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Wayne State University Art Collection showcases local talent
The Wayne State University Art Collection (UAC) is a hidden gem containing 6,000 pieces of art featuring works from artists across the state and region, including more than 1,500 from Cass Corridor artists.
Because the collection doesn’t have its own space, works are displayed throughout the university. Keeping in line with WSU’s mission, it’s used to engage and challenge people.
“When choosing artwork, I always ask people what they want to express. When we chose pieces for the president’s reception area, we wanted to inform the people entering the space about the university and Detroit,” said Sandra Schemske, art collection coordinator.
One of Schemske’s favorite and most recent projects was choosing artwork for the School of Business Administration’s student lounge, nicknamed “The Fishbowl” for its open, airy design.
“Administration felt it was important to get the students involved, so I put together a few groups [of pieces] and students were asked to vote on their favorite through an online poll. It was fitting they selected the fish-themed group.”
Another building with a great variety of UAC artwork is the David Adamany Undergraduate Library. The third floor houses a display dedicated to avant-garde artwork and artifacts from Detroit’s iconic Cass Corridor movement. The Irvin D. Reid Honors College also displays a number of pieces in the UGL.
Currently, only a small portion of the collection is on public display. Most of it is placed around campus to create ArtWalk, a walking tour featuring 27 works. Tour docents are members of the Women of Wayne Alumni Association, without which the University Art Collection wouldn’t be what it is today. In 1969, the Women of Wayne of helped formally establish the UAC by funding its catalogue.
Another architect of the UAC is James Pearson Duffy. It wasn’t enough for the local businessman to be a patron of the arts — he was a major supporter of the Detroit art scene, especially the Cass Corridor movement, commissioning and installing countless pieces in his warehouse, office and home.
During the early 90s, Duffy donated more than 1,000 pieces of Cass Corridor artwork the University Art Collection. Duffy’s gifts eventually tallied more than 1,500 pieces, including 20 years of letter correspondence between himself and Cass Corridor artist Gordon Newton. A three-year project cataloguing the Duffy-Newton correspondence is nearing completion.
“Each envelope, each postcard is its own work of art. Aside from the artistic value, this is 20 years looking into the daily thoughts of a contemporary artist. It’s an amazing collection in its own right,” said Schemske.
For more information about the University Art Collection or to inquire about art for your college or department, visit artcollection.wayne.edu/.