Holiday Art Jumble breathes new life into forgotten items

By Brennan Burks

Photo: Handmade art curated by the Jumble Elves at the YS Arts Council; photos: Corrine Bayraktaroglu

Sometimes the greatest value of a piece of art is the personal meaning we invest in it. I’m not just talking about the romantic empathy we feel for Caspar David Friedrich’s “Wanderer above the Sea of Fog” or the existential angst we share with Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” No, I’m referring to the tangible, indiscriminate objects we admire because they remind us of something from our past, represent somewhere we have always wanted to go, or retain an aesthetic that makes us feel. Oftentimes, these things would not otherwise fall under the category of “Art,” but as soon as we discover them in an antique store or a yard sale or a dusty box in the attic, they take on an entirely new meaning. So to all of you would-be-art-treasure-hunters out there, the Yellow Springs Holiday Art Jumble is the place to discover unique objects and infuse them with personal meaning this holiday season.

Since its inception five years ago, the Art Jumble has served as Yellow Springs Arts Council’s holiday fundraiser, its main purpose to help support events hosted in the gallery and media room on 111 Corry St.

“We wanted to come up with a creative way to help raise funds for the Art Council’s physical space that hosts numerous free events throughout the year,” says Nancy Mellon, gallery coordinator and local artist who helped bring the Art Jumble to life when she started working for the Arts Council five years ago. “But, as with our mission, we wanted something that also engages our community, that does more than just asks for money.”

“Pretty much all year round,” Mellon says, she receives donations of every shape, size, and value, all of which she stores in her basement. Then in the middle of each November, Mellon and a team of dedicated volunteers—the “Jumble Elves”—comb through boxes and boxes of these treasures and begin the exciting, albeit arduous, task of sorting, documenting, and pricing each item that will eventually be arranged and hopefully sold to a curious customer. The whole endeavor is what Mellon calls the “art circle of life.” “We all pick up objects with meaning and beauty throughout our lives, but often due to space or the moment in time, it’s time for the object, the piece of art, to move on. That’s where the Art Jumble fits in. We collect pieces of culture and history—what’s art to some and just an object to others—and sell it at a very affordable price. We then use those sales to help fund new spaces for all kinds of art to be shared and experienced.”

While occupying a small building on Corry Street in Yellow Springs, every table and nearly every inch of wall space is utilized to display a cornucopia of donated delights. From framed copies of the likes of Picasso to drawings, paintings, and photographs by more local artists, there seems to be an abundance of more traditional art décor to adorn your home. Yet, I found the real treasures to be some of the more unique items, those that made me wonder where they came from and why they are for sale at an art show: an old (more than 75 years old), black and white high school class portrait, one of those heavy metal fans around which you certainly want to mind your fingers, antique broaches with Victorian silhouettes and in some cases portraits of the one-time owners, an erotic poster collection, and a large, covered silver platter or plate that Mellon and the volunteers refer to as the mystery item because of its unknown identity (the majority of votes are for an ornate serving platter, hot coal holder, or lavish ashtray). “It’s a unique art shop for customers,” Mellon says, “but it’s also very much a little shop of memories. Some people love finding older items that remind them of the past, others like finding things that have the look of a different time and probably stories to go along with them.”

For all of the fun sifting through these treasures can be, possibly one of the greatest gifts for customers is finding something forgotten and then bringing it to life in the holiday context. “The jumble is the best of what this holiday season should be—well loved items in search of new homes,” says returning customer Dennie Eagleson. “Because the items have so much character and history and patina, the jumble actually inspired in me some seasonal cheer. I am going back and searching for my own treasures to donate.”

And Mellon says that Eagleson’s experience isn’t unique: “You never know what surprises you’ll find, and what kind of excited holiday spirit you’ll walk away with.”

I can attest to that.

The Holiday Art Jumble is open 1–4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday until Saturday, Dec. 31 at 111 Cory St. in Yellow Springs. For more information, please email, call 937.679.9722, or visit

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Reach DCP freelance writer Brennan Burks at

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