From its modest beginnings in the 1960’s, the Wayne State University Art Collection has grown from 127 objects to include nearly 6000 works of art. Former University Curator and Professor Emeritus, Richard Biliatis, founded the collection in the belief that it would "provide a sense of history, as well as a source of education and enrichment for students, faculty, alumni and community." A majority of the collection represents works by Michigan and regional artists from the mid-to-late 20th century, including significant gifts from the James Pearson Duffy collection of over 1500 works, predominately by artists of the ‘Cass Corridor,’ sometimes referred to as Detroit’s first avant garde. Also included in the collection are ethnographic objects from Africa and South America; the Arthur C. Danto Master Print Collection; a large collection of late 20th c. contemporary prints, sculptures and paintings by nationally and internationally known artists from the Eugene Applebaum collection (exhibited at the Applebaum Pharmacy Building); artworks by Wayne State University faculty and alumni; and an important collection of large-scale public sculptures. A growing aspect of the collection is work by African-American artists such as Romare Bearden, Sam Gilliam, Tyree Guyton, Jacob Lawrence, Al Loving, Howardena Pindell, Hughie Lee Smith and Larry Walker.
The university’s enduring philosophy is that pieces in the collection appear throughout the campus – in signature buildings, libraries, the medical complex, meeting rooms, the President’s office and residence, and on the university’s malls and lawns. Integrated into public spaces, the collection embraces and enhances the everyday lives of people on campus and in the surrounding communities.