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Davis Art Center brings home its historic collection for exhibit and sale

Maurine M. Nelson, "Untitled," mixed media on paper. Courtesy photo

Maurine M. Nelson, "Untitled," mixed media on paper. Courtesy photo

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From page A1 | January 05, 2014 | Leave Comment

During the past year, pieces from the Davis Art Center collection have been on display and for sale at San Francisco’s Paul Thiebaud Gallery and locally at the Pence Gallery.

This month, the unsold pieces will return to Davis to rejoin the collection in “A Legacy of Art” exhibit, which will be on display and for sale through Jan. 25 at the Art Center, 1919 F St. A free public reception will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 10, during the Second Friday ArtAbout.

“This collection is everything we’ve got remaining (except for photography),” said Erie Vitiello, executive director of the DAC. “We really want to encourage people to come over, look around and take home a piece of Davis history.

“We have a lot of obscure pieces that haven’t been seen since the ’80s.”

The collection began to take shape in the 1960s as members of the Davis Art Center board of directors and its Collection Committee embarked on an initiative to establish an art collection that celebrated the emerging artists of Northern California.

This forward-thinking group recognized the wealth of talented artists and the innovative artistic trends that were developing in the region. During the next two decades, this group of volunteers amassed a collection of more than 100 pieces by local artists, including Richard Nelson, who at the time was head of the UC Davis art department, his wife Maureen (Fay) Nelson, and Ralph Johnson, an art professor at the university.

Other artists represented in the collection — such as Robert Arneson, William Theo Brown, David Gilhooly and Paul Wonner — went on to attain significant national and international recognition, but many more were Davis Art Center teachers, students and supporters, including Mary Foley Benson, Pat Conway, Dwight Eberly, James Estey, Winifred Madison and Virginia Stearns.

“A Legacy of Art” documents the rich artistic heritage that all of these artists, whether amateur or professional, have contributed to the Davis community’s history.

While most of the prominent art pieces — 20 in San Francisco and two locally — have been sold, there are some still available, along with numerous works by lesser known artists, Vitiello said.

“What’s come back, for the most part, are many more of the local artists who have contributed to the history of Davis,” she said. ”Some of the history of the works and artists, we’re not even certain of. We have a paragraph of what we know (by each work), but it would be great, if we get people to come in and say, ‘I know that person, and this is what they did.’

“It’s kind of a fun look back.”

“A Legacy of Art” includes paintings, drawings, prints, textiles, ceramics and sculpture; photography from the collection will be shown at a later date. Prices range to fit most budgets, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Davis Art Center and its ongoing community arts programs.

“I think the artistic history is part of what makes Davis special,” Vitiello said. “I think it laid the foundation for the art renaissance that’s happening now. It’s very unusual for small towns to have a rich artistic history like we do. It’s one of the things that makes our town a great place to live.

“As the Art Center, we see part of our role as celebrating art — not just the famous but all artists. This is right up our alley.”

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