Art from the Collectors Circle: Expanding the Legacy 2010-2020

October 14, 2021 – February 5, 2022

Please note: the WFMA is closed for electrical maintenance October 16-23, 2021.

Neal Ambrose-Smith, Where are My Heroes, 2016, Color lithograph with watercolor additions; Museum purchase made possible by the 2017 Collectors Circle.

Ways to engage with this exhibition:

Curator’s Exhibition Tour
Saturdays, 1:30 pm


Lecture by Catherine Prose
MSU Professor of Art
November 9, 5:30 pm

Explore a recently completed print exchange project and the nature of collecting such works of art.


On the Wall Workshop
January 6, 13, 15, 22

Watercolor with Ginger Boller
Inspired by the works of Emmi Whitehorse

About the Exhibition

Welcome to a retrospective of art acquired by the WFMA Collectors Circle. Retrospective normally refers to achievement by a single artist, highlighting the changes and developments in a body of work, often over a lifetime. In this exhibition, the term illustrates how a decade of collecting has contributed to opportunities for museum visitors to find relevance at the WFMA by strategically selecting works that increase the breadth, depth, and diversity of the Permanent Collection. 

The Collectors Circle, formed by dedicated community members in 2010, creates a vehicle for the Museum to collect in support of its focus of American art on paper. Members experience first-hand what is available in the art market, how selected works enhance the museum collection, and what goes into care, conservation, and presentation of art. Members know their impact by seeing acquisitions curated into exhibitions that serve the cultural life of the region and reflect the human experience for generations to come.


Dive Deeper

Over the last decade, Circle members purchased 82 artworks that expand the WFMA’s half century legacy of collecting.  

Why collect art? 

What can be learned from a collection? 

Most people, on a personal level, possess an impulse to collect. This may take many forms, from a collection composed of just one special object to a large collection of carefully curated objects that fit a personal interest or aesthetic. How does this contrast to a museum collection? 

Unlike a private (personal) collection, a museum collection is not only available to the public, but also belongs to the public. Museums are steadfast protectors and organizers of these valuable items for public benefit, such as scholarship and enjoyment. This principle is known as Public Trust.

With this understanding of the reason museums collect art, what can be learned from the WFMA Permanent Collection? Collected artworks meet one or more criteria, designed to enrich education, inclusion, and engagement. To become part of the WFMA Permanent Collection, a work must: 

  • Relate in a beneficial way to the rest of the collection by complimenting or connecting to other pieces already within the collection. 
  • Represent an important moment or movement in American art history. 
  • Help create a diversified collection that allows all viewers to see themselves represented in the collection. 
  • Have something unique or interesting about its creation that is not currently represented in the collection. 

This retrospective exhibition illustrates ten years of Collectors Circle contributions to the Permanent Collection that have helped the WFMA grow in each of these dynamic areas.