David T. Owsley
Art Curator, Philanthropist
Few people can claim to have furnished a significant museum with more than 2,200 works of art from around the world. But then few people can trace their genes to Muncie’s Ball family, whose philanthropic legacy gave birth to both the museum and the university where it’s located.
David T. Owsley’s diverse gifts to the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University have included works representing the Americas, Europe, Africa, China, India, Japan, southeast Asia, and the Pacific islands. He recently gave the museum an important painting by American abstract expressionist Lee Krasner.
“David Owsley has brought much credit to Ball State through his significant contributions to the art world, higher education, and the pursuit of diversity, all the while enriching the cultural life of the Muncie community and greater Indiana,” says museum director Peter Blume. “Clearly, his efforts have written another chapter in the Ball family’s history of philanthropy.”
Owsley is the son of Alvin and Lucy Ball Owsley and the grandson of Frank C. Ball, one of the five New York brothers who moved their glass container business to Muncie and donated the land on which Ball State was founded in 1918. Frank Ball was instrumental in the construction of the David Owsley Museum of Art at Ball State University in the 1930s. Over the decades, the Ball family has given or loaned more than 4,500 works of art to the museum.
Owsley’s contributions reflect his broad expertise in art collection, research, preservation, and education. He has been a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and Carnegie Institute Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Recognizing his generosity, Ball State dedicated the David T. Owsley Ethnographic Gallery in 1978 and awarded him the President’s Medal of Distinction in 1989 and an honorary doctor of humanities in 2005.
“I hope that the works of art that I have given to the Museum of Art will not only be of interest and inspiration in themselves,” Owsley says, “but will serve also as signposts to avenues of exploration of the great and often beautiful cultures of our world.”