The Dove Block – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

The Dove Block

A collaboration between Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Sociology Jim Spates and local businessman Dave Bunnell intends to refurbish a historical downtown Geneva building with ties to HWS and the modernist art movement of the early 20th century.

The Dove Building, located at the intersection of Castle and Exchange Streets, once served as the studio for America’s first abstract expressionist painter and a founder of American modernism, Arthur Dove, a member of the Hobart Class of 1903. Built in 1878, by Dove’s father, William, a successful brick manufacturer, the three-story commercial structure has been vacant for more than a dozen years, and with the Dove Block Restoration Group, Spates and Bunnell plan to renovate the building and “regenerate the corner as the most important corner in Geneva,” says Spates.

An urban sociologist, Spates explains that he has “always been interested in how cities work and what makes one city healthy and one not so.”

Believing in the idea that “success builds success,” he says, the Dove Block restoration would draw commercial interest not only to the building itself but to the surrounding area, further accelerating the renewal of Geneva’s downtown.

The Dove Block renovation plans include turning the third-story, where Arthur Dove lived and painted some of his most successful pieces during the 1930s, into the first memorial and museum in the United States dedicated solely to the artist.

This museum would “put Geneva firmly on the national art trail and create another natural point of visitation for the millions who come to the Finger Lakes for the beauty and internationally-acclaimed wines,” Spates told The Finger Lakes Times in a recent article.

Dove’s work is in permanent collections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and the Art Institute of Chicago. Alfred Stieglitz, a photographer and gallery owner in New York City who endorsed bringing modern art to the United States, hosted Dove’s art during the first public exhibition of abstract art by an American. In 2013, select pieces by Dove sold at auction for approximately $1.5 million. More recently, his work has sold for $5.4 million and is projected to increase in value to about $10 million by the end of the decade.

And, as Spates notes, “arguably the most creative time of his life was in Geneva, particularly when he was living and painting in the Dove Block.”

The Dove Block Restoration Group hopes that their effort will develop community-wide support and they are presently seeking donations to reach the initial $200,000 needed by the end of July to secure control of the property for the next five years. Spates estimates the overall project will cost $1.5 million, which will include purchase of the building and structural repairs, after which the group will be able to sell portions of the building to investors to complete the final restoration.

The Dove Block Restoration group will hold a public meeting to provide information on the project to the community on Wednesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts.

For more information about the Dove Block Restoration, see the video Spates developed.

For questions about the Dove Block or to find out how to get involved, contact Spates directly at spates@hws.edu.

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