VOICES: Look to the brighter future our region’ arts community can bring us

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a monthly series from Rodney Veal that will share insights and stories from artists and creatives from all corners of our community. As the host of ThinkTV/CET Connect for nine years and a lifelong artist in his own right, Veal has a front-row seat to the impact our arts community has on the wellbeing of our region. With this series, Ideas & Voices hopes to inspire readers to pursue their own creative endeavors and to support those who make our community better through their artistic contributions.

In early August, a national site visit was conducted at our very own Levitt Pavilion in downtown Dayton. The visiting group consisted of board members and staff from Pavilion sites across country; they came from Houston, Los Angeles, Arlington, Texas, and Denver. Throughout that weekend, they heard from the Levitt Dayton board and staff about how our community engages and responds to our venue and, more importantly, how the Pavilion fits into our community.

A lot of things worked in our favor that weekend. The weather cooperated and it was also the weekend of Art In The City. All the conditions were favorable to see the success that Levitt Pavilion Dayton has become. But the other factor that astonished our visitors more than anything else was the commitment of a group of Daytonians who enthusiastically embraced and loved our community.

Credit: www.andysnow.com

Credit: www.andysnow.com

They also noted how much our community believes in the transformative power of art and culture. Far too often, naysayers in our society see Dayton as a place that has “seen better days” and turn to defeatism that stops progress in its tracks. I am constantly amazed at why people choose to have blinders on to the beauty of what Dayton is and could be.

It’s a community of people who not only love art and culture, but also a community that fosters creators who have influenced the world, from Olympian athletes and award-winning actors, to world-renowned dancers and Oscar-winning artists. Creativity is in our community’s DNA. To have visitors from Los Angeles marvel at our cultural and artistic offerings and community-based arts support drove home just how uniquely positioned Dayton is.

Now, many naysayers didn’t believe that people sitting on the lawn of a three-acre city park listening to free music could somehow bond and connect in ways that turn the tide on feelings of despair about the revitalization of our downtown. But in a relatively short period, that’s what Levitt Dayton has accomplished. It brings us together as a community. It has become the city’s living room. The possibility of people connecting who have nothing in common except their shared humanity, all occupying space and reinforcing the bedrock principles of our society: that we all equal and deserve a little happiness along the journey of life.

Credit: www.andysnow.com

Credit: www.andysnow.com

As an artist and television host of a weekly series, the Art Show on ThinkTV/CET Connect, I experience all of the best that Southwest Ohio can artistically produce. I also see and believe that art and culture are catalysts for change. With years of experience in the arts, I believe that when we don’t go to a concert, play or art exhibit in our communities, we are depriving ourselves of an opportunity to be inspired, confounded and even challenged. If visitors from Los Angeles can leave Dayton in awe of our many community assets, then surely we as a community can stop looking back through the lens of nostalgia and look ahead to the tantalizing future that the arts can bring us.

Rodney Veal is the host of ThinkTV/CET Connect and a member of the Levitt Pavilion Dayton Board of Trustees.

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