In Remembrance of Mary Davidson

Mary Davidson

In 2005, Mary Davidson and her husband, Bart Cohen, made a major gift toward the construction of the new Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College. In recognition of their donation, a 2nd floor gallery was named in their honor.

This initial gift began Mary's almost 17-year patronage of the Museum and College. Her gifts from the Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust would, over the years, transform the Nerman Museum.

A $1 million Art Acquisition Endowment ensured the ongoing acquisition of numerous works by regional, national and international artists. To date, 67 works of art have been purchased through the Endowment. It transformed the Museum's permanent collection, and it continues to do so each year.

A $750,000 gift enabled our former Museum store's conversion to a dedicated space for artists associated with the state of Kansas, something near and dear to Mary. She took great pride in promoting and collecting works by artists in our region. Today, the Kansas Focus Gallery is one of the most popular destinations in the Museum.

Most recently, Mary provided the funds for us to acquire a major bronze sculpture by internationally renowned artist, Wendell Castle. This work was prominently displayed on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art during their exhibition for the artist. It's important to note that Castle grew up in Emporia, Kansas, and also attended the University of Kansas prior to achieving artistic fame. This sculpture will soon reside on the Nerman Museum's lawn, just outside Mary's beloved Kansas Focus Gallery.

Mary Davidson was one of the Nerman's most important patrons. I will always treasure her wit, her astute business sense, her passion for the arts and education, and her ability to envision a project's “possibilities.” She often said she would rather give a large sum of money to achieve maximum effect.

Mary was also my close friend. She possessed an enduring and mischievous sense of humor. I will never forget when she unexpectedly introduced me to a woman as her fiancé, stating that she and I had only recently become engaged. The woman was nonplussed (as was I) and could only mutter, “When is your wedding date?” Mary quickly replied, “Not until Bruce gets me an extraordinarily large engagement ring!” We all had a great laugh.

Later, I told Mary that my reputation could only be enhanced by such a rumor, but I wasn't sure what it might do for hers. Mary responded, “Honey, at my age that's the least of my concerns.”

Mary was a rare jewel. She deserved the biggest possible diamond ring!

Bruce Hartman, former Executive Director/Chief Curator
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art