Out of the classroom, into the community

College fellowship winners exhibit at Dayton Art Institute

By Josher Lumpkin

Photo: The 2014 Yeck College Artist Fellow Exhibition is on view through Sept. 14 at the Dayton Art Institute; photo: Alexis Brown

We Daytonians are fortunate to live in a city with such access to art in all of its forms. There are larger towns, for sure, but even those don’t have all we do. Dayton is home to opera, ballet and contemporary dance companies, several community theatres, and we have an art museum that rivals the finest in the country. 

In an effort to add to the appreciation of fine art in Dayton, each year the Dayton Art Institute chooses four art students from local colleges to receive the Yeck College Artist Fellowship. These four fellows have the unique opportunity to mentor 12 carefully selected high school students, and also have a collection of their work exhibited at the museum. 

This year’s Yeck College Artist Fellowship recipients are Micah Zavacky and Sarah Rodriguez of Wright State University, and Jessica Williams and Arend Neyhouse of Sinclair Community College. Each of the artists is a recent graduate of their school’s respective art program. 

“This program is important because it gives both the fellows and the children an idea of what it takes to live life as an artist,” Williams, 25, said. “Firsthand experience with creating a new body of work in a shortened amount of time, organizing lesson plans and sharing knowledge with young, creative minds.”

“I think it’s important, primarily for the students,” Zavacky, 21, said. “It takes teenagers out of a high school setting and it puts them in a classroom with college art majors. From that, we can explain to them our experiences. I was in my senior year when I was at Yeck, so I had a lot of experience. I had applied to graduate school, I’d been in shows.” Zavacky was recently accepted into a graduate program at Illinois State University. “I also think it’s great for the museum,” she continued, “and to keep up a tradition. It’s been a consistent program for the Dayton Art Institute, and I think it’s really good exposure for me. It really pushed me to make a body of work. It was stressful at times, but it taught me a lot about teaching. And I really enjoy that aspect about it.” 

Neyhouse, 25, agreed about the importance of teaching for program. “I think it’s especially important because it gives college-level artists an opportunity not only with teaching, but it gives them an opportunity to exhibit in galleries, and to just be more immersed in the art community in Dayton, and I think that’s such a big part of being an artist.”

“I think the Yeck Fellowship is such a great opportunity because it really allows, on a small scale, artists to come together and learn from each other,” Rodriguez, 22, said. “I’m in this residency now, and I feel like I’ve learned so much from just being around other artists. For the younger kids involved, the high schoolers, it’s a great experience for them to get to interact with people who are close in age, but yet who know a little more about art. They can elaborate on things maybe the kids didn’t think about before. And vice-versa. I feel like I learned just as much through the experience as the kids did.”

The four artists exhibited specialize in different media, making for a diverse exhibition. 

Williams’ focus is in figurative painting and sculpting 

“I fit my hectic schedule best, so I often make self-portraits,” Williams said. “My favorite piece from the show would be my Styrofoam portrait. It was a new medium to me, and a lot of trial and error. I’ve been looking for new ways to work life-size and lightweight, and this was a success.”

Zavacky is primarily a printmaker, who also paints and draws.

“My primary subject over the past four years has been landscapes, or landscape-oriented themes or ideas,” Zavacky said. “Like pieces of organic matter I’ve collected outside. This particular series involves the window. I found those kind of old windows really interesting.”

“For the Yeck exhibit, I worked in a painterly realism style in order to really capture the specifics of small items that defined people’s lives, essentially, was what I was going for with the art itself,” Neyhouse said of his collection. “My favorite piece is probably the one titled Andrew. I felt I had the most time to work on that one, so it came together the best of the series, in my opinion.”

Rodriguez works primarily in oil pants, but has also worked on drawing.

“I feel like learning basic draftsman skills is extremely important to later developing any kind of art you want to make,” Rodriguez explained. “I usually work with observational painting, where I’m looking at a subject and then painting from that subject, instead of imagining things or working from photographs or anything like that.”

The 2014 Yeck College Artist Fellow Exhibition is on view through Sunday, Sept. 14 in the South Extended Gallery at the Dayton Art Institute. The exhibition is free for museum members and included in museum-suggested admission for non-members. For more information, please call 937.223.4278 or visit daytonartinstitute.org. 

Reach DCP freelance writer  Josher Lumpkin at  Josher Lumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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