Much of that collection has sat in storage for years, said Louise Siddons, the university's curator of collections.
The largest share of the university's art collection comes from the collection at the Gardiner Art Gallery, Siddons said. But the gallery isn't the only entity on campus that collects art — the Edmon Low Library also serves as a major repository. Much of the library's collection comes from the now-defunct OSU Museum of Natural and Cultural History, which closed in 1994.
The university's collection has grown quickly over the past three years as donors heard about the Postal Plaza gallery, Siddons said. Today, it includes about 2,000 pieces, she said.
The collection is especially strong in a few key areas, Siddons said, including 19th- and 20th-century African art, Oklahoma Modernism and late 20th-century American prints and drawings.
Once the gallery is complete, Siddons said, it will give the art department a dynamic space for programming. Many people think of a museum as a static place where people go to view art, she said. But the museum has already been active in the community and on campus, even though the collection doesn't yet have a permanent home.
The Postal Plaza gallery will allow the university to take a resource it already had — the permanent art collection — and turn it into a viable part of the curriculum by displaying it and designing programs around it.
The gallery's downtown location will also allow the university to extend those programs to the members of the larger Stillwater community who may not have any connection to the university, she said.
“I think the value of it is going to be the programming that happens in it,” she said.