Of art, outreach and lemonade

A year in review at Gallery Saint John

By Gary Spencer

Photo: “Begin the Journey” by Brother Charles Wanda

The phrase “man on a mission” evokes certain types of traits and attributes for most people – somebody with a grand plan, somebody making moves. But sometimes a man on a mission is somebody who’s just armed with a paintbrush and a flair for education and creativity. Such is the case with the Marianists who operate Gallery Saint John, a not-for-profit art exhibition center located at Mount Saint John in Beavercreek – a 140-acre oasis and nature preserve on Shakertown Road, seemingly years away from the bustle of downtown Dayton. It’s a place to enrich one’s mind and spirit with the imaginative works of the gallery’s Marianists, who run a revolving door of exhibitions that utilize any and all forms of artistic media.

While the calendar may say it’s only July, in the art world, the year is at a close, and those at Gallery Saint John are now holding their annual Year in Review exhibition, featuring the best works by the five principal Marianist artists – Brothers Joe Barrish, John Lemker, Don Smith, Louie Fournier and Charles Wanda.

“The show gets its name from a reprise of the art calendar year,” Gallery Saint John coordinator and featured artist Joe Barrish explained. “Our shows run from September through August. We’ve invited [the artists] to bring in pieces that were important to them or that would look attractive during the summer months. Some even have a winter theme about them!”

Beginning in September of the prior calendar year, each member of this organization holds an exhibition of each of his works for approximately six weeks, and then another one of the artists holds the next exhibition. The Year in Review exhibition will feature select works of Barrish, Lemker, Smith, Fournier and Wanda previously shown at each artist’s own show, but will also feature new works as well. One can expect to see a diverse mix of photography, oil paintings, sculpture, pottery, printmaking and everything in between. The exhibition is open every Sunday throughout July and August.

“We have a space for artwork we display as a way to introduce people to the property,” Barrish explained. “We invite some of the schools to come in. We have a number of retirement groups living in the vicinity. Anyone from a retirement village who wishes to come, the bus can pull right up to the door so they can come right in and enjoy the art.”

But for Barrish, the exhibition and the gallery are not mere displays for their own artwork, but also an opportunity to educate those who come to the gallery about art and all things associated with it.

“It’s educational outreach,” Barrish said. “It isn’t a retail gallery. That’s not the purpose. We are a not-for-profit gallery that’s purpose is outreach and education. We like people to come learn something from [the art].”

Barrish, like many other artists, understands art isn’t just something you observe in a museum, but rather something that can color the way you see your entire life.

“Art is a very important aspect of living you develop, that you have some kind of creative energy which can see you through your whole life,” Barrish said. “What we’re trying to do is reach out to people and show them there are some positive things in their lives they can accomplish just by being involved in the arts. If you come to enjoy music, photography, sketching, painting at our various venues here, it makes a difference in your life. It’s really beneficial to develop a talent in the arts or just by being involved in some element of the arts. We try to introduce people to the visual arts in a way that they can appreciate them and maybe take something away from it and get involved. It’s positive outreach for people.”

And if these ideals seem a little too lofty or cerebral, all patrons who come through the door at Gallery St. John during the dog days of summer will be offered something basically everyone can appreciate …

“We don’t have air conditioning, so during July and August, it’s kind of warm here,” Barrish joked. “But we do have free ice cold lemonade!”

The Gallery St. John will hold its Year in Review exhibition every Sunday through July and August from noon–4 p.m. The gallery is located at 4400 Shakertown Rd. in Beavercreek. Admission is free. For more information, please visit dayton-gallery-saintjohn.org.


Reach DCP freelance writer By Gary Spencer at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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