Advancement & Public Services

Brian Anderson

More than 100 artworks of America's past captured along historic Route 66 and other cross-country highways created by the late Western Illinois University alumnus Warren H. Anderson were recently donated to the WIU Art Gallery Permanent Collection.

Brian Anderson gave the University the generous gift of a variety of his father’s artworks, which include his “Retro Roadside America” and “Vanishing Roadside America” series of neon diner and motel signs and old sculptured gas pumps, as well as images of vintage cars and architectural details of America’s pre-interstate highways from the 1930s-1950s.

The collection stands as the largest donation in quantity and value per single gift in history. It has been valued at $77,705.

"We appreciate the generosity of Brian Anderson in giving his father's works to Western, and the artistry of Warren Anderson in these wonderful works,” Vice President for Advancement and Public Services Dan Hendricks said.

His works have been widely exhibited across the U.S. and are in the permanent collections of several museums. Art forms Anderson incorporated include photography, two- and three-dimensional montages, Prismacolor pencil drawings and boxed assemblages (found objects and drawings combined).

"In all those varied forms, there is also a hint of a slightly offbeat romanticism. In essence, my art commemorates the vernacular of the past from the heightened perspective of the present," said Anderson about his 2006 “Vanishing Roadside America” exhibit at the Etherton Gallery in Tucson (AZ).

"We are proud and privileged to receive this donation of Warren Anderson's work from his son, Brian. Already some of the works are on loan due to their relevance and popularity," said College of Fine Arts and Communication Dean Paul Krieder.

Born in Moline (IL), Anderson earned his Bachelor of Science in Education (art) from Western Illinois (State College) in 1950 and his master’s degree from the University of Iowa in 1951. He taught in the Crystal Lake (IL) school district until 1956, when he joined the University of Arizona faculty and founded the department of art education. Anderson, who earned his Ph.D. at Stanford University in 1961, taught for 30 years at Arizona, retiring in 1986. He authored several articles and a widely recognized text book on art education, "Art Learning Situations in Elementary Education."

Anderson, who was married to the late WIU alumna Audrey Anderson, received Western's Alumni Achievement Award in 1980. His “Vanishing Roadside America” exhibition was a featured solo show at Western’s Art Gallery during the 1994 season.

"I remember him with great fondness; he cared a lot about Western," said John Graham, curator of exhibits at WIU’s Art Gallery. "I also greatly appreciate the efforts of the staff at the Etherton Gallery in getting this extensive collection to us. They were highly instrumental in this process."

The Etherton Gallery includes a retrospective of Anderson’s work on its website at