Arts Campus News Society & Culture

Georgia Museum of Art presents decorative arts awards

Athens, Ga. – Deanne Deavours, noted dealer of American furniture and decorative art, has received the Henry D. Green Lifetime Achievement Award for the Decorative Arts, presented by the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia. Deavours, is the first recipient of the award, presented after she delivered the keynote speech at the sixth Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts, organized by the museum, on Feb. 2.

The award honors the significant lifetime achievements of an antiquarian, art historian or material cultural practitioner who has made lasting contributions to the field of Georgia or related decorative arts. Those contributions include service, publications, exhibitions, presentations, mentorship, research, education, collecting of preeminent decorative art, and sustained financial support or advocacy of Georgia and related decorative art.

Deavours, formerly Deanne Levison, is an Atlanta dealer who has been on the forefront of American decorative arts for many years. Previously, she was an associate at the firm of Israel Sack in New York, and she has brokered some of the major examples of American furniture to surface in recent decades. Deavours is highly respected in the decorative arts establishment for her connoisseurship and for the high quality of material she has sold. She wrote the preface and was instrumental in the update of Albert Sack’s book “Good, Better, Best,” considered the “bible” for connoisseurship of American furniture.

“It is hard to overemphasize the importance of her influence in standards for public and private collections, especially as it pertains to regional material,” said Dale L. Couch, curator of decorative arts at the Georgia Museum of Art. Deanne was the first commercial force in our area to call attention to patination and original surface on objects, a standard already established in some other areas in the country. Our painted furniture was routinely stripped and refinished to a state that did not resemble its original intended appearance. Deanne’s shop was a laboratory for young collectors and professionals who left with an appreciation for the evocative beauty of an untouched object. She was important in the creation of a market that acted in the interests of cultural conservation, and she was always available to any of us who were involved with cultural institutions.”

Deavours also is the author of a number of influential articles in the Magazine Antiques devoted to connoisseurship of floral inlay and 18th-century American furniture. Significant to UGA is the role Deavours played in the development of scholarship and recognition brought to Georgia vernacular furniture. She was a key force in the seminal exhibition and catalogue “Neat Pieces: The Plain-Style Furniture of Georgia,” an exhibition held at the Atlanta History Center in 1983. The UGA Press reissued the “Neat Pieces” catalogue in 2006, and the book continues to be a major resource in the field of southern vernacular material culture.

Deavours’ long-time friend and partner Sally Hawkins said Deavours “…was the first southern dealer invited to the New York Winter Antiques Show.”

Couch added, “Deanne is a rare individual who can be equally enthralled by the beauty of a magnificent Townsend-Goddard secretary as she is by the charm of a Georgia slat-back chair. She grew from her roots, but she never abandoned them.”

Deavours is a native of Leslie and a graduate of UGA. She resides in Georgia.

The museum also presented the first-ever Jane Campbell Symmes Spirit of the Symposium Award to Symmes, for whom it was named. The museum’s Decorative Arts Advisory Committee decides on a recipient of the award based on his or her service, dedication and encouragement of the symposium and the community energy he or she generates. Symmes is a longtime member and driving force of the Southern Garden History Society. She is the co-author of “Madison, Georgia: An Architectural Guide.” She owns and operates Cedar Lane Farm in Madison, a nursery and display garden specializing in historic and native plants.

“Jane has so many wonderful contacts and so many people around the state adore her,” said Peggy Galis, a member of the museum’s Decorative Arts Advisory Committee. I think the fact that she has been on this committee since its inception and has worked on these symposia all along has been one of the main reasons they’ve been so successful. She’s been our inspiration, our sure terrain, our permanent landscape of the heart.”

Approximately 280 people from Georgia and beyond attended the symposium, which is held every two years. Its proceedings will appear in a book published by the Georgia Museum of Art.

Museum Information
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The council is a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia. The address is 90 Carlton Street, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. 30602-6719. For more information, including hours, see or call 706/542-GMOA (4662).