East Dayton Arts District evolves

T he Mosaic Institute of Greater Dayton embraces the spectrum of arts and the power of community advocacy to serve the communities of Dayton and beyond. The Institute works with community members to create collaborative art and also mobilizes artists to lead projects that beautify neighborhoods. Jes McMillan is the founder and executive director of […]

Mosaic Institute of Greater Dayton eyes urban improvements


Mosaic created this 5×6 foot tribute for the Miamisburg American Legion. Crafted by veterans, community volunteers of all ages  and as correctional facility community service. Design by Vincent Detrick.

By Liz Dougherty

The Mosaic Institute of Greater Dayton embraces the spectrum of arts and the power of community advocacy to serve the communities of Dayton and beyond. The Institute works with community members to create collaborative art and also mobilizes artists to lead projects that beautify neighborhoods.

Jes McMillan is the founder and executive director of The Mosaic Institute, an organization whose mission is to inspire, empower and unify community through art. Simply put, the Institute’s clientele is “community.” McMillan’s role and vision drives this dynamic collaborative platform to break down the social barriers of division to work towards unity.

McMillan opened the Mosaic Institute in Miamisburg in April 2015. Early on, the focus was on offering a variety of arts classes taught by talented local artists and hosting art shows featuring visual art, music, and performance arts experiences.

The Mosaic Institute’s operations and community outreach remained in Miamisburg for over two years. During this time, McMillan and her team donated mosaic murals to the city of Miamisburg, the Club Impact Youth Center and the American Legion. Hundreds of community volunteers contributed to the Levee Wall mural, a project that landed the city of Miamisburg as a finalist for the 2017 Governors Award for Parks & Recreation.

In August 2017, McMillan moved the Institute to its current location at the Crane Studios Market in Dayton. The move brought McMillan to discover a significant lack of awareness of downtown Dayton’s vast arts experiences in the suburbs. So she proceeded with a new mission—to develop the East Dayton Arts District, a strategic effort designed to represent the city’s largest population of artists.

“The District will create an umbrella under which to unify the hundreds of artists and artisans that live & work in Dayton’s East Side,” McMillan says. To achieve sustainable support, one goal of the bi-fold formula aims to establish a “branding” in order to increase awareness of the amazing arts experiences the district has to offer. The second and most important goal for McMillan is to realize that “with our powers combined, we will ignite a creative force transforming the landscape of East Dayton with beautification and community empowerment and support.”

Since its inception, the Mosaic Institute’s focus has increasingly centered around community work. Their work with adults incarcerated for drug abuse has produced three large mosaic murals. The team recently received permission for, and is gearing up to paint, a mural on the Keowee and First Street train overpass. The execution date is currently set for July 9-12, 2018. “Our creative design including the title ‘East Dayton Arts District’ will adorn the overpass as the crown of East’s artistic community and welcoming into the area,” McMillan says.

To date, their efforts have raised $540.00 in donations at a fundraiser held at the 5th Street Brew Pub. An additional $1,500.00 is needed for the lift rental and paint supplies required to complete the project. “The fundraiser for this project is on our Facebook page,” McMillan says. “We need your help to make this happen for our city and community!”

Ensuring the mission’s success is the support of a unique collective of musicians, performers, artists, writers and friends united through a devotion to a common vision.

“Each of us work together contributing to the cause by using our unique skill sets to create a bigger, better, more balanced way to serve,” McMillan says. “We are creatives and others, who care about our communities and feel a personal responsibility to do what we can to change things for the better.”

As Team Mosaic expands and evolves, McMillan continues to push the organization further into new ways of connecting and serving. Current and upcoming projects are numerous and ever-evolving. At Crane Studios Market, they hold art openings every first Friday and host Artists Talks & Bourbon Tastings on second Saturdays. This summer, they will install a six-piece ceramic tile walking tour in Miamisburg.

At the 10th Annual UpDayton Summit held in April 2018 at the Dayton Art Institute, McMillan’s proposal won the funding to build the “Wall of Perseverance,” which McMillan described as an idea “to create a collaborative mural that people will travel to Dayton to place a piece of ceramic tile onto the memorial in remembrance of a loved one lost. This project will begin the healing for so many devastated by the epidemic and help to rename Dayton the ‘Capitol of Healing.’” More information and ways to get involved are forthcoming.

“It is my job to lead people in collaborative efforts that may inspire and empower them,” McMillan says. “I do this because I believe that ‘Those who can, have the responsibility to’.”

The Mosaic Institute is a 5019(c)(3) nonprofit organization that offers free instruction to all who wish to join in the creation of murals that will reside in neighborhoods, organizations and businesses. If you wish to learn a new art, explore unique volunteer opportunities or support the Mosaic Institute through donations, please visit facebook.com/MosaicInstituteDayton or midayton.org.

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