The AU art collection, comprising approximately 700 pieces, was begun in the early days of the university in 1978. Due to the knowledge and shrewd management of the original art committee members, this small university’s collection contains significant pieces by important Canadian artists.
It has a strong focus on Western Canadian artists. David Alexander, David Thauberger, Adeline Rockett, Jim Davies and Williams Kurelek are represented. There are a lot of paintings that could be classified as Alberta modernist abstracts from such artists as Perehudoff, Douglas Haynes and Clay Ellis.
Works on paper make up a large part of the collection, including watercolours by Harry Savage and Robert Sinclair as well as prints by John Snow, Lindal Osborne and Liz Ingram. Works from Aboriginal artists make up a significant part of the collection: Jane Ash Poitras, Jim Logan, Alan Sapp, Daphne Odjig, Norval Morisseau, Peter Shostak, Bill Reid and Dempsey Bob, among others, are represented. Works that speak to living in the Canadian culture and environment in a wider sense include pieces by David Blackwood and Sylvain Voyer as well as a collection of political cartoons by Duncan Macpherson.
Three dimensional works include a large welded-steel sculpture by Douglas Bentham, playful ceramic pigs by Gwen Hughes, a motorized chrome, brass and steel installation piece by Glenn Guillet, a monumental silk-ribbon sculpture by J. Staniszkis and M. Suchy, and a serene sculpture, Save (2009), by Catherine Burgess. The donation of a collection of 30 Inuit soapstone carvings is being finalized.
AU staff members comprise the AU Art Committee, the steward of the collection. The committee maintains the collection, organizes exhibits and manages purchases and donations.