The Permanent Collection was started in 1962 with the gift of a Marvin Cone painting "I Have Loved the Unloved" from the Waterloo/Cedar Falls Junior League. Through additional gifts the collection has developed in four directions:
Midwest Art - This collection reflects the diversity of Midwest art and includes works by American Regionalist masters Grant Wood, Marvin Cone and Thomas Hart Benton.
Haitian/Caribbean Folk Art - The largest public collection of Haitian art in the United States featuring colorful paintings, powerful metal sculpture and glittering beaded and sequined banners.
American Decorative Arts - A collection of exceptional works in clay, metal, fiber, glass and wood.
International Folk Art - An exciting collection including fine textiles, fetish objects and decorative items representing cultures from around the globe.
Public Art - A collection of monumental works spread across the greater City of Waterloo, works range from murals and mosaics to bigger than life sculptures.