Art: Nature or Nurture? Summertime Strolling on the Davidson Campus

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“Have a great summer break!” students enthuse toward the rest of us at the end of every academic year, bless their hearts. Of course, college and campus continue through the summer months, albeit at a lower, slower pace. That pace, too, has its story, and summer is an outstanding time to enjoy the campus’s wide open, shady spaces.

Chambers Building: Click for archival link.

Davidson’s campus is a National Arboretum, a designation bestowed in 1986. The most visible and useful effect of this state of affairs for the casual visitor is the botanical name tags on nearly every tree on the front campus. A more primal and profound effect is the sweetness of artistic balance between nature and nurture that the campus expresses, the nothing-could-be-finer natural bounty of the Carolina piedmont as nurtured by a dedicated grounds crew second to none.

The art of nature and nurture is at the heart of a complementary initiative that is creating a growing footprint, the campus sculpture program. It began in 2007 with the inauguration of the sculpture garden in Richardson Plaza between the Chambers and the E.H. Little Library. Next came the nearby installation of Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz’s The Group of Ten in 2012. This spring saw the unveiling of Spanish artist Jaume Plensa’s Waves III. There’s more to come, says Lia Newman, director and curator of the college’s Van Every/Smith Galleries.


In his remarks at the Plensa dedication, Professor and Chair of Art Cort Savage evoked the power of sculpture on this campus to create time and space for true contemplation, “the thoughts between thoughts.” Even more broadly, Davidson’s sculpted, arboreal summertime campus is a reflection writ large in answer to the age-old human yearning to wander and wonder. To that end, take a few minutes to explore the links on this page (campus sculpture maps are also available at E.H. Little Library, Carnegie Guest House, the Office of Admission and the Village Inn) and strike out to discover something you didn’t know about  the campus, and its sculptures, and its trees—and maybe yourself!

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