Art On the Commons

Art On the Commons

A display and sale of fine arts and crafts

By Natasha Habib

If you don’t already know how much Dayton’s arts scene has been growing over the past few years, you’ve probably either been unconscious or one of those “Negative Nancy” types who never goes downtown anyway. The rest of us, however, know that Dayton is full of talented artists in all different mediums and styles. These local artists and their patrons are part of the reason why AmericanStyle Magazine named Dayton the number two mid-size city for the arts this past June. This Sunday, you’ll have a chance to see and support many of these local professional artists at Art on the Commons, presented by Rosewood Arts Centre and the Kettering Arts Council.

Art on the Commons is an annual fine arts and fine crafts festival that takes place in the Lincoln Park Civic Commons in Kettering. The event has been going strong since 1988. This year, around 100 artists representing varying types of art were selected from approximately 150 applicants.

“I think Art on the Commons is a great show because it’s very well juried,” said artist and regular Art on the Commons participator, Karen Benedetti. “They don’t just take anybody. It’s not easy to get in, you know? People have to be pretty good; they have to know what they’re doing. People feel honored to be accepted into the show.”

“They really are one-of-a-kind artworks,” said Shayna McConville, cultural arts manger for the city of Kettering. “It’s not anything that could be mass-produced.” All works – from textiles, glass, metal, jewelry, paintings, photography, prints and more – are original.

“It’s not a museum experience,” McConville said, “but you get to look at artwork that you don’t normally get to see, of a very high quality. And you get to see it in one of the most beautiful parks, I think, we have in the area.” The Lincoln Park Civic Commons, home to the Fraze Pavilion for Performing Arts, is a picturesque setting with brick walkways, reflecting pools, fountains and trees.

“It’s in a very attractive location,” said David Brand, jeweler, metalsmith and Art on the Commons regular, along with his wife, Sandra Picciano-Brand.

“It surpasses the setting of many shows,” Picciano-Brand said. She and Brand participate in the top juried art shows in the country, but noted that those bigger shows usually take place in a street setting, not in a park like the Civic Commons.

The beautiful setting complements the stunning artwork displayed and for sale in the festival. The Brands, for example, make unique jewelry from materials like silver, bronze, pearls, found objects and unusual gemstones such as opal and druzy, a layer of fine, quartz crystals that can be found in geodes. Though they often collaborate on pieces, the two artists each have unique styles.  Picciano-Brand describes her style as “romantic,” with pieces with titles like Allure of the Mermaid, White Lace, Embrace and Lovebirds. Brand, who also creates metal vessels, describes his jewelry as “archeological,” with titles like “Sunspot Predictor,” “Enigma Decoder,” and “Essential Gear for an Aspiring Sleuth.” “The Enigma Decoder,” inspired by Dayton’s role in breaking codes during World War II, is made with sapphires taken from a dial indicator, an instrument machinists use, said Brand. McConville said the Brand’s jewelry pieces “look like magical little entryways into another world.”

“If you wore it,” McConville said, “people would just come up to you every minute of the day and say, ‘What in the world? That is just so beautiful — and can it get me back to 1392?’”

Though Art on the Commons is open to all artists nationwide, it does boast a strong Miami Valley presence, said McConville. “It’s sort of a who’s who of who is doing arts in the area,” she said.

“[Art on the Commons] is nicer because it’s a local show,” said painter Benedetti. “I see people that I know. I see other artists that I know — there are a lot of local artists in it. But I also see people coming through who are friends … It’s fun seeing people and showing them what I have.” She is also able to cross-promote this event and her work at the Town & Country Fine Art Center in Kettering.

“The art community here is fairly close,” said Brand, “so most of us know one another.” In fact, the Brands currently own at least four of Benedetti’s paintings.

“She’s a wonderful artist,” said Picciano-Brand. Benedetti has been painting for 50 years, and has built up quite the collection of artwork.

“It’s nice when you walk into someone’s house that you haven’t seen for several years and they have one of your paintings and you think, ‘Oh, I remember when I did that,’” said Benedetti. “It’s like visiting an old friend.” Though she originally started doing traditional-looking watercolors, she has since been trying new things with acrylic paints. Benedetti describes her paintings as “abstract work but with a little bit of realism that you can see something or imagine something in it.” Though her paintings are inspired by things like city buildings and the Alaskan wilderness, they are not your traditional portraits, but rather only suggestions of shapes and figures, collaged with other images.

“It’s a more personal expression rather than just copying something exactly,” said Benedetti.

“I like playing with the paint,” she said. “I like letting the paint run and drip, and I like laying different textures on the paint to try to get different effects and then try to make it all get cohesive somehow … I think it’s important to have fun, to enjoy what you’re doing.” The abstract quality of her work allows people to see different things in her paintings, make their own personal connections to it, and sometimes even become emotional viewing a piece.

“They may see something totally different and I have no idea why they’re reacting to it, but that’s ok,” she said. “It’s really nice when you feel like you’ve touched an emotional chord in somebody.”

Daniel Powers of Powers Photography in the Oregon District has had similar experiences at art shows.

“I think, to some degree, everybody is bringing their own story,” he said. “What they’re relating to, there’s feeling and emotion in the picture, but they’re bringing their own story to that. And so, I don’t want to get in the way of that.” He added with a smile, “It’ll ruin the sale.” Powers and his wife — with help from her ceramics — do make a living from their artwork. Powers usually does about 20 shows each year, including Art on the Commons.

“I’ve done it consistently with maybe one year off in the past 10,” he said. “And even in the [economic] downturn, it always produced for me; better than a lot of other bigger shows. So I want say, ‘pat on the back to Dayton.’” His selection of works runs from easily affordable, smaller prints, to $1800 large, framed photographs. “I frame them with the most beautiful framing I can find and I use the best glazing, which is the glass that goes on, it’s the museum glass that cuts the glare, it protects the print. And that pulls them into my booth.” With an average sale of a few smaller prints totaling to somewhere around $100 to $200, Powers estimates that he usually earns about $2,000 at Art on the Commons – though it was almost double that last year— and that’s pretty good for a one-day show, he said.

In addition to saving on travel expenses for a local show, Powers has noticed that the Dayton community is very supportive of local artists.

“It’s funny because the first year [the recession] hit, I was still doing well at Art on the Commons, and I was like, ‘yay Dayton,’” he said, noting that he didn’t experience the same success at other shows. “It’s a fickle business. If that one person doesn’t show up – you know, one person can make your show.” The recession wasn’t the only hurdle in Powers’ business.

“I think that the economy was one blow, but digital photography was the second,” he said. “It’s really cheapened the art form.” The material investment put into a digital photograph is much less than a film one. “For me, every time I open the shutter, it’s film, it’s chemicals to process, it’s hours to make the contact sheet before I even get to see, did I do it right?”

“[Digital photography] is a different medium for me,” said Powers. “It’s so different from what you do in a darkroom … a computer is a different tool like a paintbrush is a different tool like an enlarger is a different tool … grain looks different than pixels; it has a different feel, a different look to it.” That’s not to say he doesn’t appreciate digital photography as its own art form, however.

“I don’t want to demean digital photography in any way because most of the guys that I knew switched to digital and their work is amazing – it’s beautiful, but it’s different,” said Powers, who photographs in both color and black-and-white.

Photography was not Powers’ first career. After playing football, he became a ballet dancer and left Chicago – which did not support a ballet company of its own – to audition for the Dayton Ballet. The Brands have known Powers for quite a while too, and complimented both his dancing and photography. While he traveled for photography, Powers began taking photographs and eventually taught himself how to use a camera, got tips from other artists on shows, and learned how to print his work through the Dayton Printmakers Cooperative.

“When I was a ballet dancer and the career was waning, it was a scary time,” said Powers. “I gradually transitioned into this and I was so grateful for it. I was still able to express myself as an artist.”

Powers said he frequently sees other artists from Dayton in national shows, farther away.

“There are a lot of artists in Dayton,” he said. “And there are a lot of talented artists, because they’re jurying into these top shows.”

“I think there’s a good art energy here in Dayton,” said Powers. “We invented flight here – you don’t get much more creative than that.”

If you’ve been to Art on the Commons before, you’ll notice a few changes this year. A beer and wine garden has been added, new bands will be featured, and mobile food trucks for Fressa, Taco Azul and Go Cupcake will be present.

“I’m real glad the ones running the show give us the opportunity to display our work and to make a living out of it,” said Powers. “I know a lot of volunteers do that show and there’s a lot of hard work that goes into it long before we get there, which is always appreciated.”

Art on the Commons supports our local economy by bringing in artists from out of town (“every time a visitor comes here, they are buying something,” said McConville), as well supports our local artists.

“It’s great to have the opportunities right here in Dayton, and Art on the Commons is one of them,” said Powers.

Art on the Commons takes place Sunday, August 12 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Lincoln Park Civic Commons is located at 675 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering. For more information, visit aotc.ketteringoh.org or call (937) 296-0294.

For more information on the artists mentioned in this article, visit their websites:

Karen Benedetti: www.karenbenedetti.com

Sandra Picciano-Brand and David Brand: mythicsilver.com

David Powers and his wife, Kate Lally: www.powersfineartphotography.com and www.katelally.com

Note: The writer is a member of the Kettering Arts Council.

Reach DCP freelance writer Natasha Habib at NatashaHabib@DaytonCityPaper.com

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