THE RICHARD L. NELSON GALLERY was dedicated in 1976 in memory of the first Chairperson of the Department of Art at UCDavis. Established as an exhibition venue and teaching resource for the Art Department, the gallery program also serves the campus population, art communities, and general public of Northern California and the Central Valley. A schedule of three exhibitions and the annual MFA show have an emphasis on contemporary art in support of curriculum in Art and Art History as their main focus. Special attention is paid to building ties across disciplines within the University and to partnerships with both cultural and non-arts groups outside the University. The exhibition program is supplemented with lectures, publications and other public events. Gallery operations and programs are supported by various donors, program support grants, endowment income from the Nelson Gallery Endowment and the Vesta Endowment Fund, the Department of Art and Art History, and membership in the Nelson Artfriends, a public organization.
THE FINE ARTS COLLECTION was transferred to the Nelson Gallery in 1979 as a means to provide administration, preservation, conservation, and physical storage facilities. The collection is the major resource and repository for art objects on the UC Davis Campus, and contains over 4,000 works of art in various material and media. It represents diverse historical periods and cultures, as well as significant holdings in contemporary art, most notably artists associated with the Davis faculty of the "Funk" period: Arneson, Wiley, Thiebaud, Gilhooley, de Forest, Hudson, et al. The collection contributes to art education, scholarship and publication, making works of art available for research, loan, and presentation nationally and in the gallery programs at The Richard L. Nelson Gallery and locations on campus, such as The Walter A. Buehler Alumni & Visitors Center and the Art in Public Places Program.