In a week of celebration, the University of the District of Columbia toasted with champagne a major art acquisition. The University got eight huge, sweeping Sam Gilliam paintings, one Lou Stovall work and two by Val Lewton. On Monday, the new president was inaugurated, and last night the art and two of the donors -- Donald and Ann Brown -- were feted with a black-tie party at UDC's Carnegie Library.
"The A in her name stands for 'angel,' " said new UDC president Benjamin Alexander, putting an arm around Ann Brown. "Anyone who gives to us the way she does is an angel."
Alexander presented the Browns with a silver Revere bowl. Another bowl was also accepted for Dr. and Mrs. David Morowitz, the donors of the Lewton works, who were absent when remarks were made.
Surrounding the Browns and the several hundred other guests were high white walls splashed with art, including the largest collection of art by Gilliam, the well-known Washington artist. The guests -- UDC trustees and friends, among them former mayor Walter Washington -- saw the acquisition as a small coup for this local university. But no one seemed more delighted than the donors themselves.
"Well, we had more paintings than we could hang," said lawyer and real estate developer Donald Brown, in tuxedo and maroon satin bow tie. "We were trying to find someplace that meant something to us." Lou Stovall sauntered over and Brown put an arm around him. "I discussed it with Lou and Lou said, 'What do you think of UDC?' Well, I'm a native Washingtonian . . . [UDC] had everything we wanted to share with. It was Washington, it was black, it was coming. It was perfect."
And the new Van Ness campus of UDC is in the Browns' neighborhood. "We can hear the band from our house," said Ann Brown, a consumer advocate who works with the Americans for Democratic Action.
The Browns have a collection of works by artists such as Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson as well as local artists, some of whom Donald Brown has provided with studio space in buildings that he owns. Ed McGowan, for instance, uses space in a building on Columbia Road owned by Brown. The couple has been collecting work by local artists for 25 years.
"Our house is a private gallery of Stovalls and Gilliams," said Ann Brown.
"Except mine are in the closet," said Stovall with a little grin.
"Oh, they are not!" cried Brown.
"It's rather exciting," said Sam Gilliam, surveying the expanse of library foyer where his work now hangs. "I used to use this when it was a public library."
"It's kind of like a dream," said Walter Washington. "It was just a shell when we bought this building. Now, it's something that accommodates the arts."