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Campus is 'alive' with artwork

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July 26, 2017

Wayne State students and employees don’t have to travel far to enjoy a treasure trove of artwork. An eclectic collection containing more than 6,000 pieces awaits them on campus.

Sculptures, paintings, prints, ethnographic objects, statues and works that defy description have been catalogued, maintained and placed throughout campus courtesy of generous donors and the Wayne State University Art Collection (UAC).

The UAC represents approximately 2,000 individual artists and 300 unknown artists. A majority of the collection features works by Michigan and regional artists from the mid-to-late 20th century; however, international artists are also represented, including German Expressionists Kathe Kollwitz, Erich Heckel, Max Klinger, Otto Mueller and Max Pechstein, and Italian sculptor Giacomo Manzu, who created the “Nymph and Faun” sculpture located near the McGregor Reflecting Pools and Sculpture Garden.

Included among notable U.S. artists is Jacob Lawrence, who lived and created his art in the center of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s. Lawrence was the first African American artist to receive sustained mainstream recognition in the United States. 

Closer to home, the Cass Corridor is a significant focus of the collection. As part of a major gift from James Pearson Duffy, the UAC received nearly 40 years of artwork mailed to him from Cass Corridor artist Gordon Newton. The UAC documented, catalogued and archivally preserved approximately 1,400 pieces of Newton’s “‘mail art.”

Although the collection doesn’t have a dedicated space for permanent exhibitions, buildings and lawns provide showcases across campus. The David Adamany Undergraduate Library has several works in the Student Academic Success Center, including the presidential portrait exhibition and a gallery in the Irvin D. Reid Honors College on the second floor, and the permanent “Cass Corridor Culture” display on the third floor. Artwork is also on display in the Faculty/Administration Building and the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and in the School of Medicine’s Scott Hall and Mazurek Medical Education Commons. A walk across campus will also take you past more than 20 public sculptures.

Sharing the collection with the public is an important goal. Under special circumstances, the UAC loans artwork to off-site exhibitions. Currently, Robert Sestok’s “Rock and Roll” sculpture is on exhibit at Cobo Center in Detroit. During the summer of 2015, Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art exhibited the works of Wayne State University alumna Mary Ann Aitken.

Grace Serra, art collections curator, said the UAC has maintained a tradition of high professional standards and garnered a great deal of respect within the art community.

Serra hopes to continue the record of success and further develop outreach and education. “My goal is for the University Art Collection to reflect the rich diversity of our student population and community as a whole, and use it as a tool to inspire innovation and teach students about the richness of all cultures through the arts to better prepare them to be global citizens.”  

For further information about the University Art Collection, visit artcollection.wayne.edu

Over the coming months, look for videos, stories and events featuring some of the many Wayne State initiatives and passionate individuals committed to the arts and culture. This content is part of WSU's Warriors in Action campaign highlighting how Wayne State makes a difference in Detroit and beyond.

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