KSU founded its art collection in 1972 with a gift of five prints from metro collectors Fred D. Bentley Sr. and J. Allan Sellars. In 2007, Clayton donated the most comprehensive collection of paintings and drawings by Italian-born nature artist Athos Menaboni, a grouping that has grown to 100 pieces.
"We started very small, and next thing you know it had grown into a larger collection than anyone had imagined," said Meeks, noting that giving mushroomed after the Bailey Performance Center's exhibit spaces opened. "Then you begin to say, ‘Oh my goodness, [what do we do about] storage and conservation, all of the things that go with that?'"
Because of conservation and security concerns, the N.C. Wyeth painting, "Jonathan and David" (circa 1929), for instance, rarely has been shown.
The new museum, expected to command at least 7,500 square feet, would include climate-controlled storage and serve as a center for interdisciplinary research.
The state's third-largest university, KSU now has 600 students in its bachelor of fine arts program, and the visual arts are a growing area of study. The school, which offers an art history minor, is awaiting approval to add an art history major starting in fall 2011.
"The [new] galleries will be there to support our art history program," Meeks said of the museum, while also being open to those attending Bailey Performance Center events and the public at large.
An architect has not been selected, and the current conceptual plan could expand if the school raises more than $1 million in its campaign.
The growth in arts studies means that KSU has already outgrown its seven-year-old Visual Arts Building and is considering classroom expansion, as well.
"It’s a wonderful building and met our needs at that time," Meeks said. "But it’s like roads: By time you get it built, you need a new lane."