Pushing the artistic envelope at Blue Sky

Like the wild, blue yonder, Blue Sky contains endless possibilities. Since the end of June, the project has resided in a 4,500 square foot space in the PNC Building on N. Main. Since the summer of 2009, the project has brought in professional artists from around the world to collaborate with one professional Ohio artist and 40 young local artists in an eight-week mentorship program.

Most recently Blue Sky teamed up with IDCAST engineers and the Dayton Philharmonic for a TECH-ARTS Installation performance. Rodney Veal of Dayton, Katherine Mann of Washington D.C., and Shaw Pong Liu of Boston showcased the “2, 3, 4” event on August 10-11. The collaboration team used dance, music, painting and sensor technology to create a unique audience experience.

Before the final exhibition, Veal will be performing with CityFolk from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, August 31, in collaboration with Downtown Dayton Partnership “Arts Week.”

“This is a time when we need more people downtown, and the opportunity came with this vacant space,” said Blue Sky Project founder and co-creator Peter Benkendorf.

These are the works and installations you’ll find at Creative Surprises, a Final Exhibition, performance, and fundraiser:

•“Mythologies” multi-media installation by Rodney Veal: Before the Final Exhibition, he will present “By Nightfall All of the Migrating Souls Will Be at Peace” from 4 to 6 p.m. on September 15. For “Mythologies,” Veal explored the beauty and power of myth.

“Blue Sky really challenged my art process from just creating movement on a stage to full installations and environments including video and sound elements,” said Veal, one of the original Dayton resident artists with the project.

•“New Works by Katherine Mann” of Washington, D.C.: Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann is a Fulbright scholar who collaborated with Veal and Liu for her painting installation.

“I was a painter used to working with 2D in my studio alone,” said Mann. “I came to this residency, and it was very exciting to have this challenge to bring in all these students, and dancers, and choreographers into my work.”

•“This Side of Paradise” by Adam Parker Smith of New York: This 3-D wallpaper is created with food, candy, and inanimate objects. The large-scale wall treatment references the sub-title: “I lost all my money in the great Depression and all I got was this room.”

Local collaborators were: Samantha Enright, Jackie Sargent, Teri Schoch, and Keaon Shephard of Dayton; Rose DeFluri and Terry Welker of Kettering; Lesley Johnson of Trotwood; Stephanie McEnery of Xenia, Lucas Rodriquez of Centerville, and Jessica Turner of Englewood.

“There is a cheery hopefulness to the arrangement that suggests both optimism in the midst of loss, and the absurdity of keeping up a good facade,” stated Smith.

•“Single Point of Reference,” “I Can Only Speak in Silence,” and “Slackwire” by Michael Casselli of Yellow Springs: For the former, Casselli “relinquishes control and relies on the power of the image to support itself.” It consists of a suspended tree limb over dried grass that reaches, almost humanlike, into darkness. The Silence works consist of large-scale photography on handmade paper. “Slackwire” is presented at 100 W. Second St.

•Audio Sensor experience by Shaw Pong Liu of Boston: “This builds out of a language that Rodney and I have been developing, by pairing physical gestures with musical sound. It’s text, spoken word, and pre-recording sound that will interact with live, acoustic sound.”

•“Sticks and Stones” by Kaz McCue and Pamela Ayres of Leeland, Mich: A study contrasting the woods of west-central Michigan and the hardscape of Dayton.

•“Automythography (2007)” by Mequitta Ahuja: This African-American and Asian woman likes to speak to her mixed heritage through identity formation. Her final drawing is inspired by performing dance moves which are then captured by remote shutter control for source material.

•The final exhibit includes “Jazz Man” by Akirash, a native of Nigeria residing in Ghana, and “The Width of a Circle” by Charmaine Griffith, Sinclair Community College student.

“Creative Surprises” features appetizers, two drink tickets, a silent auction, and other surprises. Since its inception in 2005, work produced at Blue Sky Project has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the nation, Europe and Asia. Work has also been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Art in America and Fiber Art. Works have sold in New York, Chicago, and Houston.

Currently Blue Sky receives institutional support from University of Dayton. Additional funds are provided by: Ohio Arts Council, Citywide Development, and Discover the Dayton Region.

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