Art is a relatively young, and now quite robust, discipline at Davidson, Davidson Collects reveals in introductory essays. A decade after the college’s first art course, first-year student Gordon Horton ’42 set in motion the idea of a gallery program and permanent art collection. In 1953, Douglas Houchens became the college’s first full-time professor of art. Art became a major in 1971. About that time the department also began sponsoring the Davidson National Print and Drawing Competition, which attracted some of the finest artists of that era. With the completion of the Belk Visual Arts Center in the fall of 1993, the department moved into a state-of-the-art facility dedicated exclusively to art.
The permanent collection housed in the Van Every/Smith Galleries in the VAC today numbers more than 3,200 works spanning more than five centuries—sculptures, paintings, photographs, outdoor installations, and more. The collection is supported by a department that boasts seven faculty as well as administrative, lab, and studio staff. The department offers some 40 studio and art history courses, and has about 45 majors annually. A gallery internship program began in 2006, the same year a public sculpture initiative on campus found firm footing. In spring 2010, the Art Collection Advisory Committee (ACAC) convened on Davidson’s campus for its inaugural meeting.