Editor’s note: “A Day in the Life” is a weekly feature by artist-educator Hannah Kasper Levinson, profiling a creative Daytonian’s daily routine from start to finish. “A Day in the Life” will highlight a range of individuals, from artists to cooks to small-business owners, who weave Dayton’s spirit of ingenuity into their everyday work and life.
It was eight years ago when Cydnie King first became involved with The Contemporary Dayton, formerly Dayton Visual Arts Center. She had moved to Dayton from her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, where she studied Studio Art and Drawing at Webster University. Starting as a volunteer at DVAC, she worked her way up to paid intern, gallery assistant, executive assistant and curatorial assistant. In this current role, King assists curator Michael Goodson with the logistics of putting shows together. “I’m a little bit of everyone’s assistant because I’m one of the people who has been there longest. I do a little bit of everything.”
King, 33, lives in Fairborn with her husband Alex, their 4-year-old son Isaac, and an 11-year-old Jack Russel-Fox Terrier, Joey.
RUNS IN THE FAMILY
King’s appreciation for art is evident in her home, where the walls are hung with a budding collection of fellow Dayton-area artists, including Heather Jones, Mikee Huber, Doug Fiely and Susanne Sharon King. “All my family are artists. My sister and I are the only professional artists, but my parents always did it and were good at it and wanted to teach us as well. They would take us to the St. Louis Art Museum. It’s fabulous! We would go there a lot on Free Admission Fridays and see the special exhibits.”
Credit: Allison Messer
Credit: Allison Messer
RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT
“We wake up when the little one wakes up, any time between 6 and 7:15. He has a littler timer in his room that says he can’t leave until it turns a green light. It’s not working so much anymore. He comes right in our room, wanting to talk to us. We’re just laying there exhausted and he’s ready to go. He’s a morning person. I am not.”
After dropping Isaac off at day care, “Alex makes breakfast for us to have together. It’s usually eggs and toast. Then we have coffee — I like the strong stuff. I put a little bit of creamer in it.” She giggles, “I always laugh because there’s a sign in the kitchen: ‘I like my cream and sugar with a little bit of coffee’ — that’s how he likes his coffee.”
“I try to read something fun to relax before I start work. I’m reading “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” the “Hunger Games” prequel.” Once a week, she work from home. “While I’m working, I listen to podcasts. My favorite right now is “Cereal Killers.” It’s hilarious. They just eat cereal and review it. One of the guys is a cereal connoisseur and the other one is just there ‘cause they’re friends.”
GO TO THE CO
“After I drop Isaac off at the sitter’s, I drive downtown — which is about 20 minutes. Once I find parking, I walk in and unlock the door. I get in at 10. I turn on everything, the lights, the gallery video, and then I sit at the desk up front. I open up my laptop and start checking emails.” King stays busy working on inventory, artist credits, photography and loan agreements.
“It’s usually me and Paula who works as director of Operations and Events, and Susan, our Development person, and Sydney who is our intern. We all have specific things we do but we also intermingle and work with each other. I meet with the rest of the staff once a week. There are 9 of us total.”
“If people come in I greet them, tell them about the shows and hand them the Gallery Guide. If they have any specific questions about the show they can ask me. I also help maintain the shop.”
Credit: Allison Messer
Credit: Allison Messer
ARTIST SUPPORT ARTISTS
In addition to exhibitions, King assists The Co with outside projects. “I help a lot with ArtSource, which is a program where we connect businesses and universities with local artists to select art for their workspaces. One (call for entry) up now that I helped organize is for the University of Dayton’s new building, the Roger Glass Center for the Arts. We gather all the artists together that apply, put together a presentation, and they pick.”
“We’re trying to make it so any artists who become semi-finalists get a stipend no matter what. A lot of time businesses don’t understand that artists are working specialists and even when they’re drawing or making mock-ups, that’s time and work that they should get paid for like any other professional. I like the idea that we’re trying to help support the artists.”
“If it’s a particularly stressful day I take an art break. I’ll spend 20 minutes drawing. Even when I go a couple days without doing anything it’s like getting withdrawal so I need to hole up for a while and draw.” Issac enjoys seeing and making art alongside his mom. “When I took him to the Dayton Art Institute show “Black Heritage Through Visual Rhythms”, every painting with a Black woman he would point to and say ‘Mommy, that’s you!’ Isaac has his own sketchbook. I count this as my own little win — he doesn’t like coloring books, he likes sketchbooks so he can do his own thing.”
King closes up the gallery at 6 and heads home to her family for dinner. “I love to cook. I like spicy things, that’s my palette.” She has a spread of cookbooks, including “Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking.” “It’s a wonderful history of Black cooking. They have the histories of where all these essentially Black recipes came from — like mac and cheese was invented by one of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves.”
“Now that I’m full time and Alex works from home, he does most of the cooking. Isaac is a picky eater and only wants peanut butter toast. He sits with us while we eat and we make him try our food.”
King’s home studio contains a drafting table with pencils and jars of colorful ink, surrounded by her drawings and paintings of botanical-inspired imagery. “I reached a stale point with my figurative work and kept thinking how can I still get my point across and show the human connection to nature without being so literal? What is something else I can use as a stand-in for humanity without using a body? Well, I really liked the jarring difference of circuits and their straight lines and angles versus the beautiful freeform randomness of nature. So I paired them together.”
WATER & WEED
“I go out to the garden at the end of the day and Isaac helps me water the flowers and weed. We started some tomatoes, marigolds, some carrots and peppers. Isaac plays on the trampoline. If it’s really nice, we’ll take Joey for a walk. Alex mows and Isaac has a toy mower and follows him around. Just now he’s realizing that his mower doesn’t do anything.”
“Isaac’s bedtime is 7:30. After he goes to bed it’s about an hour of him coming out asking us what we’re doing. We’re normally just sitting here watching TV. We go to bed around 11.”
Find more about Cyndie King’s art at www.cydniedeedking.com and on Instagram @cydnie_ld_king.
The Contemporary Dayton is located at 25 W. Fourth St. in Dayton. Gallery hours are Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The current exhibition runs through July 2. Calls for submission are up on their website at https://codayton.org/events/calls-for-entry/.
You can reach this writer at email@example.com.
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