GENEVA — The Dove Block, an iconic 19th Century building in downtown Geneva, has been sold.
Representatives of Corbett Inc., a Philadelphia-based interiors rep agency, and the Dove Block Restoration Group completed the legal transaction Monday clearing the way for the establishment of a new, creative arts collaboration in the heart of Geneva’s downtown.
“This is a significant moment for Geneva and the Finger Lakes region,’’ said David Bunnell, president of the Dove Restoration Group’s board. “Not only has a grand building been saved, but also a major step has been taken in creating a living tribute to Arthur Dove, a native son of the Finger Lakes and one of America’s greatest artists. In that process, supported by both the City of Geneva and the Geneva community, a new, creative business that will be joining us in this cultural effort has been attracted to town.’’
Corbett Inc. works with a range of clients as contract furniture and accessories consultants and intends to use the Dove Block, on the southeast corner of Exchange and East Castle streets, as a gallery to highlight its portfolio of furniture to commercial clients from Buffalo to Albany. The company offers products and services to commercial clients in the educational, corporate and healthcare markets.
The second and third floors of the three-story Dove building will be used to highlight Corbett products and to host public events. The first floor will be rented back by the Dove Tribute Group, the non-profit that will operate a regional art gallery that both honors Dove and, it is hoped, will become a focal point of local and regional art. The building will remain on the tax rolls.
Corbett President Bill Corbett said he and his team are proud to be making this investment even as the business weathers the COVID-19 storm.
“We believe in the future of our company and see great synergies between our work and the creative work of Arthur Dove and his devotees,” Corbett said. “Saving the Dove Block and promoting great art fits nicely with our core values and mission.’’
Members of the Dove Tribute Group have been in talks with regional and national arts organizations with interests in Dove’s work and the Finger Lakes tourism market. The renowned Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., is one of the major holders of Dove’s works and has agreed to affiliate with this new Dove effort in Geneva. Talks also are underway with the Heckscher Museum of Art on Long Island, the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, the Everson Museum in Syracuse and the Johnson Museum at Cornell University to establish an advisory group that will help shape The Gallery’s programming.
“The Finger Lakes region has become a major tourist destination,” said Jim Spates, a retired professor from Hobart William Smith Colleges who heads the Tribute Group. “Our location and these regional museums’ interests in our Dove project make for natural partnerships and collaboration. We intend this new institution to have ambitions that are local, regional and national. To have an organization like the Phillips Collection already on board is a testament to the importance of our vision.’’
Corbett and the Dove groups have been working together for more than 18 months to iron out the details of what has become a unique public/private partnership built around The Dove.
Arthur Dove was raised in Geneva, the son of a local brick maker and builder. After attending Hobart College and Cornell University, he eschewed the builder’s life to become an illustrator and later an artist, now considered among the greatest early American abstract painters. He associated with now famed artists Arthur Stieglitz and Georgia O’Keeffe. Many of Dove’s most famous paintings, now worth millions and held in the collections of America’s best museums, were executed while Dove was living and painting on the Dove Block’s expansive third floor in the 1930s. Corbett intends to recreate the recently-discovered “Dove Wall’’ in which several of his iconic images were painted using the wall as a giant easel.
The Dove Restoration Group has been working with Chrisanntha Construction to use $1.4-millon in state grants to execute the basic restoration of the building. Chrisanntha has developed a reputation for saving a number of historic structures in the Finger Lakes region. For the Dove, substantial foundation and structural support work was needed in a building that had been largely vacant for more than a decade. That work has been complimented with new windows, a renovated facade, certain electrical and plumbing work, and a four-story elevator to help prepare the structure for its final tenant finish.
The Dove Tribute Group is in the process of raising funds to support a director for this new organization, and to pay for the final build out of the nearly 4,000-square-foot first floor museum and gallery. The Geneva law firm of Heaton & Venuti has donated substantial work to this community project.
“We hope to soon have an executive in place who can continue and compliment our efforts at putting together the elements of a dynamic, impactful and sustainable presence in Geneva,” Spates said. “We believe Dove’s creative vision can be an inspiration for a new kind of local expression and engagement in the visual arts for all ages.”
Spates said the group envisions The Dove will be home to both exhibitions and art lessons. One of the subjects being discussed with the organization’s prospective regional partners is an Artist in Residence program that could bring young, national talent to the region as an expression of Dove’s paradigm-breaking approach to his own art.
“In Dove, Geneva earned a special place in American art,” Spates said. “We endeavor to extend this.”
The organization has established an annual Arthur Dove Lecture and hopes to have its second lecture presented next fall.
The Tribute Group and Corbett, the museum’s landlord, are in discussions to coordinate eventual opening of the new facility with a general target of spring or early summer of 2021.
The Dove Block efforts have been spearheaded for four years by Bunnell, a local developer, Spates and a current board that includes former Geneva Mayor Joanne Wisor and local residents Murray Heaton, Chris Lavin, Charles Bauder, and Stan Mathews, a Hobart and William Smith Colleges architecture professor.
With the sale of the building and the merger of the Dove Restoration and Tribute Groups, the re-organized Dove Tribute Board will assume responsibility for the first-floor museum and gallery and will add new members including Geneva native George Abraham, HWS professors Gabriella D’Angelo and Anna Wager and Princeton University professor and leading Dove historian Rachael DeLue.