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Watkins Collection

Text by Jonathan Bucci

Don Kimes, Rising V
Don Kimes, Rising V, 1992
Gift of the Artist

For the past 60 years, the Watkins Collection has served the mission of its founders well. As a teaching resource for the Art Department at American University it has become a living memorial to artist and educator C. Law Watkins. However, at the same time, the Collection has quietly grown into one of the most important cultural resources focused on Washington art history. Created as a memorial collection in 1945 to honor Law Watkins, founder of the modern Art Department at American and former Associate Director at the Phillips Collection, the Watkins Collection tells the story of Modern art and its offshoots in Washington, DC with side stories related to what was happening in the larger contemporary art world.

The collection has grown through generous donations from collectors and judicious management by the studio art faculty. William Calfee, Ben Summerford, Luciano Penay, and Ron Haynie, all former members of the painting faculty, provided direction and care for a collection that has grown from 25 original donations to over 4,500 artworks today.

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