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Willis Bing Davis

University to house Willis Bing Davis Archive

The University of Dayton will create the Willis Bing Davis Archive, an enduring tribute to the notable artist, educator and community activist that will carry forward his passion for educating the next generation.

Davis’ correspondence, research and instruction materials, photographs and other items in the archive will trace his impact, including decades of teaching elementary, high school and university students; community activities; and his career as an artist, with works displayed in the United States, England, China, Japan, France, Australia, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Namibia and Gabon. It also will include a digital visual database of Davis’ art collections, including some of his early works along with African and African American 19th and 20th century pieces. 

“Bing Davis has a national and international reputation, and is a cherished member of the Dayton community,” said Kathy Webb, dean of University Libraries. “His work illustrates how art can be used to bring people together to affect change.”

The archive builds on Davis’ long relationship with UD, including as artist-in-residence, honorary Doctor of Fine Arts recipient, and exhibitor.

“It provides me an opportunity to continue to impact the lives of students — that’s always been a joy of mine,” Davis said. “I am excited about the potential of young people getting some insight on the journey I have taken in hopes that it informs their journey and shows them the joy of sharing what you’ve learned along the way.”

Davis was one of the first in the region to create African and African American art history courses, which he taught at UD, DePauw University, Miami University, Central State University and other institutions. He helped establish many influential art organizations, such as Genesis III, the African American Visual Artists Guild, and the National Conference of Artists, an organization that works to develop African American and African culture internationally.

His studio on West Third Street in Dayton includes the Shango Center for the Study of African American Art and Culture, which offers workshops, seminars and scholarly research, as well as the EbonNia Gallery, a center for making and exhibiting art and celebrating African American events. More information on Davis is available online.

“Bing and his wife, Audrey, are dear friends of UD, and we are honored to keep Bing’s papers in the city where he spent most of his life and make them accessible to all who wish to understand or follow in his footsteps,” said UD President Eric F. Spina. “Creating opportunities for our students and others to engage diverse voices and legacies like Bing’s is integral to our mission as a Catholic and Marianist university that strives for true inclusion.”


News and Communications Staff