Longtime benefactor David Owsley honored for expanding university's cultural horizons

Topic: College of Fine Arts

October 6, 2011

Ball State University names the David Owsley Museum of Art on Oct. 6, honoring a major benefactor for his leadership, service and dedication in significantly expanding the cultural horizons of the campus community as well as the state of Indiana.

Owsley also is being honored for his work to enlarge the museum as a result of a successful fundraising campaign. The 82-year-old former Muncie resident plans to bequeath $5 million to the museum as an endowment together with his bequest of about 90 percent of the works in his extensive art collection.

"I am greatly flattered and honored for the university naming the museum after me, and I hope to continue my long-standing interest with the museum and art," Owsley said. "It is gratifying to know that all of this is appreciated and used by students, Ball State's academic community and the residents of Muncie and Indiana."

Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora praised Owsley for his tireless work to build the university's collection of art that benefits students and faculty as well as visitors to campus. Owsley's diverse gifts include works representing the Americas, Europe, Africa, China, India, Japan, Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands.

"Mr. Owsley has certainly enriched our world with his many contributions that fill this museum," Gora said. "His dedication to this museum, our campus and higher education in general is proof of his commitment that so many members of the Ball family have shown to the museum in its more than 75 years of existence."

Owsley is the son of Alvin and Lucy Ball Owsley and the grandson of Frank C. Ball, one of the five New York brothers who moved their glass container business to Muncie and donated the college that was to become Ball State in 1918.  Frank Ball was instrumental in the construction of the museum in the 1930s. Over the decades, the Ball family has given or loaned more than 4,500 works of art to the museum.

"I was influenced by not only growing up in Europe, where my father was a diplomat, but also by my relatives here in Muncie when I was a teenager," Owsley said. "My grandparents, aunts and uncles had wonderful taste. I am glad all the works they collected over the years have a home here."

The expansion will allow the museum to showcase more of its collection of nearly 11,000 works, including more than 2,300 pieces of art Owsley has provided over the last few decades. The museum will occupy the entire second floor of the Fine Arts Building, adding  four new galleries expected to open in 2013. The museum exhibition space will expand to 25,000 square feet — about 50 percent more gallery space than it currently occupies.

Ball State has recognized Owsley in the past for his contributions, dedicating the David T. Owsley Ethnographic Gallery in 1978 and awarding him the President's Medal of Distinction in 1989 and an honorary doctor of humanities in 2005.

"I've also enjoyed my productive relationships with Peter Blume, the present museum director, and his predecessor Alain Joyaux," Owsley said. "Over the years, they have been very receptive to my ideas, and I've worked with them to build upon their ideas. It has an extremely fruitful partnership that I can see continuing for many years."

Blume pointed out that Owsley may well be best known for his far-ranging interests as a collector.

"Over the last 40 years, the museum's collection has gone from a very narrow collection to one that ranges the full scope of art on a worldwide basis," Blume said. "It is a very thoughtful collection that will continue to have a meaningful impact on faculty and students as well as visitors for generations to come."

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