In early January, an event invitation popped up in my inbox from the Director of Marketing & Engagement at the Taft Museum to attend their upcoming Memories & Inspiration, an exhibition that dives into the social and cultural landscape surrounding the themes of Black art, Black art collectors, and these two within a museum space. Enclosed in the email was the press release for the exhibit and upcoming events. As I finished reading the email, I was indeed left speechless. In addition, the museum extended an offer to help organize interviews with the collectors and their curator and make their team accessible to answer questions regarding the exhibit left me in awe.
On March 16, I traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to explore the Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art exhibit and attend the Signature Talk: Inspiring Community Through Art. featuring the collectors Kerry and Betty Davis. Before the event, I explored the exhibition, which featured over 60 works from the personal collection of Kerry Davis—a retired postal worker—and C. Betty Davis—a former television news producer. In addition, some artworks from Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, Alma Thomas, and others were on display. The Taft Museum of Art collection includes prints, paintings, drawings, and a sculpture. During the event, Kerry shared that he started collecting while making $19,000 a year almost 40 years ago. I always heard a saying: to start with what you have, and things will eventually blossom.
This exhibition was organized and toured by International Art & Artists, Washington, DC; Memories & Inspiration focuses on 20th- and 21st-century approaches to the Black image. The Davises’ intention was to make their private collection accessible to smaller regions in the United States. The intentionality and caring nature for the community is what stood out to me about the couple especially as we connected during dinner. The collection is available at the Taft Museum of Art until May 14, 2023, and then the next stop is Pittsburgh, PA.
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