Two years, 1000 Prints

By Joyell Nevins

Photo: Issa Randall peppered The Blue House with New York Times headlines in “An Easy Tension” photo courtesy of Nicholaus Arnold and Ashley Jonas

What if your living room was your exhibition hall? Meet husband and wife Nicholaus Arnold and Ashley Jonas, who literally live in The Blue House, a combination gallery, artist studio space, and residence in northwest Dayton.

“We get to live the artist lifestyle,” Jonas says.

Arnold studied at Wright State University and then Syracuse University for printmaking, and is especially drawn to clay sculpture. He considers himself a semi-conceptual artist. Jonas did undergraduate work at the University of Florida and received her MFA from the University of Colorado Boulder, both in ceramics.

She also does interdisciplinary work, with an emphasis in photography and sculpture. They are now in their mid-30s and show work separately and together, including a current exhibition in Minneapolis called Till Death Do Us Part.

Jonas and Arnold originally planned for Dayton to be a brief pit stop between grad school and the rest of their careers. They saw this city as a place to regroup and reset.

But their original plan was flipped when good friend and artist Diana Cordero bought the house at 3325 Catalpa Drive with the vision to turn it into an arts center. She approached the couple to see if they would come on board and help develop and implement that vision.

“We were looking for a place to put our artistic energy,” Jonas explains. “We said, ‘Let’s just walk through this door because it’s the one that’s open.’”

Now, that door has swung wide open. Blue House is celebrating its second anniversary in August and is still gaining speed. The gallery is proving to be a sustainable space and drawing in artists from all over. But not in a traditional sense.

“The goal is to challenge the notion of what an artistic experience can be,” Jonas says.

It starts with the fact that the viewer is not in a stark gallery setting.

“It’s such a different model from the white cube,” Jonas explains. “You get the sense that you’re in a house. People feel comfortable that they don’t have to have the right art jargon.”

The challenge continues with the type of art the Blue House explores: it goes beyond paintings on a wall. The show Groundless featured an artist who created a garden sculpture that grew on the walls, using chopped IKEA furniture to do so. Terez Iacovino will actually be coming back this month to be an artist-in-residence and work with an etching press at the studio.

The 26-inch-by-50-inch etching press with screen printing capabilities is a new addition to the Blue House. The gallery’s print studio also includes an inking table with multiple rollers, brayers, squeegees, and even a power washer for clean up.

Dayton artist Issa Randall took headlines from The New York Times and peppered the walls and ceilings with them in his installation entitled “An Easy Tension.” All of the headlines related to racism and violence in the world, making for a much heavier show.

On a funkier side, July’s show combined a gallery and punk/hip-hop experience with sculptor and installation artist Landon Crowell (El Raton) and local band Dip Spit.

Arnold notes that he and Jonas have different types of shows they like to promote.

“I prefer more humorous or large-scale work,” he says. “Ashley prefers curatorial projects, with overarching themes or multiple artists.”

They both may have an opportunity to incorporate those ideals in the August show entitled 1000 Prints. The couple is collecting as many prints as they can, from as many artists as they can. They have held “print jams” in the Blue House to encourage the community aspect.

All of the prints, estimated to be about 300 total, will be hung from clotheslines throughout the space. The prints range in size and topic, arriving in person, in tubes, and priority mail envelopes. They have come from as close as Dayton and as far away as San Francisco. A couple artists from Stockholm, Sweden even made special arrangements to send their prints via airmail.

The show is set to open Aug. 13 and run through the 31.

Although both Jonas and Arnold have day jobs as adjunct professors—between the two of them covering University of Dayton, Sinclair Community College, Edison Community College, and Wright State University—and run Blue House on a completely volunteer basis, they hope that one day the gallery will become a full -time opportunity on its own.

“We’re both invested in the large scale idea of Blue House,” Jonas says. “We are both really interested in moving forward—we’re never done.”

1000 Prints runs from Aug. 13 – 31. The Blue House is located at 3325 Catalpa Dr. in Dayton. For more information, please find “The Blue House Gallery and Studios” on Facebook, visit thebluehousearts.com, or call 937.479.4459.

Joyell Nevins believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com.

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Joyell Nevins
Joyell believes in the power of the written word, a good cup of coffee, and sometimes, the need for a hug (please, no Tommy Boy references). Follow her on her blog “Small World, Big God” at swbgblog.wordpress.com or reach her at joyellnevins@daytoncitypaper.com

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