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, in the Performing Arts and Radio/Television Center’s Masquer Theatre. 

His talk, “Predilections and Possibilities: the Virtues of a Teaching Collection,” is the third in a series of programs focused on the exhibition “Art of the State: Celebrating 120 Years of the MMAC Permanent Collection” on display through May 23 in the Paxson and Meloy galleries of the PAR/TV Center. The exhibition and a first-ever handbook of the collection celebrate the 120th anniversary of the MMAC Permanent Collection. The collection now boasts nearly 11,000 objects.

When Chacón first came to campus in 1996, he already was aware of the MMAC Permanent Collection. 

 “I had worked in great museums like the Art Institute of Chicago and couldn’t wait to see the collections that the University of Montana had to offer,” he said. 

He visited the collection within one week of moving to Montana. “The curator at that time, Dennis Kern, was very accommodating and opened the door pretty wide for me,” Chacón said.  

According to Chacón, that initial visit began a love affair that continues to this day. Over the past 20 years, Chacón has come to know the collection very well.

 “Great research and scholarship opportunities. Great objects. These are the hallmarks of the MMAC Permanent Collection,” he said.

Chacón has been a frequent collaborator with MMAC. His research on Missoula architect A.J. Gibson resulted in a publication, presentations and a MMAC exhibition, which later traveled the state under the auspices of the American Institute of Architects, Montana. 

A noted public speaker, he has presented programs at the museum for past exhibitions, including a talk on the origins of museums, “Wunderkammer: Cabinets of Curiosity” and research for MMAC’s masterpiece series titled “The Centrality of the Figure in Early Modern Art.”

Chacón earned his graduate and doctorate degrees in art history with honors from the University of Chicago. He teaches, researches and writes about a range of topics, including architectural history, historic preservation and the development of art in the Inland Northwest. 

He has written extensively about Montana modernist artists and has recently published an article titled “Montana Modernism: Contemporary Architecture in the Western State, 1945-1975” in Montana The Magazine of Western History. 

A full schedule of other programs planned throughout the exhibition can be found online at  

The Montana Museum of Art & Culture is committed to making its Permanent Collection not only an important resource for UM but also for the people of the state and region. 

MMAC’s academic year gallery hours are noon-3 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The museum is open to the public with a suggested $5 donation. For more information call 406-243-2019 or visit

Contact: Barbara Koostra, director, Montana Museum of Art & Culture, 406-243-2019,; Brandon Reintjes, MMAC curator of art,, .