Historic Ann Arbor art collection donated to Concordia University

An art collection recently acquired by Concordia University Ann Arbor (CUAA) provides an extensive, one-of-a-kind artistic look into Ann Arbor's history.


The collection, donated by Ann Arbor resident and businessman Jim Irwin, comprises 33 paintings depicting Ann Arbor buildings or homes from the 19th century. Irwin researched historical photographs of Ann Arbor and commissioned Florida artist Daniel Gregory from 2000 to 2004 to paint scenes of daily life during that time period.


"I wanted to tell some sort of story about the people who owned the buildings or walked the streets of the town," Irwin says.


Irwin kept the collection in Wolverine Technical Staffing's downtown Victorian-style office at 35 Research Dr. for years, only showing the paintings to friends. When he sold the building, he began to look for a space to house the paintings.


Irwin chose CUAA after having conversations with the school's alumni and donor relations department and observing its campus culture throughout the years.


"There was only one choice," Irwin says. "The faculty and students seem to be one happy family on a quest for knowledge that you don't see at larger universities. They all have a real mission for learning."


Irwin also hoped the collection would contribute to Concordia's "Ann Arbor footprint."


Laura Thomas, CUAA's senior director of donor relations and alumni and fellow Rotarian with Irwin, says she hopes the collection will help Concordia connect with Ann Arbor since not many people know a lot about the university.


"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to open doors for the community and invite them in," Thomas says. "Jim's gift is a wonderful bridge in that way and we can have a conversation with the public about something we love, Ann Arbor."


Emily Benda is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. You can contact her at emily@emilybenda.com.


Photos by Alli Milot.

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