M. Roy Wilson State Hall becomes latest canvas for University Art Collection
Grace Serra is always looking for ways to ingrain the University Art Collection into the daily lives of Wayne State University students, faculty and staff.
So, when it was first announced that the former State Hall — which opened in 1947 as the first building on campus constructed explicitly for the university — would receive a much-needed renovation and be renamed in honor of President Emeritus M. Roy Wilson, Serra saw it as a big opportunity
“Since the newly renovated M. Roy Wilson State Hall is the most-frequented building on campus, integrating the artwork into that building was a perfect way to meet our mission and more,” said Serra, curator of the University Art Collection. “The mission of the university’s collection is to use art to educate, inspire and foster creative thinking. The best way to meet this mission is to bring these works into the lives of our students daily and to meet them where they are.”
Nearly 73% of all WSU students use State Hall each semester, and more than 90% of students have at least one class in the 76-year-old facility before they graduate. All 13 schools and colleges at Wayne State have used the building, which was renamed to M. Roy Wilson State Hall with unanimous approval by WSU’s Board of Governors in June, in honor of the university’s 12th president.
The completely renovated $80-million structure officially opened its doors on Oct. 30 — with Wilson on hand for a dedication ceremony — and features new classrooms, lecture halls, meeting and lounge spaces, a reflection room, lactation room, and all-gender restrooms.
“This beautiful new facelift has provided state-of-the-art exhibition spaces for the University Art Collection, including one for the iconic work ‘Enigma’ by Gary Eleinko,” Serra said. “It was moved from the David Adamany Undergraduate Library to its beautiful new home on the third floor and is a perfect fit for this light-filled space. In the work, the text ‘Past Future/Future Past’ appears, perfectly reflecting the concept of this renovated building itself.”
Also included in this renovation project is a new sculpture, located at the building’s Cass Avenue entrance, by renowned Detroit artist Robert Sestok, titled “Triosphere.” This is the first of a series of large-scale sculptures that have been gifted to the university by the artist and his brother, Charles Sestok.
Robert Sestok, famed Cass Corridor artist, is perhaps best known for his sculpture work, which can be found throughout Detroit. This includes the sculpture park he founded and runs called City Sculpture. Sestok is a WSU alumnus, who studied at the College for Creative Studies from 1965-69, and later at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1970.
The Cass Corridor art movement was a counter-culture art movement that began in the 1960s (through 1980) when young artists — many who were WSU faculty and students — lived and worked in the Cass Corridor and created some of the most exciting and important artwork of the 20th century.
“The more than 50 works of art hanging in M. Roy Wilson State Hall represent more than Cass Corridor art. They provide a glimpse into the wider diversity of this important collection,” said Hasan Elahi, dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. “It is a collection that celebrates and reveals the significant role that many of our Wayne State University alumni have played in shaping the cultural landscape of this community.”
The UAC first began in 1968 with only about 100 works of art. It has since grown to more than 7,500 through gifts of art. Its primary focus is on contemporary Detroit and regional art, uniquely featuring the most comprehensive collection of the Detroit Cass Corridor Art.
“The University Art Collection strives to create an environment that is provocative, stimulating and challenges the imagination of our students, faculty, staff and visitors through the engagement with great works of art,” said Serra, “and the collection in M. Roy Wilson State Hall does just that.”
By Shawn Wright, Communications Officer for the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.