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Paul Collins works on exhibit at UT thanks to Michigan entrepreneur

The fifth floor of the Raymon H. Mulford Library at The University of Toledo is now a celebration of humanity with powerful portraits painted by Michigan artist Paul Collins.

The John W. & Betty Jane Barfield Exhibit features pieces inspired by people from all over the world that give a glimpse into the different cultures reflected in the University’s community. The collection is a donation from Michigan entrepreneur John Barfield who founded The Bartech Group staffing and workforce management company based in Southfield, Mich.

“We embrace diversity here at UT and this exhibit compliments that philosophy,” said Marcie Ferguson, director of corporate relations, operations and initiatives, who has organized the installation efforts for the collection.

A ribbon-cutting and reception for the collection will be 4-5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28. Barfield, UT Interim President Nagi Naganathan and President Emeritus Lloyd Jacobs will make remarks and Collins will be in attendance.

Barfield, who began his career as a janitor at the University of Michigan before starting his own cleaning company that evolved into the Bartech Group of today that employs and manages the daily work assignments for more than 35,000 associates and more than $3 billion in contingent labor for major employers around the world, began collecting Collins’ work in 1975.

“The life story of John Barfield is inspiring to all,” said Chuck Lehnert, vice president for corporate relations. ?”And he always remembers to keep the important things first and in order: faith, family and friends.”

Barfield had commissioned Collins to create works for his company offices. The artist went to Harlem and returned with 19 sketches that blew Barfield away. He later sponsored Collins’ trip to Kenya and Tanzania to paint the Maasai people and preserve a dying culture. Pieces from each trip are now part of the UT collection.

Collins, a native of Grand Rapids, Mich., is credited with more than 100 exhibitions around the world, including “Great Beautiful Black Women” recognizing history makers such as Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks and “America at Work” showcasing the American worker’s contributions to the country and its success.

His mural of President Gerald R. Ford is on display in the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and he also created the Ford Museum Commemorative Poster for the opening of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Barfield donated his collection of Collins’ works to the Charles H. Wright African American Museum in Detroit. When he showed the collection to then UT President Jacobs, who he was introduced to by Dr. Nina McClelland, who was dean of the UT College of Arts and Sciences at the time, they discussed putting it on display at UT.

Juanita Moore, president and CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American Museum, agreed to permanently loan the collection to UT and it is now on display on the Health Science Campus.

“I’m glad that we were able to keep this art intact, first by giving it to the museum and now by having it at the University,” Barfield said. “We’re very excited to see the unveiling of it.”

To RSVP to the event, submit the online reservation form at by April 22.

Media Coverage
The Blade (May 14, 2015)

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