Accessible Art

T hirty years ago, Sharon Stolzenberger, a local watercolorist and mixed media artist, reached a crossroads with her art. One path had her continuing to create art as a side hobby in the after hours of her full-time job. The more adventurous option afforded her an opportunity to take the “artistic road less traveled” where […]

Rosewood Arts Center’s Art on the Commons 30th year

This year’s musical performers include Zane Gerlach, The Pullouts, Marjorie Lee and The Lovers, and Daniel Dye & the Miller Road Band. Last year, Lioness (above) was a big hit.

By Tara Pettit

Thirty years ago, Sharon Stolzenberger, a local watercolorist and mixed media artist, reached a crossroads with her art. One path had her continuing to create art as a side hobby in the after hours of her full-time job. The more adventurous option afforded her an opportunity to take the “artistic road less traveled” where she could dedicate her career fully to making and selling art. Stolzenberger decided to join Kettering’s Art Council to see what opportunities were available to share her work in her home community. At the time she joined, the council was in the process of looking at ways to embed the city’s founding cultural arts values into local events and activities, which perfectly aligned with her intent to share her art on a greater scale with the community.

One of the earliest initiatives of the council, in efforts to carry out its emerging mission of bringing access to quality art, was through an experimental community arts fair. The first fair, then hosted at the city-supported Rosewood Arts Center, invited a handful of local artists to participate and share their work in a community-wide forum. Stolzenberger, already familiar with sharing her work in a festival format, was on board with the idea of helping Kettering to initiate its own event to spotlight the breadth of artistic talent, diversity, and expertise that was rooted in the core of the community. Little did she know when she joined the council in its endeavor that she would be part of a 30-year tradition of annually congregating and celebrating some of the best artists and artwork found in the Dayton area.

From Experimental Fair to Citywide Festival
Kettering’s first “experimental fair” of the early nineties, recognized and loved today as the City of Kettering’s annual Art on the Commons festival, became one of the council’s most successful ways of bringing a wide sampling of art, including that of local residents, directly to the larger community in one setting. At its 30-year anniversary mark, the festival has evolved into one of Kettering’s most anticipated events of the year. It celebrates its success by spotlighting well-known artists, such as Stolzenberger, whose work and participation in almost every year of the festival have defined the event’s high-quality offerings and personalization of experience—both of which Art on the Commons is known for in and around the Dayton region.

Featured Artist Sharon Stolzenberger

Featured Artist Sharon Stolzenberger

Stolzenberger feels “honored and extremely flattered” that she was selected as featured artist for the festival’s thirtieth anniversary, pointing out that being selected is even more special in the context of her home community and at an event that she helped develop throughout her career.

“I have only ever missed two of the Art on the Commons events in its 30-year history,” Stolzenberger said. “This recognition in my home city means so much. It helps me to get out of my own space and to see how my art impacts and is socialized throughout the community.”

A Festival with a Greater Mission
“Socializing” art, specifically the work of local artists, is what Art on the Commons does best, acting as a gateway between the arts and general community, which is also inherent to the mission of the City of Kettering, according to Shayna McConville, division manager of City of Kettering’s Arts and Culture Division. McConville emphasizes that the city, incorporated in 1955, was established with a focus on innovation and developing forward-thinking ways of strengthening regional ties by leveraging local cultural arts as a critical link to build what is today a flourishing art-centric community.

“Our city mission really is to enrich the lives of Kettering residents through various opportunities and experiences,” McConville said. “Also, to create a healthy, thriving environment and community, not just for our Kettering residents, but all those who participate in our arts and culture activities from across the region.”

Throughout its history, Art on the Commons has served as that critical link to draw both Kettering residents and the Dayton community as a whole to the entire spectrum of arts and cultural offerings the city has spent years investing in to promote its arts and cultural vision.
By extending its mission beyond its residential borders to the greater Miami Valley, the city’s arts and culture division has succeeded in driving wide popularity and interest shown in the plethora of community classes and activities available at the Rosewood Arts Center. Rosewood, an extension of the city’s arts and culture division, has opened the door for many Dayton community members to participate in multi-skill level classes in arts, crafts, and other culturally rich activities.

“We have many regular region-wide participants in our Rosewood classes, as well as in our arts festivals, each year,” McConville said. “Kettering has such a draw from many areas interested in our arts offerings, which just shows our success in making art experiences widely available.”

Celebrating Tradition, Going Deeper
This year’s 30-year anniversary festival is planned to have all the great social and interactive elements of previous years, with an even greater emphasis on cultivating the artist/resident relationship through additional hands-on art activities and feature booths that provide a forum to interact with successful local artists, according to McConville. Through this year’s even more robust Rosewood community booth, McConville said local visual artists in printmaking, painting, ceramics, jewelry, and photography will showcase their work and be available to interact with booth visitors. Stolzenberger is energized by this possibility as she reflects on what larger, connective purposes festivals like Art on the Commons fulfill in service to the spirit of community and communal arts.

“The festival can actually be quite educational because you have the chance to talk with artists to find out what their process is, materials they use, and discover the meaning behind each piece,” Stolzenberger said. “It really is like being in an ‘animated art museum’ where you can interact with the artists, touch the art work, and be fully immersed in the experience.”

This year’s event will also continue to focus on family and kid-friendly activities, offering fun events for the whole family, such as mask making, painting, and bead-making classes provided by Rosewood staff.

McConville notes that Kaleidoscope: Art and Nature on Wheels—Rosewood’s mobile summer classroom focused on art, science and environmental themes—will visit the festival this year with a habitat and adaptation theme. The Kaleidoscope van will be parked and opened for kids of all ages and skill level to participate in free theme-related activities and art projects.

For adults, this year’s festival will bring back Rosewood faculty demonstrations, which will preview fall class and workshop offerings at the center. This year, Arthur Kettner will be throwing clay on a wheel and Tracy McElfresh will be teaching sewing and fashion design classes as well as conducting live sewing demonstrations.The musical stage will feature a variety of bands from the area, including Zane Gerlach, The Pullouts, Marjorie Lee and The Lovers, and Daniel Dye & the Miller Road Band. Each of them has a growing following and reputation in the live music scene, and are vibrant performers.

“Last year’s musicians are now pretty well known in our community,” McConville said. “This is definitely one of the aspects of the festival you won’t want to miss.”

Art with Passion and Purpose
Over the course of 30 years, Art on the Commons has proven to be an invaluable forum for “bringing art home,” acting as a channel for linking some of the best local and national outdoor festival-bound artists to residents eager to support and engage in a personalized experience of viewing and purchasing art.

McConville emphasizes the level of thoughtful care and attention that is put into this festival, from the artist selection process to the types of music and family activities offered. She believes one of the reasons the festival has been so successful year after year is because attendees feel they are part of a larger experience that is intentional, meaningful, and that connects the community to a greater purpose.

For artists like Stolzenberger who participate in the festival year after year, showing work in an outdoor festival environment adds to the creative process by leveraging common grounds to express a more interactive aspect of creativity that can only happen in a communal space.

“The festival environment, especially well-curated ones like Art on the Commons, offers a great opportunity for the larger community to come together to enjoy and connect with creativity, handmade artwork, and to gain access to what may not otherwise be freely available,” McConville said.

Handcrafted glass flowers by local artist Jim DeLange.

Handcrafted glass flowers by local artist Jim DeLange.

While each year’s festival draws hundreds of Kettering and Dayton-area residents to the now larger Fraze Pavilion location to enjoy the range of arts and crafts for sales, food vendors, family and kid-friendly activities, and live music, this year’s milestone festival is planned to be intentional in purpose and mission. Part of that mission is to celebrate the work of some of the longest standing artists involved with Art on the Commons over the course of its existence, emphasizing the festival’s 30-year history of providing an accessible format for the community to enjoy high quality art and to engage on a personal level with the diverse span of multiple media artists.

“One of the things that makes the festival special is that it is completely accessible to all people,” McConville said. “It’s free and offers really high quality, hand selected art. It’s a way to recognize people who make a living creating art and to see how special it is to have something that is handcrafted and handmade.”

For Stolzenberger, the festival solidified her belief that it was through these types of community-centered, marketplace-style gatherings that the intimacy between artist, artwork, and the greater community is deepened in the interactive and social experience the festivals promote. Since her first experiences with community arts festivals, both in Kettering and around the country, she has dedicated her arts career to sharing and selling her work in what she considers to be “accessible formats” where art is delivered directly to community residents and the relationship between the artist and community is strengthened.

“I think the Art on the Commons event is such a stimulating experience—visually, yes, but across all the human range of senses,” Stolzenberger notes. “There’s so many different types of artwork in different mediums to take in. Then there’s the music, the food, and the beautiful location that make the festival a perfect summer afternoon event.”

Rosewood Arts Center and the Kettering Arts Council present the 30th annual Art on the Commons from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 12, in the Lincoln Park Civic Commons at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering. Admission is free. For more information, visit or

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Tara Pettit is a regional journalist and communications specialist with a focus on the arts, social/environmental justice issues, and community activism. She is passionate about cultivating intentional community and engaging in collaborative creative projects that make healthy community possible. Reach her at

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