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Internationally Renowned Artist Bing Davis Shares His Thoughts on the Importance of Arts in Dayton

Arts are the lifeblood of the community in Dayton.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on August 17, 2022

Willis "Bing" Davis
Jeff Adkins

Willis “Bing” Davis was born in Greer, S.C., but grew up in Dayton, where he lives today. He graduated from DePauw University in Indiana in 1959. Much of his career was spent teaching art in Dayton Public Schools, DePauw and Miami universities, and 20 years at Central State University in Wilberforce. He is acting treasurer of the National Conference of Artists and has exhibited in galleries across the globe.

Livability caught up with the founder and director of SHANGO: Center for the Study of African American Art and Culture and the owner of Willis Bing Davis Studio & EbonNia Gallery to ask about his prolific career and being an artist in Dayton.

Willis "Bing" Davis works with ceramics and found objects to create art at Willis Bing Davis Art Studio
Jeff Adkins
Willis Bing Davis Studio & EbonNia Gallery in Dayton.
What drew you to art as a career?

Happiness! It’s what I enjoyed the most. In fifth grade, I said I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. I knew going in, making a living would be tough. The reason I chose art over other professions is I was happiest when I was making art.

What changes have you seen in the neighborhood since the gallery opened in the historic Wright- Dunbar neighborhood?

Constant changes! When we started, it was just the beginning of the revitalization. I’ve seen a lot of positive growth and changes in the community and in the city. We’ve been a part of that growth and development by being a professional artist and serving the community with summer camps and working with emerging artists.

How does the Dayton region support its community of artists?

The creative community in any city is vital to its growth. It’s a primary amenity that makes a community rich and vital. Keeping arts in education is another important key to supporting the future of the arts. Dayton is fortunate to have a large core of highly skilled and creative arts organizations for a city its size. That’s the result of past support and hopefully continuing patronage.

“The reason I chose art over other professions is I was happiest when I was making art.”

Willis “Bing” Davis

Willis “Bing” Davis and his wife, Audrey Madsen Davis (green shirt), show a visitor around the gallery.
Jeff Adkins
Willis “Bing” Davis and his wife, Audrey Madsen Davis (green shirt), show a visitor around the gallery.
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