The Mosaic Institute of Greater Dayton’s Americana Show

By Brennan Burks

Photo: (l-r) Honey & Houston’s Lauren Houston, Heather Turner, and Mark Cretcher photo: Scott Preston

American identity, in one way or another, is probably on everyone’s mind today. But who we are—our histories, our dreams, our beliefs, and our differences—is more than what we decide in the ballot box. It’s our diversity of experiences and expectations. It’s how we blend our different cultures together, as well as how we affirm and respect our cultural differences. It’s the habits we practice each day and the stories we tell our children each night. These are what define us, and they’re just some of the ideas you can expect to encounter when the Americana Show opens at the Mosaic Institute of Greater Dayton on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Like every show at the Mosaic Institute, the visitor experience will be threefold: performance, music, and art exhibit. This setup is what Executive Director Jes McMillan calls a “power-punch of the arts.” For the visitor and for the artist, there is the opportunity to “experience and express a particular art form,” McMillan says, “and all within the selected theme of the show,” soaking up pieces of creativity that join, hopefully, in a personal, comprehensive narrative. While the theme is the catalyst for the various artistic ideas, McMillan says it by no means dictates how each artist represents her understanding of it. “Each artist brings their own unique flavor to the show. I tell them the general feeling of what we’re hoping for, but the direction their performance or exhibit or sound takes is entirely up to their interpretation.”

There will be no lack of diverse experiences and expressions with the Americana theme. Opening performance will consist of local artist Megan Clark, who will adapt a 3D scene into a 2D painting.  Cincinnati-based Honey and Houston Americana folk group will join Mosaic house band, OldNews, a collaborative, live-show group that serves as the house band for the Mosaic to provide music for the event. Finally, the exhibit portion will showcase the ethnicity photography of Daytonian Lloyd Greene and the landscape photography of Michael Jacob Waite, who, after traveling across the country to capture the various forms of our landscape, will be making his debut.

McMillan believes bringing these artists together under the umbrella of Americana is timely. “Everyone is caught up in the election right now,” McMillan says, “and there are a lot of lines being drawn by everyone that really can divide us in ways that hurt. What better way to step over those lines than to celebrate being an American, living in America, with our wide array of beliefs, ethnicities, and a grand mixture of all types of people and places. I think everyone could be reminded of this right now.”

The photographic exhibits will be a constant reminder of our differences. Greene, an engineer in another life, has been documenting lives around the world for years, most of the time through themed documentaries, but never on anything specifically American. So when McMillan asked him to show his photos at this event, Greene did something a little different: he pulled together photos that didn’t fit into other projects and rummaged through moments he had simply captured with no particular project in mind. But Greene thinks this is fitting, “Through this assembled collection, I’ve started to see many cultural perspectives that comprise the United States, a kind of potpourri of everyday life.” Visitors will see across the spectrum of ethnicity, from a cowgirl in Wyoming to a bartender in New Orleans, from a Mexican woman on a motorcycle on the Rio Grand, to a Chinese woman playing a traditional flute on a street in San Francisco, and an Ecuadorian man selling dream catchers in Springfield, Ohio. “All of these different people bring a beautiful chaos into one,” Greene says.

Charles Hartman and OldNews also try to bring people together during their shows, but always make room for individuality. “We will have some of our more traditional folk instruments with us, but because we invite people to play with us as the show progresses, we never know exactly what to expect,” Hartman says. A collaborative effort that consists of at least three but sometimes as many as 11 musicians and performers on-stage, its name is indicative of the audience experience. “What you saw during the last show,” Hartman says, “that’s old news.” Always trying to be present on-stage, OldNews believes it’s contribution to the theme will be the diversity of the sounds and the unplanned performance. “It requires a constant respect for difference, an appreciation of unique expression,” Hartman says.

Along with enjoyment, respect and appreciation are, perhaps, what the Americana Show intends to evoke most. McMillan says that the show is meant to engage visitors through access: “We want everyone to have the fullest experience possible of many different perspectives. This is the goal of all of our shows, and it’s really important here,” with American identity itself as the theme. McMillan also wants to make the show affordable, so that “with a $10 fee, and paintings, photographs, albums, and other swag from the artists for sale, everyone can afford a piece of art and a great experience.”

This show might just bring people together, immersing them in diverse expressions and identities, at a time when we seem to be more polarized than ever.

The Americana Show takes place Saturday, Nov. 12 through Friday, Dec. 2.  Opening night runs from 7–11 p.m. at the Mosaic Institute, 43 S. Main St. in Miamisburg. Cover is $10. Visitors are encouraged to dress in Wild West fashion, as well as to attend Kira’s Holiday Hafla Fundraiser for The Mosaic Institute’s Women Empowerment project on Dec. 2. For more information, please call 937.248.7400 or visit MosaicInstituteOfGreaterDayton.org. 

 

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Reach DCP freelance writer Brennan Burks at BrennanBurks@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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