Rosewood’s Holiday Arts Festival showcases community

Photo: Ceramicist Sarah Hydell, RHAF ‘s 2017 featured artist.

By Brennan Burks

Since Halloween, you have probably been bombarded with the statement “the holidays are right around the corner!” It’s everywhere: on commercials, email ads and billboards, at the office, and in the endless group texts that simultaneously decide who is bringing what dish and reignite the competitive flames of the annual Thanksgiving family football game. However, amidst the consumer overload and planning for family gatherings, you might also be wishing for something with a little authentic and artful community spirit this holiday season. How about an event that you can both genuinely appreciate and be inspired by, where you can buy a more thoughtful gift, and where you can experience a taste of creativity outside the digital confines of Etsy or Pinterest? If this sounds appetizing to you, I strongly suggest adding the Rosewood Holiday Arts Festival to your calendar.

Six years ago, the cultural arts wing of Kettering’s Parks and Rec department hosted what was called “Demo Day” at the Rosewood Arts Centre. This event showcased the various artistic capabilities of the Centre’s programs and studios. From demonstrations in painting and stained glass blowing to using the potter’s wheel, it was a hands-on day that offered community members a chance to engage with local artists as they practiced their crafts. While it was successful, the organizers realized there was a number easy fixes to make the mission of the event all the more impactful.

First, they moved the event from August to December, removing the competition of so many other summer art events on the calendar (including Kettering’s own premier art event of the summer, “Art on the Commons”). Second, they opened up their showcase to include performance art and storytelling, and they invited other community artists to sell their work in a marketplace fashion. Third, and arguably a consequence of the first two, they invariably positioned the day to include a holiday theme. All told, what started as an event of artistic demonstration has transitioned in the last five years into a full-blown holiday festival celebrating the creative arts.

“…this event demonstrates the incredible richness of the creative fabric of our community.” – Shayna McConville

“The original mission is still part of the event,” says Cultural Arts Manager Shayna McConville, “in that we are inviting our community to step inside our space and engage with our local artists.” Another feature of the event that is a carry over from Demo Day is the opportunity it provides local artists to show their work. “For many of our artists, this is the first time that they are able to have their work seen by the public,” she says. For artists like Sarah Hydell, a ceramic artist who began as a student at Rosewood, then graduated into a resident studio artist, this is her first public show and the first opportunity for people to both see and buy her work. Sarah is also benefiting this year from the status as “Featured Artist,” which means she will receive a special spotlight and promotion during the event to bring attention to her work. “This is another way that we can help our artists,” McConville says, “because more than just providing classes or even studio space, this event allows us to provide a platform of engagement (giving them an actual audience) that helps our artists understand how to take their work to another level.”

Aside from highlighting the work of Feature Artists like Hydell or opening the doors to various studios, another medium the festival uses is live performance. “Because we are housed in a former elementary school, we have a unique space to play with,” McConville says. One advantageous space in particular is the stage, which, McConville says proudly, is something you rarely find in other galleries or art festival venues. Accordingly, on this stage you will find a menagerie of performers, varying as much in age as in style: the Kettering Children’s Choir, Rosewood student performances in tap and ballet, adult performances in belly dancing, a couple of numbers by the Miami Valley Dance Company and the Southdale Elementary Music Ensemble, and a special performance of Irish dance by the Richens/Timm Academy.

An element that the organizers have been trying to incorporate more each year is a cornerstone of what makes this a community event: partnerships. “While we want to show the unique work that is done and performed inside our spaces, it wouldn’t be a true community event if we didn’t include other community partners,” McConville says. It is with this in mind that McConville and her team are excited about the Dayton Metro Library’s craft and story time and the fan favorite Soup Bowl Fundraiser. The art part of the latter is that local artists make the soup bowls. The community part is that the soup which goes inside each bowl is tasted, judged, and then awarded a ranking by a panel of three local celebrity judges. In the past, these celebrities have included the likes of Kettering Mayor Dan Patterson and WDTN Meteorologist Jamie Jarosik. When we spoke in early November, McConville could confirm two of the three judges for this year’s competition: Living Dayton host Zac Pitts and Kettering Parks Department employee and local cancer fundraiser Ryan Davis.

Whether you are a doting grandparent coming to see your grandchild shine on stage, an early shopper looking for an artful gift this holiday season, or an everyday Daytonian just genuinely curious about creativity in the Gem City, McConville says this event really is for everyone, and that everyone will probably leave with a renewed, creative spirit. “We have had up to 1,000 people attend for each of the five years this festival has existed, and one of the reasons I believe people spread the word and keep coming is that this event demonstrates the incredible richness of the creative fabric of our community,” she says, and what’s more, “They discover something inspiring in themselves when they see the talent of a young student playing the drums or watch a seasoned artist finely craft a bowl.”

So for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in early December, I recommend that you do a little more than zone out on Pinterest or binge your soul on Netflix. Consider indulging in one or more of these creative delights at the Rosewood Holiday Arts Festival.

The Rosewood Holiday Arts Festival takes place Saturday, Dec. 2 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rosewood Arts Centre is located at 2655 Olson Drive in Kettering.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Brennan Burks at

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