American University Museum Celebrates 10 Years!


Join the AU Museum in celebrating 10 years of innovative exhibitions, interdisciplinary collaborations, and interactive programming. Since 2005, the museum has aimed to show international, political, and local art, taking an active role in DC’s contemporary art and culture. Hosting 5 seasonal exhibits each year, the museum has held over 200 shows in its 10-year history, featuring the work of 2,311 artists.

Inaugural exhibit

                              A shot of the galleries at the inaugural exhibition, July 2005

The museum grew out of the Watkins Memorial Collection, a contemporary art collection started in 1945 to honor C. Law Watkins, a former chair of American University’s Department of Art. Watkins was responsible for enabling students to earn both a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts at AU, making the school one of the first higher education institutions in the United States to offer both advanced degrees in this field.

In the early 1950s Duncan Phillips, the DC-based collector and friend of C. Law Watkins, contributed several pieces to the Watkins Memorial Collection, including works by Milton Avery, Eugene Berman, and Arthur Dove. These works became the foundation for a permanent collection that would ultimately find its home at the American University Museum.

                                                  Director Jack Rasmussen speaks to visitors at an exhibit opening, 2014

The Collection received many other generous gifts throughout the years, and today it includes over 6,000 objects. Due to the generosity of Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen, the Katzen Arts Center, designed by EYP, opened at American University in 2005, and along with it the AU Museum opened its doors. From its founding through today, the museum has remained committed to its mission of presenting international, political, and local art, focusing on the global as well as the local while raising awareness on human rights, social justice, and political engagement.

Installation shot of Ex It by Yoko Ono, part of the exhibit Close Encounters: Facing the Future, 2008

The AU Museum recognizes its role in DC’s arts and culture scene, and the role of its visitors in engaging with and providing thought-provoking feedback to its exhibitions.  We would like to thank you for your continued interest and support for the past 10 years, and invite you celebrate with us as we look forward to the next 10!