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Mikki Van Wyk adds Native American artwork to Art Museum of WVU collection

Marie Watt work of art

A longtime friend of West Virginia University has facilitated the purchase of a Marie Watt work of art for the Art Museum of WVU’s permanent collection.

In honor of her late daughter, Heather, who collected and loved all art, Mikki Van Wyk provided the funds for “Companion Species (Constellation),” by Marie Watt. 

“Through generations, a love for art has always been a part of our family,” Van Wyk said.

Van Wyk remembers first being interested in art in picture books as a child, which grew into a deeper appreciation as she began visiting galleries with her parents. Several family members over the generations were artists, writers and musicians.

A longtime friend of WVU, Van Wyk first became involved with the arts on campus during her tenure on the WVU Foundation Board, when she joined the push to build the Art Museum of WVU. Since then, Van Wyk has stayed involved with the Art Museum as a Friend and Board Member. 

In speaking with Art Museum Director Todd J. Tubutis, Van Wyk learned about Watt’s work and saw how it aligned with the Art Museum’s mission to bring in more diverse works to the permanent collection.

“I wasn’t previously aware of Marie Watt’s work but I was immediately drawn to the fact that Ms. Watt was a Native American who took native Americans blankets and other Native American heirlooms and repurposed them to make contemporary art,” Van Wyk said.

“Companion Species (Constellation),” is a pennant, which Van Wyk found fitting for the University’s collection. “It reminds you of a typical college symbol,” Van Wyk said. “And combines my view of the spirit of West Virginia University with my admiration of the artist and her works.”

In reference to “Companion Species (Constellation),” Watt said she made the piece with Pac-man on her mind.

“Instead of employing colorful ghosts, I’ve included a starlike form that I first saw in a turn-of-the-century Indigenous basket from the Hallie Ford Museum’s collection,” Watt said. “The stars in my piece reference the Pleiades constellation, as well as Seven Sisters stories.

“Stars are a reminder of a sky space we share in common. Somewhere, right now, someone can probably see this constellation. I appreciate that the night sky connects us through space and time, through stories that are ancient and modern.”

For more information on the Art Museum of WVU, visit

This gift was made through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donations on behalf of the University.

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