Arts / Faith and Humanities / Campus Community

Honoring the Legacy of Poet and Writer Minnie Collins

Written by Kiyomi Kishaba

June 7, 2023

Picture of painting of Minnie Collins with artist Hiawatha D.

Image credit: Parker Wichelmann

The painting "Minnie" with the artist Hiawatha D.

A new work featuring the trailblazer, created by acclaimed artist Hiawatha D., is part of Seattle University’s permanent collection. 

Seattle University recently unveiled a striking new art piece, Minnie, created by renowned artist Hiawatha D., that celebrates the remarkable life of Minnie Collins, an educator, poet and author whose words have influenced generations and helped shape our regional identity. 

The work is displayed in the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons and is part of SU’s permanent art collection. And it's the second piece by Hiawatha D. on campus, as his painting 10:22 AM is in the Chapel of St. Ignatius.

At the unveiling, Collins was in attendance along with the artist, academics and students celebrating the addition of this remarkable piece to SU’s collection.

Sarah Barbara Watstein, dean of the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, said she is delighted to have the portrait as a vibrant addition to the library’s walls.  

“As the many testaments at the unveiling celebration affirmed, Minnie is clearly a person of remarkable character and achievement,” Watstein said. “She helps us understand who we are and reminds us of what we can aspire to be. Her commemorative poem, Memory Temples, provided a perfect exclamation point to the unveiling.” 

Most recently, Collins is known for the screenplay Troubled Waters (2020), the essay Sojourner Truth Prevails (2021) and as an editor/contributor to the anthology Black Writers UnMasked (2022). She is also the author of The Purple Wash (2012), which inspired the painting by Hiawatha D. 

The event also featured a riveting performance by Dr. Quinton Morris, SU professor and concert violinist. Dr. Morris was a student of Collins at the Seattle Central Running Start program in the 1990s and spoke to Collins’ impact on his education.

“Minnie Collins and her influence on 20th and 21st century writers is equivalent to one receiving a letter written from home,” Dr. Morris said. “She's influenced thousands of students to fall in love with words and I'm grateful I had an opportunity to study under her tutelage. We're so thankful to have a portrait commemorating her success and legacy at our university.” 

Artist Hiawatha D. is a graduate of the Burnley School of Professional Art whose art focuses on Black people who transcend historical, societal, racial and economic challenges. 

Josef Venker, S.J., curator and manager of the SU Art Collection, said “My greatest hope is that someday, someone—be it a student, a faculty or staff member or even a visitor to campus—will see the portrait of Minnie and be inspired by the artist’s image and her example and say, ‘Maybe I can be a poet, too.’ When that occurs, we will see the transformative power of art.”

Seattle University gratefully acknowledges Judy Pigott for helping to bring Minnie to SU.