Initiated in 2006, the Washington Project for the Arts Alice Denney Award for Support of Contemporary Art is named for Alice Denney, the founder of the Washington Project for the Arts, and is presented annually to honor an individual who has supported the organization for a period of many years and has made a sustained commitment to the greater DC art’s community. This year the WPA Board of Trustees selected Jack Rasmussen as the Alice Denny Award recipient and presented him with the award at the Auction Preview Night on Thursday, February 26.
Rasmussen has been the Director and Curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center
since 2004. His roots in the DC arts community are deep, having begun his professional career in 1974 as a part-time curator at the National Gallery of Art. He joined the staff of the newly formed Washington Project for the Arts in 1975, working for Alice Denny as the Assistant Director. While at WPA, he managed finances and created an innovative visual arts program at what was the region’s first alternative visual and performing arts center. He left WPA in 1978 to start his own business, the Jack Rasmussen Gallery, which operated in a formerly abandoned building, across the street from what eventually became the National Building Museum, in downtown Washington, DC. The gallery promoted the careers of then unknown regional artists like William Dutterer, Tom Green, Lee Haner, Taro Ichihashi, Walter Kravitz, and Mindy Weisel, who are now represented in major museums.
Between 1983 and 1987 he served as Associate Director of Development at American University where he initiated the $50,000,000 drive to build the Katzen Arts Center, the same facility that houses the Museum he currently oversees. After a short tenure as the Director of Endowment Development with the Council for Basic Education, Rasmussen returned to his roots in alternative contemporary arts spaces. Between 1989 and 2002 he did back to back stints as the founding executive director for the Rockville Art Place (now VisArts) and then the Maryland Art Place. During this time he cultivated relationships with regional artists and arts patrons that endure today.
In 2002, Rasmussen left the DC region to serve as the Executive Director at the di Rosa Preserve: Art & Nature, a nonprofit contemporary art museum and nature preserve in Napa, California. He soon felt the pull to return to Washington and did so when he was offered his current position with the American University Museum. The Museum has become a major venue for regional contemporary art, and has featured a variety of notable exhibitions, including Botero: Abu Ghraib; Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement; and exhibitions of contemporary art from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Israel, Northern Ireland, Russia, Spain, and Syria, as well as work from every Spanish and Portuguese-speaking country in the world.
Rasmussen is a perpetual student of art and culture having earned four advanced degrees at American University between 1975 and 1994, including a PhD in Anthropological Linguistics, Master’s degrees in Anthropology and Arts Management, and a MFA in Painting. He earned his BA in Art at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.
Past Alice Denny Award honorees include William Paley, Robert Lehrman, Kevin MacDonald, and Susan and Dixon Butler.