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Davis Gallery Showcases Student Art and Promotes Collaboration

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Olivia Tracy

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DU students in front of the Davis Gallery

DU students with SAAH director Annabeth Headrick, PhD, in front of the Davis Art Gallery. Image courtesy of Roddy MacInnes. 

Today, when you enter the lobby of the Schwayder Art Building on the University of Denver campus, the first thing you’ll see is student art. This first glimpse is just a small preview of the student work on display, as there’s even more to discover as you continue to explore the building.

This artwork is an extension of the student exhibits showcased in the Davis Gallery, which opened in January 2022. Whereas previously the student gallery was tucked away in the lower level of the building, the new Davis Gallery ensures that visitors can easily access and tour student exhibitions.

Dr. Helen Davis and DU Students at the Davis Gallery
Dr. Helen Davis with DU students at the Davis Gallery. Image courtesy of Roddy MacInnes. 

The Davis Gallery was developed in large part through the generosity and guidance of Dr. Helen Davis, a longtime supporter of the School of Art and Art History and an active member of art communities across Colorado who recently celebrated her 99th birthday. Through Davis' support and support from other partners—including Davis’ friends and DU alumni Craig (JD ’85) and Millie (BA ’66) Russell, and LinkAGES: Colorado, a group of community organizations focusing on combatting social isolation and ageism—the Davis Gallery offers students a workspace and high-impact, highly visible gallery space to share their art with the DU and Denver community.

 “I’m delighted that this new gallery will give the students the opportunity to showcase their work and learn about art curation and installation,” said Dr. Davis.

The gallery and associated workspace, the Davis Community Art Lab (DCAL), is a community venture, created collaboratively, and prioritizes opportunities for DU students and faculty to develop, construct and display community-engaged projects.

Roddy MacInnes, professor of photography, had been offering community-engaged art courses to engage DU students in intergenerational dialogue with their communities. MacInnes says that he had heard through the Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL) that many faculty and students wanted to do community-engaged projects involving art, but didn’t have the resources or space to do so.

“I thought, let’s create a gallery and a workspace where people could work on these community projects,” said MacInnes.

When she came into the role of director of the School of Art and Art History, Annabeth Headrick made MacInnes’ goal a priority, and worked closely with Dr. Davis to transform a darkroom space into a lab and gallery, which not only showcases student art, but supports the larger design and functions of the Schwayder Art Building.

Expanding on the established Vicki Myhren Gallery, known on campus for traveling exhibitions, faculty art showcases, and bachelor’s of fine art graduate shows, the Davis Gallery offers a new space for student and community exhibitions that further highlights the studio class art featured in the lobby.

“Now, when you come into Shwayder, your have art at every turn,” said Headrick.

The new gallery also offers possibilities for undergraduate and graduate students across the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to propose, develop and curate unique exhibitions that build connections across disciplines, part of the gallery’s goal of encouraging collaboration and interdisciplinary work across campus.

DU students collaborate on the Davis Gallery opening
DU students Linh Nguyen and Carolyn Dodenhoff in the Davis Gallery. Image courtesy of Roddy MacInnes. 

These proposals might include shows of original artwork developed by DU studio art students and exhibitions of University art holdings curated by master’s students exploring a concentration in museum studies. As Headrick says, the gallery “gives our students the opportunity to develop their professional skills and transition to their careers as artists and museum professionals.”

For example, in May 2022, the Davis Gallery and the DU Museum of Anthropology teamed up for the first “two gallery” exhibition on campus. Curated by two graduate student gallery managers funded by LinkAGES, one from the Department of Anthropology and one from the School of Art and Art History, the exhibition simultaneously displayed student art in the Davis Gallery and faculty art in the Museum of Anthropology, all responding to the theme of “Future Fossils” and the relationship between the environment and the Anthropocene.

The Davis Gallery and Davis Community Art Lab (DCAL) are true community ventures, created collaboratively and continuing to create connections and collaborations across DU’s campus and local communities.

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