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Michael Ellison, Mickey Dees, 1987, woodcut. Photograph by Reis Birdwhistell. Michael Ellison.

OSU Museum of Art presents ‘Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art’

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Media Contact: Casey Ihde | OSU Museum of Art Marketing and Communications | 405-744-2783 |

The Oklahoma State University Museum of Art in Stillwater has a new exhibition:, “Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art.”

This exhibition celebrates the passion of an ordinary couple who spent more than 35 years as devoted connoisseurs, building a collection of vivid artworks that are both resonant and remarkably personal. “Memories & Inspiration” is on view from Feb. 20 through May 11, 2024.

Painting 2
Sedrick Huckaby, She Wore Her Family’s Quilt, 2015, oil on canvas. Photograph by Gregory Staley. Sedrick Huckaby.

“Memories & Inspiration” presents 67 selected works from a body of art amassed over 35 years. Kerry, a retired mailman, and Betty, a former television news producer, gladly gave up many ordinary comforts in order to live with extraordinary paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures as their principal luxuries. Their collection includes works by Romare Bearden, Beverly Buchanan, Elizabeth Catlett, Ernest T. Crichlow, Sam Gilliam, Loïs Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, Alma Thomas and Charles White, but Kerry and Betty don’t search exclusively for well-known and/or documented artists. Rather, they focus on the more meaningful task of gathering and preserving a range of artistic approaches to the black image, in order to console the psyche and contribute to a more authentic articulation of the self.

The result is an eclectic gathering of pieces crossing different mediums, subjects, and styles by a group of artists of the African Diaspora who — in terms of training, experience and expression — are strikingly diverse but unified in their use of cultural and historical narratives.  

As their collection has grown, so has the Davis' storehouse of memories of discovering new works of art, building friendships with artists, and conversing with museum professionals and other collectors in their home. “Memories & Inspiration” brings together an awe-inspiring selection of works, but it is their personal resonance — their connection to the Davis’ hopes, passions and everyday lives — that gives the collection its unique power.

“We’re very excited to bring this unique collection to OSU and our Stillwater community. It offers an opportunity to immerse audiences in the rich tapestry of African American artistic expression through a wide breadth of materials and styles. The collectors’ unique backgrounds prompt intriguing dialogues,” said Carla Shelton, interim director of OSU Museum of Art.

For more about this exhibition and programs, including scheduled U.S. tour dates, visit

Funding for this season of exhibitions and programs is provided by Malinda and Richard Fischer, Riccarda de Eccher and Bill Goldston, Caroline and John Linehan, Suzanne Sugg, and the OSU Museum of Art Advocates.

“Memories & Inspiration: The Kerry and C. Betty Davis Collection of African American Art” is organized and toured by International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C.


Kerry Davis, a native of Atlanta, is a former sergeant of the U.S. Air Force, a retired carrier with the U.S. Postal Service, and an ordained deacon. He began collecting in the mid-1980s in partnership with his wife, Betty, who shared his passion for art. Begun originally with the modest aim of enhancing the interior decor of their mid-century split-level home in suburban Atlanta, the Davis’ collection has grown to over 300 works by some of the most distinguished African American artists of the 20th century.

Inspired by previous generations of African American art collectors, who understood the importance of preserving cultural expression, memory and imagery, Davis has sought to contribute to this legacy and be a source of inspiration for others in the community. The Davis residence — dubbed an “In-Home Museum” by visiting neighbors, parishioners and friends — serves as a meeting place and cultural hub for artists, collectors and art enthusiasts. Kerry and Betty have two children and one granddaughter.

International Arts & Artists in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and exposure to the arts internationally, through exhibitions, programs and services to artists, arts institutions and the public. For more information, visit

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