The permanent collection began in 1972 with a gift from local collectors Fred D. Bentley, Sr. and J. Alan Sellars of prints by Thomas Hart Benton, Lyonel Feininger, George Grosz, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Jerome Myers. Since this first gift, Mr. Bentley has made annual donations of 18th, 19th, and 20th century American art to the collection, including works by John Kensett, Gilbert Stuart, and Rembrandt Peale.
In 1997, Richard and Judy Marks gave a major work by American ceramicist Viola Frey–Leaning Man III–and in subsequent years added many significant 20th century paintings and sculptures to the collection, including a small collection of contemporary studio glass and works by Karel Appel, Michael Goldberg, Victor Vasarely, and Joe Zucker.
In 1999, Bernard Zuckerman donated nearly 125 sculptures, photographs, and paintings by his late wife, Ruth Zuckerman. This body of work, mostly consisting of stone and bronze figural pieces exploring universal themes of love and family, is currently housed in the Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center, which opened in 2007. Phase II of the Art Museum will feature a gallery dedicated to the life and work of Ruth Zuckerman.
In 2007, Don Russell Clayton gave his extensive collection of work by the Italian-born, Georgia artist Athos Menaboni. With support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Kennesaw State University completed Phase I of the Art Museum to offer rotating exhibitions of the collection and serve as an educational center for the artist. Now one of the largest assemblages of Menaboni’s work in the country, the collection has continued to grow through annual gifts by Mr. Clayton and other collectors.
In its nearly 40 years of existence, the collection has grown to consist of nearly 1,000 paintings, sculpture, and works on paper dating from the late-15th century to the present. While the core of the collection has remained 19th and 20th century American art, the acquisition of works from Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa has given the collection an increasingly global scope, enhancing Kennesaw State University’s institutional focus on international and intercultural education.