The Magnificent Gift of David Owsley

Hailey Beard
Public Relations Intern

The Gift of David Owsley“This documentary tells the story of how an ordinary town came to have an extraordinary 98644228museum, and the man who made it all possible.” This quote is featured at the beginning of a documentary detailing the life of David Owsley and the museum that bears his name. The largest donor in the history of Ball State’s art museum, he has had a monumental impact on the collection. “I just felt it was my obligation and my pleasure to create something and to continue what my grandparents had started.”

The Ball family in front of their mansion, Minnetrista.
The Ball family in front of their mansion, Minnetrista.
A picture of the Ball brothers. David Owsley's maternal grandfather, Frank C. Ball,  bottom left, was essential in the original art museum in Muncie.
David Owsley’s maternal grandfather, Frank C. Ball, bottom left.

As an adolescent, Mr. Owsley spent a great deal of time in Muncie and has always considered it to be home. As a child, he lived overseas in Romania, Denmark, and Ireland while his father served in the diplomatic corps. When he and his mother would return to the United States, they would always stay in Muncie, Indiana with his grandparents, Frank and Elizabeth Ball, at their home named Minnetrista. While Minnetrista eventually burned down, and later replaced by the Minnetrista Cultrual Center, Owsley’s love of Muncie never wavered or changed.

David Owsley and President Furgus meet in the Sculpture Court
David Owsley and the President of Ball State University, Dr. Ferguson, meet in the Sculpture Court.

Starting with the Ball brothers, the love of art continued in the family for generations. The brothers, including David Owsley’s maternal grandfather Frank C. Ball, shared their art with Muncie in order to build a stronger community. Together David Owsley and the museum that bears his name continue this tradition. The museum features various programs that are free and open to the public, such as Community Day, Final Friday, and artist demonstrations. David Owsley perpetuates the values of the Ball brothers by educating and bringing together Munsonians, and all who walk through the museum’s doors.

David Owsley and Director of the David Owsley Museum of Art, Dr. La France, examine a sculpture gifted by Mr. Owsley.
David Owsley and Director of the David Owsley Museum of Art, Dr. La France, examine a sculpture gifted by Mr. Owsley.

As a former professional curator, who has worked at multiple museums, Mr. Owsley is able to pinpoint what art will help enhance the museum’s collection. An eclectic collector, he believes in featuring a substantial variety of works of art from various time periods. Mr. Owsley states that he wishes to be known as the best kind of enabler. He wants to help educate students, and believes that having quality works of art can help open doors to the world of art.

David Owsley meets and talks with students in the David Owsley Museum of Art
David Owsley meets and talks with students in the museum that has seen thousands of his contributions.
Associate Director, Carl Schafer, compares Mr. Owsley to a bodhisattva.
Associate Director, Carl Schafer, compares Mr. Owsley to a bodhisattva.

Mr. Owsley especially loves bodhisattvas, which are mythological beings whom practice Buddhism and have achieved enlightenment. Yet, they have decided to remain on earth in order to help mankind. As the Associate Director of the David Owsley Museum of Art, Carl Schafer, states, “…(S)ometimes I think of David Owsley himself as a bodhisattva, because he has remained here and made it sort of his own mission to help us become enlightened in a certain way.”

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Bodhisattvas gifted to the museum by David Owsley

To learn more about David Owsley, the Ball family, the history of Muncie and to hear interviews with Mr. Owsley, the staff at the museum, and students at Ball State, watch the documentary “Gift of David Owsley” at https://vimeo.com/128513855.

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