1922 architectural rendering of the Mulvane Art Museum published in the Topeka State Journal


Joab R. Mulvane (1837-1929) came to Kansas in 1876 and distinguished himself as one of the most successful Kansans of his generation. He was president of several railroads, including the Chicago, Kansas and Western Railway Company. In 1922, Mulvane pledged a gift to build the Mulvane Art Museum, and the building opened to the public in 1924. It was one of the first art museums established west of the Mississippi. In 1946, through the encouragement of Alexander Tillotson, Director of the Washburn Art Department, the Topeka Junior League spearheaded the formation of a group now known as the Friends of the Mulvane Art Museum, which supports the activities of the museum.

Following a tornado in 1966 that destroyed most of the buildings on Washburn University campus, the present art complex was built. The building's native limestone exterior was unchanged, but the severely damaged interior was gutted and connected to the new Garvey Fine Arts Center. A Women’s Board was organized in 1968 to generate interest in the Museum, provide volunteers, and raise funds for acquisitions and programs. The Mulvane Art Museum was accredited by the American Association of Museums in 1988. The Museum underwent another construction project in 2006, which increased exhibition space to over 9,000 sq. ft. and provided secure storage for the collection. It also significantly enlarged the art education program with the renovation of four new classrooms and the creation of the Judith Lennox Sabatini ArtLab, a 2,700 sq. ft. hands-on art experience center.

The Mulvane Art Museum now houses a collection of over 6,000 objects from around the world, including paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and decorative art. While international in scope, the collection focuses on the works of artists from Kansas and the Mountain Plains region of the United States. In addition to displaying works from the collection, the Mulvane also presents changing exhibitions featuring artists from around the world. The Museum's art education program provides educational outreach to many schools throughout the region. People of all ages and abilities engage with the Mulvane through art workshops, public lectures, family events, and community experiences.

The Mulvane Art Museum is supported by Washburn University, the Friends of the Mulvane Art Museum, and through gifts from corporations, foundations, and individuals. Admission is free and open to the public. 


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Washburn University prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, ancestry, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, genetic information, veteran status, or marital or parental status. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Michelle Godinet, Title IX Equal Opportunity Director, Washburn University, 1700 SW College Ave, Topeka, Kansas 66621, 785.670.1509, eodirector@washburn.edu.

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