David Smalley, the Henry B. Plant Professor Emeritus of Art, died at his Niantic home on Oct. 1, 2015, of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Smalley joined Connecticut College in 1965 and retired in 2003. His specialties were sculpture; virtual reality and multimedia design; and 3-D design, computer modeling and animation. In addition to teaching popular courses, Smalley was active on campus, serving as chair of the Art Department for a total of 13 years; sitting on the Provost Council and the Ad-Hoc Committee on Faculty Governance; serving as chair of the Advisory Committee on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure; and serving on search committees for a College president and a director for the Lyman Allyn Art Museum.
Long interested in the creative side of technology — Smalley often produced a computer model of sculptures he intended to construct — he co-founded the Center for Arts and Technology (now the Ammerman Center for Arts & Technology) and spearheaded the center’s Biennial Symposia of Arts & Technology. He served as co-director of the center from 1991 to 1997 and associate director from 1997 to 2000.
“I am indebted to David’s foresight and vision in establishing the Ammerman Center as an interdisciplinary program and host of an international symposium,” said Professor of Art Andrea Wollensak, the current director of the center. “He recognized early on not only the promise of digital technologies in enhancing the possibilities of artistic expression and performance, but of equal importance, the value of collaborative exploration, research and discussion in forging an artistically effective relationship with technological capabilities.”
Smalley was also the Technical Coordinator of the Sculptures and Computers Forum of the International Sculpture Center, and a founding member of a grassroots organization called the Computers and Sculpture Foundation.
A sculptor of note, Smalley had more than 50 shows in the U.S., England and Japan, including a mid-career retrospective at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. He was represented by galleries in Connecticut, New York and Florida. He took particular delight in kinetic sculpture, noting that his pieces “recomposed” themselves through the independent movement of their parts.
Smalley’s work can be found all over campus: “Cloud/Temple” is located between Horizon and Woodworth houses; “Circle of Days” is in Harris Refectory; “Sundance II” is outside Cummings Arts Center; “Red Disk Rising,” a series of four pieces, is in South Lot; “Ad Astra” is in front of the Athletic Center; “Wave Form” is in Castle Court; an untitled sculpture is in Bill Hall; and “Sundial” is on Tempel Green. He also contributed a print to a collaborative setting of William Meredith's poem “A Major Work,” which hangs in the Haines Room of Shain Library.
Smalley was born in New London and graduated from New London High School and the University of Connecticut. He earned a master of fine arts degree from Indiana University.
Associate Professor of Art Ted Hendrickson said, “As teacher, colleague, department chairman and mentor, David’s influence on the College’s Art Department is incalculable. A formidable draftsman, innovative sculptor and pioneer in digital technology in the arts, David helped shape our curriculum into the vibrant visual art education we offer today.”
His family — wife Linda; sons Eric and Ted; daughters-in-law Kim and Adriene; and grandson Toby — encourages those wishing to honor his memory to make donations to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 230 East Ohio St., Suite 304, Chicago, Ill., 60611.
A memorial exhibition of Smalley’s work — curated by Barbara Zabel, professor emeritus of art history — will be on view at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum, June 3 through August 13, 2017.