Art for More Than Art’s Sake: Madden Family Gift

In much the same way a university builds courses or programs around the needs of its students, John Madden Jr. develops commercial properties and business parks around particular pieces of art. Now his vast art collection is at the core of his support for the University of Denver.

In 2016, Madden donated 120 artworks valued at $10 million to DU, creating the Madden Collection at the University of Denver and doubling the monetary value of the University’s art assets. Since then, Madden and the University have worked together to integrate the collection with teaching, research and scholarship programs for students and faculty as well as the Denver community.

Gifts in 2018 from Madden and the Madden Family Foundation have supported the first cohort of Madden Fellows at the Madden Collection, as well as Art and Art History scholarships and the future hiring of a full-time museum director.
The impact of Madden’s generosity has been immediate—especially on Kierra Aiello (BA ’17), who earned a five-year BA in Art History and Music (cello performance) and an MA in Art History with a Museum Studies concentration. Aiello has worked as a Madden Museum Fellow since the summer of 2016.

John Madden

“I love getting to work directly with a small collection that somebody cares about,” said Aiello. “With Mr. Madden, it’s clear that he cares deeply about every object and every artist, so to be the one who does the research, handles the objects and writes the proposals is a wonderful experience.”

Over the past two years, Aiello has created museum-quality files on the artists, researched the provenance of the works and assessed the condition of the paintings and outdoor sculptures, all of which are now located on the ground floor of the Palazzo Verdi building, 6363 South Fiddlers Green Circle. She also gives tours of the collection, while working part-time at the Denver Art Museum’s gift shop and as an on-call gallery maintenance professional. The more Aiello learns, the more she loves her career path, which was inspired by DU courses such as Museum Methods. “Until then, I had no idea how many careers existed within the museum field.”

That’s exactly Madden’s goal—to inspire students and faculty with the collection and to share his love of the works with the DU and Denver community.

Soon, the Madden Collection will be featured in a variety of courses at DU. The Theatre Department plans to study landscapes as a reference point for set design. Painting classes will study techniques in the works. And beginning next fall, University College will pilot a few courses at Greenwood Village, including an in-depth study of the Madden Art Collection.

“Any day of the week, someone can take the light rail to the museum,” Aiello said. “And once they get there, we have an amazing collection and great information to share.”