Vance Kirkland (1904–1981) was among the most important Colorado and regional painters of the 20th century. He was born November 3rd in Convoy, Ohio, a small country town west of Cleveland, near the Indiana border. Kirkland studied at the Cleveland School of Art, receiving a Diploma Degree of Painting (1927) and a Bachelor of Education in Art (BEA, 1928), continuing a second year of studies in art history and art education at the Cleveland School of Education and Western Reserve University (1926–1928). Kirkland married Anne Fox Oliphant in 1941 and enjoyed traveling and entertaining with her.
In addition to his 55-year career as an innovative and successful painter, he was a remarkable educator and collector. Kirkland came to Denver in January, 1929 as the Founding Director of the current School of Art at the University of Denver (DU) at Chappell House. Aside from his influence as a professor, Kirkland was active in the local art community and worked to establish the Modern Art movement in Denver, where he lived for the rest of his life. He left DU in 1932 to establish the Kirkland School of Art (1932–1946) at 1311 Pearl Street. The Kirkland School of Art was highly successful, and in 1946 DU enticed Kirkland to return as director of its school of art until his retirement in 1969. He continued to paint in his Pearl Street studio until his death in 1981.