A new Carillon Park exhibit focusing on local artists is being developed by Dayton History and is slated to open in October of 2015.
“The Art of Manufacturing: Exploring Dayton’s Inventive History through the Eyes of Artists” will become a permanent exhibition at the park, according to Dayton History’s president and CEO Brady Kress. The art gallery will be located in The Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship.
The project idea initially came from members of the local community who have raised nearly $25,000 in necessary funding. Spearheading the effort are local artists David Smith and Marilyn Hart.
How it began
Hart said it all began when she received a phone call from a young girl who was reading her grandfather’s obituary.
“My grandfather must have been a very famous artist,” she told Hart. “Is there an Artist Hall of Fame in Dayton?”
Hart said that there was not, but offered to do research on the girl’s grandfather, Alois Segerer.
“I found out he did the whole ceiling at Holy Trinity Church, the entire auditorium at the Masonic Temple, all of the murals in the entry of Memorial Hall,” said an amazed Hart. “I called Brady Kress and asked him to see the murals. They are just exquisite!”
Hart insisted there had to be a place in Dayton to honor such a talented man.
“If you can tie him into local manufacturing, we could do something with it,” Kress suggested.
Hart dug deeper and discovered that Segerer had been hired to paint the interior of the Barney & Smith Railroad cars.
“Brady suggested we could make a whole exhibit out of this if we found other artists who were part of Dayton’s manufacturing history,” she relates.
Kress said that while Carillon isn’t an art museum, it does have a lot of art in storage in its archive center.
“Because of the history, we do collect artwork that’s historically based in Southwest Ohio,” he explained. Examples, he said, might be paintings of Newcom Tavern , the Patterson family or Patterson Memorial.
“Back in 2007, we did a large NCR advertising art exhibit in one of the buildings here at Carillon and it brought up the idea that there were a lot of artists that local manufacturers were hiring to do advertising art and marketing pieces,” Kress said. ” And these same people were doing art themselves on the side.”
Hart immediately enlisted the aid of well-known Dayton artist David Smith — whose drawings of Carilllon Park are sold in the museum’s gift shop.
The pair began researching other Dayton 20th century artists with ties to entrepreneurship and manufacturing. With help from others, they eventually came up with 122 names, then narrowed the list down to 12.
Gwen Haney, Dayton History’s community collections manager, said the park stipulated that those artists chosen had to have had a direct connection to local manufacturers and had to be deceased.
“What we’ve learned is that these companies not only relied on the engineers to develop a product, but relied on local artists to help market and do technical drawings,” she said. “They did posters and advertisements, for example.”
She said a case in point is McCall’s and the gorgeous covers from McCall’s magazines.
“It was the largest printing facility under one roof on the planet at that time,” she notes,” and the artists they had working for them were local. So were the women in the 1890’s who were hand-painting the glass magic lantern slides at NCR.”
But how to pay for a new exhibit? Kress estimated it would require $25,00 to mount and promote.
Smith and Hart began recruiting others, among them Dawn Knorr of Centerville, whose father, Gerald Page, had created 39 murals in the Miami Valley and thousands of pieces of art across the region and the nation. Over the years, his murals or paintings could be seen at public sites ranging from Esther Price Candy and the The University of Dayton to Marion’s Pizza, Miami Valley and Kettering hospitals and the Centerville Recreation Center.
“Although I am not an artist, I grew up surrounded by art and its enormous beauty,” Knorr said, adding that all of us are exposed to art every day — whether it be the design of the coffee mug we use, or the design that attracted us to the purchase of a vehicle.
She says it’s important to recognize the creative individuals — like her father — who make those designs possible.
Monies began to come in and when the Fairborn Art Association pledged $5,000, Hart says “we just knew we could do it!”
She and Smith were thrilled to call Kress early this week to announce they had raised $23,000 and could proceed.
Mary Oliver, director of collections for Dayton History, has been closely involved with the project and said the current list of artists is still tentative.
“If we don’t have art from that particular artist or are not able to acquire a piece, it won’t work for the exhibit,” she explained, adding that additional names continue to be suggested.
“You just don’t think of artists when you think of manufacturing, I certainly didn’t,” Oliver says. “To learn all of this is very important.”
Smith, 93, says he has felt the spirit of invention in Dayton since he was a litle boy.
“I remember sitting on my father’s shoulders and seeing Orville Wright and Charles Lindbergh wave to the crowds from the porch of Hawthorn Hill,” he says. “Creativity is something that has long been in the air we breathe in Dayton, Ohio. This new exhibit will help visitors gain insight into a part of our history that has largely been forgotten.”
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