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Willis "Bing" Davis

Community gathering celebrates Willis 'Bing' Davis Papers

The Dayton community celebrated internationally known artist, educator and community activist Willis "Bing" Davis' donation of his papers to the University of Dayton Libraries at a reception May 22 in Roesch Library.

"The University of Dayton is honored to have been selected by Bing and Audrey Davis as home to his important and influential materials, research, correspondence and photographs," said University of Dayton President Eric F. Spina. "The Willis 'Bing' Davis Papers will be available to the Dayton community, future students and social activist leaders from around the world, so it is fitting that this is a community celebration to commemorate Bing Davis' gift and the significance of his life's work to the Dayton, African American and artistic communities."

Davis' correspondence, research and instruction materials, photographs and other items in the collection 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. Once completed, it also will include a digital visual database of Bing and Audrey Davis' extensive 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," Kathy Webb, dean of University Libraries, said when announcing Davis' donation Feb, 14, 2023. "His work illustrates how art can be used to bring people together to affect change."

The gift 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 in the University's announcement about his donation. "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.

For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at srobinson1@udayton.edu.


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