Breathing a Gallery into Life

Tiffany Hofmann-Rees’ and Don Williams’ ceramic forms evoked contrasting notions of shelter. Tiffany Hofmann-Rees’ and Don Williams’ ceramic forms evoked contrasting notions of shelter.

Two Artists Transform Their Studio

By Jane A. Black

Tiffany Hofmann-Rees’ and Don Williams’ ceramic forms evoked contrasting notions of shelter.

Sarah and Mike Puckett met in New York City but settled south of Dayton when Sarah got a teaching job at Centerville High School. They are not far from her hometown (in central Ohio) and alma mater (Miami University), but the Midwest is a new adventure for Mike, a native of Southern California and fine arts graduate of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
They have recently begun a new journey, jointly opening Rua, a gallery just off Bigger and Whipp Roads in Kettering. At this point, the place is open very limited hours and shows are quite short, more like events than exhibitions. However, a recent visit to Small Works 2011 (closed now and only open for one week, with public hours on three days – though they will open by appointment) was impressive.
My first question was, “What does Rua mean?” The definitions I found on a quick Internet search didn’t seem all that applicable. First up was one of those texting acronym translations … RUA=Are You Alone? Then there was the Maori (which translates as either “cave” or “two,” depending on context), and the Gaelic (meaning “red dog,” “little fox” or “red, but only pertaining to the color of hair,” depending on the source).  Since the Pucketts aren’t redheads and the place was far from a cave, I didn’t think I had hit upon the source of the name. What I hadn’t found was the Hebrew word, which is alternatively spelled ruah.
“Rua means breath, life, spirit,” Sarah explained. “It was our vision for the place … that it is not just us filling it up. We saw it as a way to interact with people, to create a space for communication.”
Indeed, during the reception, as the space filled up with some of the 30-plus artists whose work was on display, there were multiple connections being made. Co-workers greeted each other; friends from the weekly Art Lunch that bounces back and forth from the Dayton Visual Arts Center to the Rosewood Art Centre met up; my daughter even ran into a friend from her summer swim team. Many of the artists arrived with platters of food and took a turn helping to staff the table. There was simply a lot of joy, as well as a lot of art, in the room.
And the artwork was nicely displayed and lighted well. This is not a given in galleries and is much appreciated by those of us who are adamant that art needs light. Another much appreciated feature is how carefully the show had been set – a function that Sarah said was “all Mike.”
For those who might not know, let me just say here that there are two different but related functions in creating an exhibit. There is “curating,” in which one chooses the work to be shown, and there is “setting,” which is deciding what goes where, how images are grouped, how far apart each piece is hung, etc. The second, little discussed part is actually hugely important, especially when you are shoe-horning 200 pieces into a relatively small space!
There were some brilliantly odd combinations … like Kidtee Hello’s contemporary, edgy photos of women next to Pam Adams’ soft, traditional paintings of a woman in a formal dress. On the surface so opposite, the pairing actually revealed an unexpected compositional and color compatibility. There was an emphasis on the graphic, including Sarah’s semi-three-dimensional “Waiting” series of birds on a wire; Mike’s elegant, graffiti-inspired cutouts; and work by some of their out-of-town friends. Rachel Weiskittle’s crazy fun robots contrasted with Mike Guidone’s ghoulish, but fun grayscale heads of the walking dead; Bethany Price contributed luscious paintings of donuts and Juan Thorp showed unlikely machines.
Kudos to the Pucketts for bringing together art and doing it well … it’s worth keeping up on their shows and making time to stop by the gallery at 2218 Andrew Road. Check our their website at or call (937) 985-4588 to find out about the next show.

Jane A. Black is a fiber artist and the executive director of the Dayton Visual Arts Center. Visit the gallery at 118 N. Jefferson St. or visit their website at Follow her on Twitter @lookingabout. She can be reached at

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