Best of both worlds

Sideshow 8 ready to showcase the heart of Dayton visual art

By Gary Spencer

photo: Preparing for Sideshow 6; Photo credit: Emmanuel Cavallaro

For better or worse, Dayton institutions tend to come and go. Every once in a while, though, a new institution emerges and manages to defy the odds and become a yearly fixture in the cultural fabric of the Gem City. Such seems to be the case for the yearly event known as Sideshow, presented by the Dayton Circus Creative Collective, that takes place at the once-abandoned Yellow Cab Building on East Fourth Street in downtown Dayton. Despite the financial turmoil that arts-related endeavors find themselves in within this city, Sideshow will be ushering in its eighth edition this coming weekend and the event just keeps getting bigger every year.

Like many happenings that stick around this city like a well-taped flyer to a pole in the Oregon District, Sideshow started modestly and has slowly evolved into the big deal it has become today.

“It started simple enough with a vision and desire to throw an art show that was free for the organizers, the participants and the guests,” explained Jeff Opt, current Chairman of the Dayton Circus Creative Collective. “[It is] an event that would bring people together as a community to celebrate local art and artists.”

For the first Sideshow in 2006, the then-burgeoning collective of artists and like-hearted volunteers found a raw space they turned into a venue for the event on East Third Street, near what is now The Cannery. Despite the sweltering, heated weather that surrounded that first Sideshow, both visual artists, musical artists and guests had a genuinely good time that planted the seed for the event to repeat itself from there on out. That first Sideshow also led to the official formation of the Dayton Circus Creative Collective.

“Many of the participants had so much fun they wanted to figure out how to capture that energy year around,” Opt said. “Following many meetings in the fall and winter of 2006, The Dayton Circus Creative Collective came into being in early 2007. The goal of the organization was simple and broad: The Circus is dedicated to building a nourishing environment that will encourage community interaction, artistic collaboration and the empowerment of the individual. We offer a place to create, perform and share freely in the experience of living.”

With Sideshow 8 in the immediate future, Vice-Chairperson for Dayton Circus Creative Collective Erin Vasconcelos is leading the charge for Sideshow’s biggest year to date, featuring nearly 60 local visual artists and more than 20 Dayton-based musical artists as well. According to Opt, this year’s Sideshow will be a celebration of artists showcased from both the past and present.

“It will be a mix of people who have shown in past Sideshow, along with several new artists, many showing their work for the first time,” said Opt. “There will be plenty to explore and something for everyone.”

Up front, it’s pretty obvious that Sideshow 8 is making its backbone upon its dozens of local visual artists involved. Roughly 60 visual artists will have their work on display over the course of its two-day stint at the Yellow Cab Building on East Fourth Street in downtown Dayton. At this year’s Sideshow, just as in the past, one can expect to be presented with a variety of visual artistic styles, mediums and approaches.

“We encourage all artists to create with their vision; it is not about a specific genre, ability or preference,” Vasconcelos explained. “That said, I never cease to be amazed at the quality from each artist contributing.”

And with that said, Sideshow is never without an abundant display of artistic variety and wizardry from a surprising amount of visual artists who call Dayton home. The fact that Dayton has such a thriving, creative collective of artists isn’t lost on Opt or his partners in crime at the Dayton Circus Creative Collective.

“I believe that Dayton has a long history rooted in creativity – we are not constrained by the belief that we cannot create or expose ourselves to the arts,” observed Vasconcelos. “We are truly fortunate in our little city that each generation is given more and more availability to the arts, on every level. I believe that our community values and respects what the arts do for our community and therefore encourages the arts to thrive.”

Even in its eighth year of existence, Sideshow continues to display the talents of local visual artists and intrigue and inspire the creative intuitions of the audiences it captures every year and continues to grow and expand to keep its patrons interested in all that Dayton has to offer creatively.

“The Sideshow has really evolved over the years. It is – and always will remain – a unique experience for those involved, every year is a new experience,” said Vasconcelos. “I have met several people who tell me that their Sideshow experience is life changing. An event like the Sideshow has the power to inspire community involvement within a person on a grand scale. For example, we met a person at the Sideshow last year who followed the trailing music over from the Oregon District. He had never heard of the Sideshow before, but seemed excited about the idea – he was the first applicant to this year’s show. The aura of the event creates an atmosphere among those involved, such that people want to put the effort into making the Sideshow happen, year after year.”

Sideshow 8 takes place on Friday. May 10 and Saturday, May 11 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. each night at the Yellow Cab Building, 700 E. Fourth St.  Admission is free. For more information, please visit


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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at

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