Posted on Friday, February 13, 2009
Hobart alumnus endows the visual arts
Like College founder William Smith, nurseryman Clarence "Dave" Davis Jr. '48 is planting important seeds in the Hobart and William Smith community. His recent leadership gifts to the Colleges will enhance the visual arts on campus, funding a significant renovation of the Colleges' existing gallery space and a continuing endowment for the gallery as well as creating an endowed chair in the visual arts.
"For the first time in the history of the Colleges, we will be able to welcome significant art exhibitions in space that is secure and appropriate for these works," says President Mark D. Gearan. "Dave Davis shares our vision that Houghton House, Elliott Studio Arts Center and the Goldstein Carriage House can be complemented with a first-class gallery worthy of our student work and exhibitions. His leadership gift for an Endowed Chair in the Visual Arts will take our academic program to a new level and we are grateful for his extraordinary generosity."
The first of Davis' gifts will enable the Colleges to renovate the existing gallery space at Houghton House and endow a fund to maintain the gallery. In honor of this contribution, when the renovations are complete, the Colleges will rename the art gallery ‘The Clarence A. Davis '48 Gallery at Houghton House.'
"The renovated gallery will make it possible for us to bring a wider variety of art to campus, to safely exhibit more fragile works and to exhibit a higher quality of art," says Associate Professor of Art Nick Ruth. "Artists and curators love to exhibit in spaces that complement their work and ideas, and the Davis Gallery will be just such a space."
Davis' second gift, made through bequest, will fund the Clarence A. Davis '48 Endowed Chair in the Visual Arts. In this gift, Davis has embedded a unique challenge, which he hopes will encourage alumni, alumnae and friends of the Colleges to raise an additional $750,000 to support the endowed chair.
"I think that when people see the renaissance going on at Houghton House and the recent additions of the Katherine D. Elliott Studio Arts Building and the Goldstein Carriage House, they'll want to get involved," says Davis. "My gift gets a start on things, but I can't do it alone. The more people who are interested in the project, the sooner we'll have something really worthwhile."
Davis is optimistic that his gifts and the challenge will have a long-term impact on the way visual arts are taught at Hobart and William Smith in the future.
"It is my hope that once the gallery is completed, it will stimulate an interest in art and set an example for others to make gifts of art and support," he says. "Someday I hope that Hobart and William Smith will have an extensive art collection and a dedicated art museum to host it."
Though he never studied art in its classrooms or viewed paintings on its walls, Davis remembers attending co-ed dances in Houghton House, which was then a residence for William Smith women. He came to Hobart College as part of the V-12 program after spending time abroad with the U.S. Navy.
At Hobart College, Davis studied chemistry and economics before going on to receive an advanced degree in plant diseases from Cornell University in 1950. Davis eventually opened his own successful nursery and garden center, Queen City Garden Town Nursery, in his home town of Buffalo, N.Y., where he also supports several art galleries.
"The visual arts are a natural and important part of our culture, and a school of the caliber of Hobart and William Smith should have a strong arts program to support a wide-ranging cultural education," says Davis. "I enjoyed my time at Hobart, and I feel that it did a lot for me. Now it's my turn to do something for Hobart and William Smith."