Product design student a featured artist at Chicago Museum of Science and Industry

Contact: Erin Flynn
A necklace fashioned from gold and copper metals.

Kendall Collins' necklace, "Pendant of Nada"

CHICAGO—Art has always been part of Kendall Collins' life.

"I've been drawing since even before I can remember," he says. "I still have a bunch of sketchbooks from elementary, middle and high school, so it's been a progression for the majority of my life."

The Western Michigan University student has come a long way from sketching on notebook paper, finding his artwork now on display at the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. Not one but two of Collins' original pieces were selected from entries from across the country for the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry's Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition—the longest running exhibition of African-American art. It's the second year in a row his work will be on display.

A painting of a man kneeling in a desert landscape with stone sculptures.

Collins' painting, "City of the Dead"

"It's definitely a source of pride for me," says Collins, a junior in the product design program, who grew up in suburban Chicago.

The pieces featured in the juried exhibit include a watercolor painting based on African art titled "City of the Dead," as well as a necklace Collins created in a metals class at Western. The striking piece, titled "Pendant of Nada," is composed of textured metal and features a sun and moon. His design is meant to blur the lines between traditional technique and futuristic fashion.

"I had been taking an art history course, and we were learning about different jewelry types that were made in early medieval England and the cloisonné technique that they used to create different baked glass motifs," he says. "I kind of incorporated that into this completely new style."

Collins' entry in last year's exhibit—a metal sculpture—was also crafted in a class on campus.

Collins stands next to his sculpture featured in the Black Creativity exhibit in 2020.

"It was a welded piece that kind of represented a queen holding a metal sash," he says. Collins credits the diversification of his artistic repertoire to his courses at Western. "Expanding into different mediums is probably the best help I've gotten when it comes to developing more as an artist, and it's something that is always going to help expand what I do in the future."

Being featured among outstanding Black artists from across the country holds special meaning to Collins, knowing the impact it could have on kids who visit the museum just as he did as a child.

"It's nice to see the next generation get a chance to see what abilities artists that look like them have," he says. "It's an awfully good thought to have, that someone might be inspired if they walk around and see my piece or have a greater emotional reaction."

The Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition will be on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry through July 4. Learn more about the exhibit on the museum's website.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.