Art historian David T. Owsley and entrepreneur Charlie Brown are helping to enrich the cultural opportunities on campus, bringing art and science to life for both Ball State students and the community.
By supporting the newly expanded David Owsley Museum of Art and the newly built Charles W. Brown Planetarium, these generous benefactors are enriching Ball State's vibrant cultural corridor, which also includes Emens Auditorium, Sursa Hall, Pruis Hall, University Theatre, The Marilyn K. Glick Center for Glass, Christy Woods, and the new Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse. These venues provide a regional destination for world-class educational and entertainment opportunities.
Owsley has provided more than 2,300 works of art to the museum since 1963. He is the grandson of Frank C. Ball, who was instrumental in founding the museum in the 1930s. Art has been an important part of Owsley's life since childhood.
"When I was growing up in Europe, my mother would take us to museums and sites of great historical significance," he recalls. "Those enriching experiences fueled my desire to learn more about art and its role in our lives and in the history of mankind."
The David Owsley Museum of Art provides an excellent teaching resource for students in a variety of majors, from art history and architecture to chemistry and economics.
Funded by more than $4 million in private gifts, the art museum's 2013 renovation and expansion has increased its total exhibition space by about 50 percent. Four new galleries have nearly tripled the room available for art from India, China, Japan, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas. The display of 500 non-Western objects will help the museum grow beyond its historical reputation for American and European art and better serve as a comprehensive resource.
Owsley is largely responsible for the diversity of non-Western art and has guided the museum's more global focus.
"My hope is that the museum will expose people—particularly teachers, who so deeply impact future generations—to rich artistic traditions throughout the world and open windows and doors into their minds, broadening perspective and nurturing curiosity," he says.
Charlie Brown, a Ball State graduate and president of Bell American Group, contributed about $2.2 million toward the new planetarium, which will be one of the top 10 university planetariums in the U.S. When it opens this year, it will replace the current 47-year-old facility in the Cooper Science Complex.
The planetarium project rekindled Brown's passion for science, which was also sparked by a childhood experience.
"I was instantly taken back to being a 10-year-old and visiting a planetarium in Chicago," he says. "The new planetarium will inspire future generations."
The planetarium's free-standing theatre, 52-foot diameter dome, and state-of-the-art star projector will transform teaching and learning for science students, faculty, and professionals. With nearly double the seating capacity of the current facility, the planetarium will serve the needs of Ball State's astronomy program—which has one of the largest undergraduate enrollments on the country—and provide a significant community asset for area schools and youth organizations.
It is part of Ball State's efforts to inspire students to enter science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
"My hope," Brown says, "is the community, especially youth, as well as university students will have an incredible resource here."
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