Looking forward: 2015 in the arts

How Dayton draws its future

By Eva Buttacavoli

Photo: Gallery view of the 2014 Stivers School for the Arts photography auction; photo: Leah Stahl

A recent article in the New York Times Arts section posed the question to a panel of cultural figures of whether our art is equal to the challenges of our times. The premise being intentional or not, artists in every form and style draw on and refashion the facts of life that surround them, and the resulting work takes its place among those facts. This made me think of Dayton, a city praised for the amount and quality of arts it offers for a city its size, and how we are “drawing” our future.

It’s no secret Dayton struggles mightily with the economic and social issues of our times. Repercussions in the Dayton arts scene in 2014 included the closing of the Cannery Art & Design Center and the downsizing of Town & Country Fine Arts Gallery. Other changes include the move and expansion of K12 Gallery/TEJAS and the opening of Blue House Gallery. In addition, projects like PechaKucha, TedX, 3rd on Third and the Dayton Metro Library’s and the Downtown Dayton Partnership’s calls for entries for large-scale permanent art are refashioning relationships with the region’s artists.

At the Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC), a community arts center like many you find in most every city, in every state across our country, we’ve been struggling to stay responsive and relevant for almost 25 years. By presenting shows like Digital Abstraction (Jan. 16-Feb. 27, 2015), we’ll look at aesthetic advances in digital art over the last 20 years and the existence of such 21st century phenomena as art made for Second Life. For John Emery: things left behind (May 8-June 20, 2015), we’ll present the ageless media of watercolor and paper and show how a veteran artist can transform simple materials. We’ve also made all shows (with the exception of our annual Open Members’ Show) juried to reflect many different viewpoints and committed to paying artists an industry standard wage for shows, programs and sales. With thinking forward in mind, I asked a few of my colleagues what they are most looking forward in 2015.

As an artist, Tess Cortés, Gallery Coordinator for Wright State’s Robert & Elaine Stein Galleries, is thrilled to be included in Digital Abstraction, opening at DVAC on Jan. 16. Co-curated by the late Jud Yalkut, to whom she looked up both professionally and artistically, works in the exhibition will echo Jud’s sensibilities for colorful, machine-controlled patterning. She also wants to share her excitement about the new Stein gallery construction, due to be completed in spring of 2016. Presenting innovative exhibitions for decades, the new museum-quality space will ensure the collection is properly cared for, as well as allow them to bring even more fantastic art to the area.

Artist and Sinclair Associate Professor Bridgette Bogle claimed she is “cheating” with her first pick for 2015 since it already opened, but it’s such a great collaboration in the spirit of “drawing” our future, she just had to include it. The Dayton Art Institute’s Experiencenter, the museum’s interactive family learning center that is tucked away in its lower level, is consistently curated to present some of the coolest collaborations in the region. Deborah Brod’s collaboration with DECA PREP students on adornment, recycled materials and textiles, Decked Out! is on view until April 12, 2015. She’ll also be keeping an eye on The Fine Art Center at Cross Pointe. After 20 years in the Town & Country shopping mall, this group of talented artists and artisans made a big move to Centerville this fall. The Visiting Artist Window at the front of the gallery continually rotates, providing visitors an opportunity to see fresh art every month.

Another jewel of the Dayton arts scene, Gallery 510 Fine Art, marks its 7th year in 2015. The sole survivor of the Oregon Historic District’s 2008 gallery revival spearheaded by community leader Mike Ervin and select artist/entrepreneurs, artist/gallerist Loretta Puncer rotates themes and work reflecting the best plein air painters in the region, as well as jewelry, fiber and ceramic. For 2015, I know fellow artists and collectors anticipate Puncer’s new plein air studies created around Dayton and during her recent travels, but Puncer herself is most excited about upcoming painting classes for watercolors and acrylics.

Amy J. Epstein, Building Manager at Front Street Studios, is anticipating an open studio resurgence with Third Sundays @ Front Street. Co-conceived with community connector Peter Benkendorf and longtime Dayton artist and mentor Mike Elsass, open houses, demos and sales are planned for third Sundays during the winter months. New work by Mythic Silver (Sandra Picciano-Brand and David Brand), The Dayton Pottery Club, Gary Hinsche, Julie Beyer, Crystal Ash and Saluda Moon Glass are just some of the offerings she’s looking forward to most.

Ashley Jonas, artist, curator and freelance writer, is looking forward to what The Blue House Gallery is cooking up for 2015. The Blue House, an exhibition space located in northwest Dayton and newly opened since August, has already brought in artists from Philadelphia, New York City, Kansas and Connecticut to engage the community in a larger conversation about art, creativity, life and everything in between. To jump-start their mission, The Blue House is building a mobile gallery in the back of a blue 1978 Chevrolet Silverado. The “Blue Truck Gallery” will make its debut at the 2015 Urban Nights this coming spring.

Merging art and fashion as a cultural trend is something I’m excited about – and Clash Dayton Owner/Buyer MK Burnside is too. Forward-thinking for 2015, she’ll be introducing a six-month capsule shop by traveling surreal/narrative artist Robert W. Walker. In addition, she’s looking forward to hosting a new fashion show in the spring that includes local designers, salons, photographers, videographers, performers and models. Also starting 2015, Clash will be dropping the consignment part of the shop but will offer vintage sales by appointment and all new clothing lines unique to Dayton.

Finally, the photo-women of Stiver’s School for the Arts, Paula Willmot Kraus and Leah Stahl, are anticipating the Stivers Photography Auction (April 10, 2015). A true example of Dayton holding up a mirror to our times, the auction will feature over two hundred photographs from photographers in 14 countries and nearly every state in the U.S. solicited by Stivers photography students. In the past the auction has included work from The Starn twins, Chris Jordan, Art Streiber, Kim Weston and others – and all proceeds fund the school’s photography program.

A Dayton transplant from Austin, Texas, via Miami, Fla. and Brooklyn, New York, Eva is Executive Director of the Dayton Visual Arts Center. A curator and arts administrator for over 23 years, she previously served as the first executive director of FilmDayton; the curator/ director of exhibitions and education at the Austin Museum of Art and the director of education at the Miami Art Museum. You can reach her at EvaButtacavoli@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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