A Tribute To Davidson Arts & Creative Engagement Grants During Pandemic

Tree cowers over Chambers building

COVID-19 brought uncertainty to Davidson’s campus, forcing students and faculty to adapt quickly and decisively. Like many of her colleagues, Director of Davidson Arts and Creative Engagement (DACE) Sherry Nelson had challenges to overcome.

DACE aims to promote the integration of the arts funds from Friends of the Arts—those who give to the Visual, Literary and Performing Arts through the Fund for Davidson—in order to provide grant opportunities for students and faculty, provide funding for the arts departments programs and ensure an enriching experience for the Arts Fellows.

In the wake of theaters closing, art exhibitions moving online and dance performances being halted, Sherry collaborated with various departments to keep the arts a vibrant part of students’ lives. She continued to raise funds for the English, Theatre, Art, Music, Film and Media, and Dance Departments. DACE’s Arts Across the Curriculum Enrichment Fund made it possible for faculty to welcome nationally known artists and writers to their classes via Zoom. Sherry has made the best of current circumstances.

How can the arts help heal and strengthen our community?

In March, upon the transition to remote learning, DACE continued to provide funding for any student, faculty or staff member who wished to process the pandemic through the arts. DACE’s COVID-19 grants gave students, faculty and staff a creative outlet during a chaotic time.

It was also during this time that the English Department, in part thanks to DACE funding, began Cold Open, a virtual literary salon that is open to students, faculty and the rest of the campus community and  hosted by Professor Alan Michael Parker and Instructional Designer Daniel Lynds. It regularly features prominent writers, poets, cartoonists, filmmakers and novelists.

In light of the pandemic, Sherry asked herself, “How can the arts help heal and strengthen our community?”

For Sherry and DACE, the purpose has always been to provide opportunities for all members of the community to express themselves creatively and experience the arts as part of their everyday lives.

When she is not working with faculty and the DACE Advisory Board or leading her team of Arts Fellows, Sherry has worked on her own projects to help integrate the arts into the broader Davidson community. As the chair of the Davidson Public Art Commission, she led the banner project in the Town of Davidson.

On campus, DACE awarded a Spike! Grant for the swift creation and installation of the Black Lives Matter mural this fall, which Arts Fellow Adelle Patten ’21 designed and worked with other students to plan and execute.

Though COVID-19 created hurdles for the arts, Sherry notes the positive effect it unintentionally created. “Incredible artists have been able to Zoom into the classroom and present public lectures throughout the year,” she said. “That’s been a real pleasure.”

More people were able to participate in campus-based opportunities, including parents, alumni, and friends. Realizing this opportunity for community accessibility and integration, supporters of the arts for the college across the country and globally will continue to have much greater access to events through live streaming and Zoom.

Gifts to the arts from alums, families, and friends enrich programs and campus every day.

DACE is fundraising and accepting donations until June 30. Donate or contact shnelson@davidson.edu for more information.

Read How Arts Departments Adapted and Innovated During the Pandemic


  • May 17, 2021

Campus Photograph