An upcoming history event also will include talks on the Dove Block

GENEVA — America’s first modernist artist, Arthur Dove (1880-1946), was born, not in a large metropolitan area, but in the city of Canandaigua.

At the time, his father, William G. Dove, was the Ontario County clerk. About two years later, the Dove family returned to Geneva where they owned property and businesses.

Arthur Dove grew up in homes on North and South Main streets, attended Hobart College, and graduated from Cornell University in 1903. After moving to New York City he became a successful illustrator but he is best known today for his later abstract artworks found in major museums in New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston.

The Geneva Historical Society is taking a close look at Arthur Dove and his family in “Dove’s Geneva,” an exhibit opening June 30.

John Marks, the society’s curator of collections and exhibits, has drawn on archival materials along with paintings of Geneva locales by Dove. The exhibit offers a fresh look at the Doves and the places they built as contractors in Geneva.

The three-month exhibit will also compare the city Dove saw as a child with its appearance in the 1930s when he returned for several years.

Geneva buildings linked to William G. Dove, a brick manufacturer and contractor like two previous generations of the family, will be highlighted. One well-known landmark, Belhurst Castle, was built in 1885-1889 as a residence. Today, with an addition, it has become an upscale restaurant and hotel.

Several local churches are attributed to the Doves.

Marks said a letter now in the society’s archives, which was found in the cornerstone of the original Geneva City Hospital (1897), identifies the building as a Dove construction. A newspaper account confirmed this.

“Dove’s Geneva” is not an art exhibit, per se, although at the Saturday opening two Arthur Dove scholars, Alan Pensler, an author and independent art historian, and Rachael DeLue, associate professor in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and author of the 2016 book, "Arthur Dove: Always Connect," will be on hand.

They will participate in a panel discussion on the artist’s work in Geneva and sign copies of their books as well as participate in activities surrounding the plans to restore the Dove Block.

The prominent downtown commercial building at Castle and Exchange streets built by William G. Dove in 1878 is where Arthur Dove painted some of his best artworks after he and his wife returned to Geneva to settle his mother’s estate.

“We had one of the most important artists of the American 20th century who created dozens of his most acclaimed works in Geneva — in the Dove Block,” said Jim Spates, professor emeritus at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He is one of those overseeing the purchase of the long vacant building and bringing it back to modern standards.

The nonprofit Dove Block Restoration Group is headed by local developer Dave Bunnell, president, and Spates as vice president.

Their efforts over the past three years have resulted in $1.4 million in state grants, enough to begin critical upgrades like adding an elevator to the three-story building.

In the latest round of Regional Economic Development Council awards, Geneva was awarded $500,000 in state funds, which are earmarked for the project.

The group is seeking a tenant for the first and second floors and will adapt the building’s third floor as a tribute to Arthur Dove.

Curator Marks said that plans are already underway to mount an exhibit in 2019 at the museum focused on the history of the Dove Block.

Over the years the High Gothic Victorian-style building served variously as an auditorium, a National Guard drill hall, a roller skating rink, a gathering space for professional wrestling and boxing matches, a radio station, a dance hall, and the Salvation Army.

If you go

"Dove’s Geneva" opens to the public at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 30, in the first-floor gallery of the Geneva History Museum, at the Prouty-Chew House, 543 S. Main St.

Prior to the opening of the exhibit, a tour of the Dove Block at 459 Exchange St., will be led by Professor Jim Spates from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Only the first of three floors is handicapped accessible. Children accompanied by an adult are welcome. Registration is required by calling 315-789-5151.

Following the tour, refreshments will be offered at 10 a.m. in the museum. A panel discussion moderated by Spates with Arthur Dove scholars Alan Pensler and Rachel DeLue will focus on Dove and his work in Geneva.

Dove’s Geneva runs from June 30 to Sept. 22. Museum hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday. The museum is closed Sundays. Suggested donation is $3 for admission. Street parking. For information, call 315-789-5151 and www.genevahistoricalsociety.com.

Self-conducted walking or driving tour: At the exhibit opening, a free rack card, underwritten by the city of Geneva, will be debuted. It shows where Arthur Dove lived and buildings the family constructed in Geneva.

Guided tour: On July 11, Geneva History Museum Executive Director Kerry Lippincott will conduct a walking tour of Arthur Dove sites, including, with Spates, the Dove Block. To attend, meet at the museum at 7 p.m. (fee applies); rain or shine.