Museum of Friends

Manhattan expat artists Brendt Berger and Maria Cocchiarelli Berger opened the Museum of Friends in 2006 in a 6,000-square-foot building in the heart of downtown Walsenburg. While they wished to bring art and culture to Walsenburg, they also believed there was more meaning to collecting art than as an investment. For them, art was to be shared for pleasure, education, and gratitude.

The Museum of Friends is a contemporary art museum whose core collection stems from this very philosophy. The collection began with 600 pieces of paintings, photographs, sculpture, and other works donated entirely by the Bergers’ friends, including renowned artists Dean Fleming, Dennis Oppenheim, Mark di Suvero, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Camille Seaman, and more. Today, the collection has reached 1,700 works of art.

Cool Fact: One very unique part of the collection, housed in what is known as The Pacific Rooms, includes items related to Brendt Berger’s Hawaiian ancestry as well as other items collected from the Pacific Rim.

These friends continue to provide the museum with additional works of art to expand its collection. These pieces fill the second floor of the museum while the main floor is used for rotating exhibits.

The museum, considered the only counter-culture museum in the U.S., also offers on-site and outreach educational programs and a reference library.

About Brendt Berger and Maria Cocchiarelli Berger

The two have long and varied backgrounds as productive artists, art educators, and curators. Maria was the former curator for the Mark di Suvero Foundation and the University of Wyoming art department and was the director of education at the Kansas City Art Institute and Queens College in New York.

Brendt was an early participant in the Libre artists community in southern Colorado and a similar community in Maine. He taught for many years from Mexico to New York and was a member of San Francisco’s Breakfast Group—a collection of well-known artists in the Bay Area.