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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., touted the merits of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson while appearing before the Senate Subcommittee on National Parks, chaired by fellow Wyoming Senator Craig Thomas. Enzi is advocating a bill he authored which would provide the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming with an official, national designation.

The text of Enzi’s statement follows.

Statement of Senator Michael B. Enzi on the National Museum of Wildlife Art
Subcommittee on National Parks
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
April 6, 2006

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding today’s hearing and granting me the privilege of speaking on S. 2252. Thank you also for cosponsoring this legislation that recognizes the best wildlife art museum in Wyoming and the nation. I am testifying in support of a bill that I introduced that provides a national designation to the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. As it should, a national designation signifies something unique that belongs to all of the people of our nation. Just as President Theodore Roosevelt recognized the uniqueness of Devils Tower in Wyoming when he proclaimed it to be the first national monument, my bill recognizes the uniqueness of the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. Wildlife museums are not unusual in the United States. Art museums are not unusual in the United States. This museum, however, sets itself apart from all the others as it focuses on wildlife art. This interdisciplinary approach fosters education as the museum uses art to teach people about wildlife and encourages wildlife lovers to explore art. The museum’s educational focus is clear in their motto “bringing people, wildlife and fine art together.”

It is my understanding that the National Park Service is taking no position on my bill. I can understand their concern that we ensure that there is not another National Museum of Wildlife Art that would object to this designation. In my exploration, I have not found one. However, Congress through its committee hearings and deliberation can explore the justification for providing a national designation to the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

The first question should be, “Is this a reputable museum?” The strongest voice answering “yes” to this question is the museum’s accreditation from the American Association of Museums. Any serious museum strives for this accreditation and the National Museum of Wildlife Art is the only museum specifically focused on wildlife art that is accredited by the AAM. In addition, the designation accurately represents the museum. They have a broad, comprehensive, and national collection that considers the entire history of wildlife art in America and does not focus on any one type of animal.

This bill is not an attempt to provide an avenue for federal appropriations to the museum. I do not intend to seek funding for the museum to accompany the designation. However, this designation will ensure the national reputation, awareness, and future of the museum. The designation would be significant on the state, national and international levels because it would mean that no other institution can claim the name National Museum of Wildlife Art. It is currently the premier museum dedicated to enrich and inspire public appreciation and knowledge of fine art related to nature and wildlife. The museum’s mission is to explore humanity’s relationship with nature by collecting fine art and presenting exceptional exhibitions and educational programs. The national designation would acknowledge that a major museum in Wyoming is the most important museum in the nation of its kind.

The National Museum of Wildlife Art was founded in 1987 with a private gift of a collection of art and is accredited with the American Association of Museums. The National Museum of Wildlife Art features a collection of over 2,000 pieces of art portraying wildlife. Dating from 2000 B.C. to the present, the collection chronicles much of the history of wildlife in art, focusing primarily on European and American painting and sculpture. The collection of American art from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is particularly strong, recording European exploration of the American West. Many of these works predate photography, making them vital representations of the frontier era in the history of the United States.

Using the collection as a base, the central themes to the museum’s programming are connections between people, wildlife and fine art. Even before this designation, people from across the United States had discovered the National Museum of Wildlife Art. Since its inception, it has become an American West destination attraction with an annual attendance of 92,000 visitors from all over the world and an award-winning website that receives more than 10,000 visits per week.

These visitors find wildlife on the walls of the museum, but also outside of its doors. The National Museum of Wildlife Art is housed in an architecturally significant and award-winning 51,000 square foot facility that overlooks the 28,000 acre National Elk Refuge and is adjacent to the Grant Teton National Park. The museum displays and interprets this wildlife art in one of the few remaining areas of the United States where native wildlife roams abundantly.

The works in the museum are united by their subject and their quality. The permanent collection of the National Museum of Wildlife Art has grown to more than 3000 works by important historic American artists including Edward Hicks, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Charles M. Russell, William Merritt Chase, and Alexander Calder, as well as contemporary American artists Steve Kestrel, Bart Walter, Nancy Howe, John Nieto, Jamie Wyeth, and others.

The National Museum of Wildlife Art seeks to educate a diverse audience through collecting fine art focused on wildlife, presenting exceptional exhibitions, providing community, regional, national, and international outreach, and presenting extensive educational programming for adults and children. A national designation presents a great opportunity to use the invaluable resources of the National Museum of Wildlife Art to teach the Nation's school children, through on-site visits, traveling exhibits, classroom curriculum, on-line distance learning, and other educational initiatives.

I look forward to officially recognizing the renown of the National Museum of Wildlife Art through this bill.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.