Sing it out

VOICES exhibition at UD ArtStreet

By Kyle Melton

Photo: The VOICES exhibition is on display through April 25 at UD ArtStreet Studio D Gallery

It’s difficult to imagine a time when rock n’ roll, jazz, disco, hip-hop and blues were not welcome in the American cultural mainstream. It’s true – all of these musical forms emerged as the voice of disenfranchised groups, often because music was the only possible form of expression. Over time, however, all of these musical styles coalesced into the mainstream, whether naturally or by exploitative means, further giving credence to the American notion of the great “melting pot.”

With its VOICES series, currently ongoing, UD ArtStreet seeks to connect students and the community with the stories behind these musical and cultural evolutions. DCP spoke with UD ArtStreet Director Brian LaDuca about the program. Here’s what he had to say…

How did this multimedia VOICES series come about? What about American music did you feel was important for students and the community to learn?

VOICES was inspired by the collaboration between the Roesch library’s American Music series and us at ArtStreet. It was an opportunity to continue our engagement of human rights in America, but rather than focus on those larger, more political issues, we had the opportunity to look at those human rights that constantly were abused throughout the evolution of the American music scene. It is apparent, throughout American history, music has constantly been the pulse of society – but even more, the origins of so much of that specific music has been within those disenfranchised and marginalized voices (“Hound Dog,” disco, etc.). I felt we could really dig into tipping points within each decade that would present an evolution, so to speak, the majority of 21st century students may otherwise not be cognizant of. – Brian LaDuca

What imagery will be on display to help tell the story of American music? What can attendees learn about American music through these images?

Many of these photographs will be on display, but not directly. Each house must interpret imagery – be it photography, text, visual sculpture – and use those models to reinterpret those moments that created cataclysmic shifts in music. Each house must use every Tuesday to teach the entire ArtStreet resident family about their decade, about the moment of change/influence, and within that 45 minutes of concentration, the visual component is meant to illuminate and reintroduce the critical analysis of those 10 years – be it Louis Armstrong in the ’20s or the Scottsboro Boys/Billie Holiday in the ’30s. There will never be already-created art to represent these decades, rather there should be wholly original pieces created from the minds of the UD students that call ArtStreet home. – BD

In terms of cultural influence of any art form, how do you feel American music and its myriad strains and permutations have affected modern culture?

The key to this class is to recognize nearly all of the commercially mainstreamed music that influenced America up to this point has been initiated by those suppressed cultures of voices. Be it black, female, hispanic or gay, the sounds of contemporary America are completely connected back to people and moments that were either so disenfranchised, producers/culture found it easy to “borrow,” or they were so powerful their influence would create ripple effects for years to come. We felt the stories that shape the current Billboard charts, the UK charts and every underground and subculture chart between owes its roots to a select few, and we felt the teaching and the artistic expression and messaging of VOICES will give those influential forgotten change agents the opportunity to be heard. – BD

Is there anything else our readers should know about UD ArtStreet and the VOICES series?

Our end of the year concert festival, 1World Celebration, will be the culmination of the VOICES series and will be taking the entire concept of VOICES, which is hyper-focused on America at large, and pinpointing it on Dayton. The music portion of 1World will feature three stages on the ArtStreet campus. Those stages will feature five of Dayton’s most influential music acts including Orange Willard, Jayne Sachs, Oh Condor, the Motel Beds and one more act to be announced. These bands were chosen for their distinct and diverse voices that represent our very city over nearly the past 25 years. The 2014 1World Celebration is designed to bring the city of Dayton and the University of Dayton campus together through festival and the arts. Both the reflective and influential bands on the ArtStreet stages and the student musicians on the Café stage representing the future sounds of Dayton will bring the holistic concept of the VOICES exhibition from the macro American journey to one of community we can touch, a community we all live in – and to be able to experience music nationally and regionally in both audio and visual formats is an opportunity most cities do not get the intimate chance to engage in. – BD

VOICES runs through Friday, April 25 at UD ArtStreet Studio D Gallery, 330 Kiefaber St. For more information, including special film presentations, please call 937.229.5101 or visit


Reach DCP music editor Kyle Melton at

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