P.O. Box 14
Lanesboro MN 55949
Over 15 years experience in small
town arts and community development, national speaker on rural
arts issues and creativity.
Ford Motor Company Commitment to Kids Award
2000 Founder, Kids Philosophy Slam,
2000 Created the Lanesboro Artist Residency
Program and Public Art Lanesboro.
1990-98 Founder, New York Mills Arts
Retreat and Regional Cultural Center,
a non profit organization with an annual budget of $150,000. The
Center has been recognized as a national prototype for the role
of the arts in rural community development. From the Centers opening
in 1992 through 1998, 17 new businesses located in New York Mills,
increasing jobs 40%.
New York Mills Sculpture Park, a cornerstone of the New
York Mills Industrial Park. Land donated by the city. The Park
includes an 800 foot sculpture fence and the worlds largest art
Center tractor logo painted on New York Mills Water Tower.
York Mills listed as one of top five "Culturally Cool" small towns
by USA Today Weekend Magazine.
York Mills listed in The 100 Best Small Art Towns in America.
Sally Ordway Irvine Award For Vision.
New York Mills Vision Award "For making believers out of nonbelievers."
the Great American Think-Off, a national philosophy competition,
which has received world-wide attention and was televised live
on CSPAN in 1998 and covered by the Today Show, NY Times and National
the annual New York Mills Music and Film Festival.
the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center and managed
the $240,000 renovation of a historical building on Main Street.
the New York Mills Arts Retreat. This program annually
engages 8 national and international artists in residence in the
New York Mills area schools.
1961- Born in New York City.
1971- Interest in paint-by-numbers ends at
age ten when he mistakenly confuses a glass of paint thinner for
a glass of milk.
1979 - Graduates from high school in Goshen,
Indiana. Enters Minneapolis College of Art & Design.
1980 - Designs infant bedside table for neonatal
intensive care unit at a childrenís hospital, which was
approved for production. His presentation gets a "C" grade. Switches
major to fine arts!
1982 - Quits art school to deliver pizzas.
Week one: His life is threatened. Week two: His car is stolen.
Week three: He is robbed at knife point. Week four: He returns
1984 - Graduates from Minneapolis College
of Art & Design. Dreams of living on a farm in rural Minnesota.
Starts house painting business to accumulate cash needed to purchase
1987 - Saves $10,000 painting houses and finds
a farm near New York Mills that has been abandoned for twenty
years and moves in. Learns to live with woodchucks, woodpeckers,
other birds and mice in a dwelling with no doors, windows, plumbing
1988 - Runs out of money. Situation looks
grim. Friend gives him toy plastic tractor; ideas form.Begins
working with local community education systems and takes out 3rd
mortgage toimprove property and start an artist residency program
to compensate for no art education.
1990 - New York Mills Arts Retreat incorporates
as a non-profit organization and hosts first artist, from Montpellier,
France. Tractor is chosen as logo. Davis named Executive Director.
* Convinces local businessman to donate $10,000
and oldest brick building in town to start a Regional Cultural
Center for the arts. Convinces City council in town of 942 to
give $35,000 (The equivalent of Minneapolis giving 13.5 million
1992 - Regional Cultural Center opens as a
national prototype for innovative rural arts programing.
* After grand opening, buys a red 1966 Ford
Galaxie convertible, drives to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, idea
gels for a philosophy contest called a "Think-Off". Returns to
1993 - Awarded Sally Ordway Irvine Award for
Vision at the Ordway Theater in Minneapolis. NY Mills presents
its own vision award for "Making believers out of non-believers."
* First Think-Off held in NY Mills, national
1995 - Since Cultural Center opened, 17 new
businesses and over 350 jobs created in NY Mills. Presents ideas
for downtown revitalization. Tractor logo put on town water tower.NY
Mills listed as top 100 art towns in America, one of top 5 "culturally
cool" by USA Today.
1996 - Converts vintage Airstream trailer
into aluminum office and returns to the Southwest.
1997- Creates N.Y. Mills Sculpture Park, with
800 ft. corn cob fence and 25 ft. tall steel tractor.
1998 - Chooses "is
honesty always the best policy?"
as Think-Off question. C-SPAN covers event live, NBC Today Show
interviews winner. Leaves Cultural Center after accomplishing
5 and 10 year goals to travel the country in his vintage 1971
2000- After traveling in airstream, accepts
job as Executive Director of Cornucopia Art Center in Lanesboro,
Minnesota, another top 100 small art town in America. Starts the
Kids Philosophy Slam, to make philosophy accessible for kids and
2001- Inaugural Kids Philosophy Slam huge
success, with over 4,300 entries from students from across the
country and around the world answering the question, "Which
is more powerful, love or hate?"
PHILOSOPHY SLAM HOME