The Charlotte Art League, a mainstay of the visual arts community in Charlotte, owes a debt to the inside cover of a matchbook and a woman who now lives in Mooresville.Dorothy “Dot” Abernethy Davis of Mooresville grew up on her grandparents’ cotton and corn farm in Gaston County in the 1930s. Her mother, whom she describes as “an exceptionally gifted artist,” had instilled in Dot a keen interest in drawing. “Since we lived on a farm, each of us seven kids had plenty of chores to do,” she recalled, “but I managed to make some time for myself to draw the things I saw around me, like trees and flowers and such.“When I was about 14, my Aunt Edythe noticed that I liked to draw, so she bought me some basic art supplies. After that, I drew all the time.” A few years later, fate intervened in the form of an ad she saw on a matchbook cover.“I was 16 when I saw the ad. It said ‘Draw me!’ and it was for a correspondence course by a company called Art Instruction Inc. I enrolled in the course, paying for it with money I earned working at the dime store on Saturdays. I made six or seven dollars a day, and I felt rich.“My family had moved by then to another farm in Charlotte and I was attending Berryhill High School. I continued with the correspondence course for several years. In fact, I still have the study books that I used.”After graduation, Davis, now 87 and living at Emeritus at Churchill Senior Living in Mooresville, went to work at the Quartermaster’s Office in Charlotte. “While I was working there, I learned that there was an art school in Charlotte affiliated with the correspondence course I had taken, and I began to attend classes after work.”Fate intervened again when she met Robert Lee Davis Jr.“We were married 54 years and we had two children, Michael Ray and Merrilyn Marie. I never lost my interest in art, though,” said Davis.“My early art endeavor was drawing with pencil and watercolors. I began to sell my work to interested people after I was married, but I worked full time and raised two children, so art was really just a hobby.“In 1964, I suggested to a group of my artist friends, all ladies, that we start an organization to promote our work in Charlotte. We decided to call the organization the Charlotte Art League, and I guess the idea really caught on. The League is flourishing to this day, with several hundred members, although I can’t drive any more, so I’m not actively involved.“For years, I taught art at my church and in my home. Exhibiting my work at the Charlotte Art League enabled me to meet many very interesting people from all over the world. Since I moved to Emeritus at Churchill in 2011, I’ve been teaching art classes here as well, and some of my work, as well as the work done by my students, is now hanging in the halls. My favorite subjects are still landscapes and florals.“It’s funny to think that the whole thing began with a matchbook cover. You just can’t tell what small detail can change the course of your life.”
Friday, Jul. 05, 2013
Charlotte Art League has unusual origins
Learn more: Information about the Charlotte Art League can be found on www.charlotteartleague.org. The work of affiliated artists is on display at the Regal Manor Theater in Charlotte, as well as at Actor’s Theater of Charlotte. Free classes are offered through outreach programs with Goodwill Industries and Metrolina Association for the Blind.
Bruce Dunbridge is a freelance writer for Lake Norman News. Have a story idea for Bruce? Contact him at email@example.com.
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