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Mary Wheeler Davis - A Champion for the Arts

April 25, 2019 | Features

To honor the memory of Mary Wheeler Davis, an annual award is funded by the Mary Wheeler Davis Memorial Fund for the Promotion of the Arts, which was established in 1989. Davis was a native of Charleston and the wife of Dr. William McAlhany Davis. She was an enthusiastic community leader who was involved in many Spartanburg arts organizations and whose legacy continues to make an impact to this day.

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When my wife died in 1988, the children (both in college) and I wanted to do something to perpetuate her memory and her dedication to the arts in Spartanburg, she was a pianist and organist in her own right and made sure the children were exposed to all aspects of the arts growing up.

She had been on the Arts Council and worked as a docent at the Art Center when it was on South Spring Street. We started a donor-advised fund at the Spartanburg County Foundation to award an annual scholarship to a high school student intending to pursue a career in some category of the arts, visual or performing. I don't believe there was any such type of opportunity through the Arts Council at the time.

The Foundation turned the judging over to the Arts Center which has evolved into the Chapman Cultural Center.  Since its inception, the award has grown a little in size and now is given to two, or sometimes three recipients.

The arts are important to our family and of course to the community at large as a broadening of one's appreciation of life and of culture in general. We hope this award will further that effort.

I am a retired pathologist who spent his whole career in Spartanburg, working at both of our hospitals. My daughter lives in New York and is a counselor for alcohol and addiction sufferers; my son is a professor of radiology at the Medical School of the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

We continue to contribute to the fund and support its purposes.

- W. Mac Davis

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Our mother inculcated an appreciation of the arts, including music, design, and other visual arts, in us in subtle and tangible ways. Both my brother and I were involved in music lessons and choirs, arts at the Day School, and for me, dance and theatre as well. And yet, our schooling oriented us both more toward intellectual pursuits, the life of the mind. For 20 years, I worked in television and film; while I made films about esoteric subjects, I also worked as a video journalist in television, shooting powerful footage that has been seen internationally.

At a certain point in my career, I felt a new calling, I was at a turning point. I decided to shift back to my original line of study in psychology and spirituality to become a counselor, working on the front lines of addiction treatment. My enjoyment of reaching out and working with others comes from the service orientation I grew up with; both my mother and father have been proponents of community service and giving projects. They are great role models of giving. 

One thing I can say about the arts-- their meaning and value goes far beyond just ameliorating our environments and creating beauty in the world around us. For people suffering from any kind of traumatic experience, particularly Adverse Childhood Experiences-- their mental health and physical well-being can be greatly impacted by such issues. (They say the issues live in our tissues. Or as Dr. Bessel van der Kolk writes, The Body Keeps the Score.) Creative Arts therapies are known to help people work through and heal their traumatic pasts...

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Although in general, our culture does not seem to value arts education, perhaps one small fund can show that we do. And we value the makers of arts.

 - Lucia Davis, daughter of Mary Wheeler Davis


If you would like to support Chapman Cultural Center's Arts Education Endowment Fund, your endowment gift will help us to grow and serve our organization each year through educational outreach. Your contribution will be designated to helping us develop, strengthen and promote the scope, excellence and educational role of the arts, humanities, and sciences with consistent delivery of a world-class cultural center. 

Learn more about supporting an endowment fund by contacting Lisa Hemond, Vice President of Resource Development, at LHemond@spartanarts.org.

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