WSU mourns the loss of artist Gilda Snowden '77 '79...

The Detroit News, Metro Times

Detroit artist Gilda Snowden dies at 60 was 'generous with everybody'

Gilda Snowden, a prominent Detroit artist and professor at the College for Creative Studies for 31 years, died unexpectedly Tuesday morning of heart failure. She was 60. Snowden grew up in northwest Detroit. A graduate of Cass Tech high school, she majored in fashion design. She started at Wayne State University in 1972 as a sociology major but switched to art. She earned her BFA in advertising design and painting and MFA in painting from Wayne State and started teaching for the university in 1979. The Detroit Institute of Arts owns five Snowden pieces, one of which, “Monument,” is displayed in the African-American galleries. In 2009, she was awarded a prestigious Kresge Artist Fellowship.


DETROIT (Sept. 9, 2014) -- It is with deep sadness that Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts announces the passing of alumna Gilda Snowden ’77 ’79. She died on Sept. 9, 2014.

“We are deeply grieved by the loss of Gilda Snowden. Her contributions to our university are many, including a significant interest in preserving and promoting the work of Cass Corridor artists,” said Matthew Seeger, dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. “We are grateful for the numerous works she created. Her legacy will live on in her art and in the memories of her students and colleagues, and will continue to inspire future generations of painters, printmakers and educators.”

A graduate of Cass Technical High school, Ms. Snowden held both bachelors and master of fine arts degrees from Wayne State. She taught painting and drawing at the university from 1979 to 1985 prior to becoming a full time instructor at the College for Creative Studies (CCS). She taught at CCS for more than 30 years, including administrative roles as chair of the fine arts department and the painting section. She was renowned as the quintessential teacher.

“Gilda has always been passionate about the importance of her experiences at Wayne State as a student. Over the years, she continued to have a positive impact on WSU students, and although she taught elsewhere, we have always considered her a Wayne State colleague. She has had a profound and lasting effect on the Detroit art community,” said John Richardson, chair of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History at Wayne State.

A beacon in the art community, Snowden began exhibiting her work while still a graduate student at Wayne. She exhibited locally, nationally and internationally since 1977, in venues that include the Sherry Washington Gallery, Dell Pryor Galleries, O.K. Harris/David Klein Gallery, GR N’Namdi Gallery, Willis Gallery, Focus Gallery, Detroit Artists Market, Feigenson Gallery, JRainey Gallery, Saginaw Art Museum, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

She was gallery director with the Detroit Repertory Theatre and curated shows at the Cranbrook Academy of Art Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Willis Gallery, Pontiac Art Center, Focus Gallery, Dell Pryor Galleries, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Zeitgeist Gallery.

She was honored in 2009 by being chosen as one of eighteen artists to receive the inaugural $25,000 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship. Her other awards and honors are numerous and include recognition from the National Conference of Artists, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Fellowship, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs, New Initiative for the Arts (NIFTA) and many others.

Her extensive list of museum and corporate collections includes the Detroit Institute of Arts, Ameritech Company, Dayton Hudson Corporation, United American Healthcare Corporation, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Detroit Receiving Hospital, Detroit Public School System, Neiman-Marcus Corporation, Dykema Gossett, Compuware Corporation and many other businesses and civic entities.

Gilda Snowden was a resident of Detroit and she leaves behind her husband, her daughter and a host of friends, supporters, former students and ardent admirers.

2624 West Grand Blvd.
Detroit, Mi 48208

Visit the Wayne State University libraries' oral history project interview with Gilda Snowden.

[Pictured at right: Snowden's Flowers in the Studio, 1977, oil on canvas, 20x16", gift of James F. Duffy Jr., 1992, Wayne State University Art Collection]

Wayne State University’s College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts serves 2,200 students majoring in 16 undergraduate and 11 graduate programs in art and art history, communication, music, theatre and dance. Wayne State University, located in the heart of Detroit’s Midtown Cultural Center, is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 28,000 students.

Contact: Rhonda Welsh,, 313-577-1087.