The Con­tem­po­rary Day­ton thinks big

Arts cen­ter hopes to move to a big­ger space at the Ar­cade.

Dayton Daily News - - LIFE & ARTS - On the Arts Mered­ith Moss

The Con­tem­po­rary Day­ton, the arts or­ga­ni­za­tion formerly known as the Day­ton Visual Arts Cen­ter, is hop­ing to be­come the lead arts an­chor for the ren­o­vated Ar­cade in down­town Day­ton. If the nec­es­sary funds can be raised, the gallery — cur­rently lo­cated at 118 N. Jef­fer­son St. — would move in 2020 or early 2021.

“We have had ex­cel­lent ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Ar­cade devel­op­ers and, im­por­tantly, strong sup­port and en­cour­age­ment for a po­ten­tial move from the City of Day­ton, specif­i­cally, Mayor Nan Wha­ley and City Man­ager Shelly Dick­stein,” board pres­i­dent Chuck Vella says. “In many ways, we’ve been pre­par­ing for growth in the size and scope of our au­di­ence and pro­vid­ing larger and more in­no­va­tive pre­sen­ta­tions of lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional artists for some time now.”

Vella says his or­ga­ni­za­tion be­lieves there’s room in the minds of lo­cal art lovers for a larger pres­ence of con­tem­po­rary art. The idea is to align it­self with con­tem­po­rary art mu­se­ums and art cen­ters across the coun­try such as the Wexner Cen­ter for the Arts in Colum­bus and the Con­tem­po­rary Art Cen­ter in Cincin­nati.

“Con­tem­po­rary art or­ga­ni­za­tions are pub­lic spa­ces where dif­fer­ent peo­ple gather

to ex­pe­ri­ence many ide­olo­gies,” says Eva But­ta­cavoli, The Con­tem­po­rary Day­ton’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor. “We con­tinue to strive to keep pace with a world that spins at dizzy­ing speed while main­tain­ing in­tensely close re­la­tion­ships with Day­ton-area artists who speak to this place and this life.”

Dave Wil­liams, se­nior direc­tor of Cross Street Part­ners — lead developer for the Ar­cade project — says devel­op­ers are “su­per ex­cited” about the pro­posed move. “They have a lit­tle bit of work ahead of them,” he says. “It’s my un­der­stand­ing that we’ve come to an agree­ment on terms and what they’re work­ing on now is donor sup­port to make sure they can han­dle the move.”

Wil­liams says arts and in­no­va­tion have al­ways been part of the strat­egy for the ren­o­vated Ar­cade.

“It’s about bring­ing un­like dis­ci­plines to­gether to come up with new cre­ative ways of look­ing at things that wouldn’t nor­mally oc­cur,” he ex­plains. “The Univer­sity of Day­ton will bring its arts of­fer­ings down to the Ar­cade as well.” He says plans call for The Con­tem­po­rary Day­ton to be lo­cated on the main floor of the build­ing, off the ro­tunda and the Fourth Street en­trance.

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of a move, the or­ga­ni­za­tion — now af­fec­tion­ately known as The Co — is hop­ing to launch a com­bined cam­paign for cap­i­tal, en­dow­ment and ex­panded pro­gram­ming. “We have done some pre­lim­i­nary talks with the devel­op­ers and ar­chi­tects and per­ceive cap­i­tal costs would be be­tween $400,000 and $600,000,” says But­ta­cavoli. “We are also do­ing a fea­si­bil­ity study to con­sider putting a few other things in the mix, in­clud­ing ex­panded pro­gram­ming.”

How it evolved

Af­ter both quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive re­search rec­om­mended re-brand­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion, it was de­cided to change the name from Day­ton Visual Arts Cen­ter to The Con­tem­po­rary Day­ton. The new name, Vella says, bet­ter re­flects what this or­ga­ni­za­tion is and what it could be­come.

The next step was the de­vel­op­ment of mul­ti­year strate­gic and busi­ness plans. Now in their fi­nal stages, those plans in­clude the po­ten­tial move to the Ar­cade.

But­ta­cavoli says over the past 10 years, the or­ga­ni­za­tion has grown op­er­at­ing rev­enue by 66 per­cent, pro­duced and pre­sented over 70 shows and helped launch those artists onto the next stage in their ca­reer. The group has given more than 300 stu­dents their first pro­fes­sional show and sold hun­dreds of works of art to in­di­vid­u­als, busi­nesses and health care. As a re­sult, lo­cal artists have re­ceived more than $350,000 in art sales com­mis­sions.

“Our vi­sion is to be a cat­a­lyst and cham­pion for con­tem­po­rary art through in­no­va­tive and sur­pris­ing ex­pe­ri­ences that in­spire au­di­ences to a deeper en­gage­ment and en­joy­ment of art and the im­pact it makes in our world to­day,” But­ta­cavoli says. “Our mis­sion is to pro­vide art for the com­mu­nity and a com­mu­nity for artists.”

The Co cur­rently has 477 mem­bers, with 179 self-iden­ti­fied as artists.

“From July 2018 to June 2019, we had 10,400 visi­tors and served 136,555 through off-site pro­grams,” But­ta­cavoli says. “Our vi­sion is to serve larger and more di­verse au­di­ences and to fill the gap be­tween small com­mu­nity art cen­ters and larger, tra­di­tional, col­lect­ing mu­se­ums. We want to show­case the lo­cal, na­tional and global artists who boldly in­ter­pret our rapidly chang­ing and in­creas­ingly com­plex world and help us un­der­stand, cri­tique, and be in­spired by it.”

Ex­am­ples of re­cent ex­hibits

■ When in­stal­la­tions by Day­ton Re­gional STEM School stu­dents were re­moved from a City of Day­ton ex­hi­bi­tion due to their po­lit­i­cal and racial­ly­charged na­ture, The Co de­cided to dis­play the work along with work cre­ated in re­sponse to the event by three na­tion­ally-rec­og­nized so­cial jus­tice artist-ac­tivists. “The stu­dent work alone was im­pres­sive and side-by­side with the more ex­pe­ri­enced artists’ re­sponses cre­ated a pow­er­ful, vi­brant en­ergy,” notes But­ta­cavoli. “Tones of race, gen­der, and in­equal­ity, along with the role of art and the artist in so­cial ac­tivism, spoke to and lured the viewer into the di­a­logue,” says But­ta­cavoli. The ex­hibit “Breath­ing Deeply, Push­ing Back” was cu­rated by Michael Cas­selli, an artist and pro­fes­sor at An­ti­och Col­lege.

■ In 2017, an ex­hibit called “The Se­crets Girls Keep” fea­tured new work by three artists that com­mented on com­ing-of-age is­sues faced by con­tem­po­rary girls and women.

■ The U.S. pre­miere of a 400-print in­stal­la­tion by Ohio Univer­sity pro­fes­sor Art Werger as well as a six­panel piece, cur­rently the largest mez­zotint (a print­mak­ing process) in the world. The im­ages con­veyed fa­mil­iar, ev­ery­day beach, street and for­est scenes.

■ “With Devo­tion” slated for Jan. 17-Feb. 15, will be the gallery’s most am­bi­tious cu­ra­to­rial project to-date. It will launch ‘Still She Cre­ates,’ com­mem­o­rat­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the 19th amend­ment with four ex­hi­bi­tions cu­rated by four na­tion­ally-rec­og­nized cu­ra­tors fea­tur­ing 11 Day­ton and Ohio women artists.”

■ The Co’s cur­rent ex­hibit, “And Then Un­fold,” fea­tures artists Diana Behl (South Dakota), Jack St. John (Ohio) and Nishiki Su­gawara-Beda (Texas). But­ta­cavoli says the ti­tle de­scribes an ac­tion or process that al­ludes to the un­do­ing or un­cov­er­ing of some­thing yet to be known. Behl says it sug­gests “a slow-paced ac­tion; the un­fold­ing of pa­per, maps, and let­ters; an am­bi­gu­ity of not quite know­ing what is next; the re­veal­ing of a lay­ered record­ing.”

What’s next?

Vella says next on the agenda is to launch a com­pre­hen­sive cam­paign to raise aware­ness and funds for cap­i­tal costs, en­dow­ment and a re­serve for ex­panded pro­gram­ming.

If it’s suc­cess­ful, the goal will be to trans­form an “off-the-beaten-path gallery” to the cen­ter of the Ar­cade, a mixed-use his­toric, aca­demic, hous­ing, re­tail and con­tem­po­rary art desti­na­tion.

“We’ll go from 3,600 to 6,300 square feet of space, from one gallery to four and from host­ing an an­nual hol­i­day gift gallery to a year-round art store,” says But­ta­cavoli.

Strictly speak­ing, she says, the term “con­tem­po­rary art” refers to art made and pro­duced by artists liv­ing to­day who work in and re­spond to an en­vi­ron­ment that is cul­tur­ally di­verse, tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanc­ing and mul­ti­fac­eted. “Work­ing in a wide range of medi­ums, con­tem­po­rary artists re­flect and com­ment on mod­ern-day so­ci­ety, tra­di­tional ideas of how art is de­fined, what con­sti­tutes art, and how art is made while cre­at­ing a di­a­logue with — and in some cases re­ject­ing — the styles and move­ments that came be­fore them.”

When en­gag­ing with con­tem­po­rary art, But­ta­cavoli. says, The Co seeks to chal­lenge view­ers to set aside ques­tions such as “Is a work of art good?” or “Is the work aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing?” In­stead, view­ers are en­cour­aged to con­sider whether art is “chal­leng­ing” or “in­ter­est­ing” and how clearly or suc­cess­fully it presents the artist’s in­ten­tions.

CON­TRIB­UTED

The Con­tem­po­rary Day­ton hopes to move to the Ar­cade. Shown left to right: Ex­hi­bi­tion Com­mit­tee Chair Amelia Houn­shell, Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor & Chief Cu­ra­tor Eva But­ta­cavoli and Board Chair Chuck Vella.

CON­TRIB­UTED

With Devo­tion will com­mem­o­rate the 100th an­niver­sary of the 19th amend­ment. Pic­tured, “Stum­bling Blocks” by Jen­nif­fer Omaitz.

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