DAI, African American Visual Artists Guild collaborate on exhibition



Juried show features artists from across U.S.

It’s always exciting when the Dayton Art Institute hosts a touring exhibit from another prestigious institution and it’s also wonderful when our museum mounts an exhibition showing off artwork from its own collection of more than 27,000 works.

It’s especially heartwarming when a major exhibition results from a collaboration between the DAI and a local organization. That’s happening at the moment with “Black Heritage Through Visual Rhythms” opening this weekend and on view through May 22.

The show, which features artists from across the nation, is being presented in cooperation with The African American Visual Artists Guild (AAVAG), the local organization that focuses on African American themed visual art.

Originally planned for 2020, the exhibit was postponed because of COVID restrictions. According to DAI chief curator Jerry Smith, it’s the first time the museum has collaborated for a major exhibit with an African American organization.

In the beginning

Not long after Smith arrived in Dayton, he met with the AAVAG committee to discuss the possibility of working together. “We want to bring diversity into our institution,” he explains. “Since 2018, 75 percent of all new art purchases are created by underrepresented groups. It’s good for our museum to interact with the community and to highlight artists from marginalized groups that have often been ignored in the past.”

After looking through the catalogs from AAVAG’s past exhibitions, Smith says he was extremely impressed with the quality of the art and the decision was made to bring the Guild’s seventh annual showcase to the DAI. In previous years the show, “Black Heritage Through Visual Rhythms, was housed at the National Afro American Museum in Wilberforce and once at the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus.

B. Cato Mayberry, president of AAVAG, says the exhibit’s move to the DAI is a big deal –both for his organization and for the museum. “We know location often determines foot traffic and even though we’ve had great showings and support at Wilberforce, it is so convenient and accessible at the DAI,” he explains. “We want to increase the foot traffic of African American residents and we want to increase awareness of the Guild and this uplifting art.”

What you’ll see

This is a colorful show and as usual, the DAI team has done a wonderful job of showcasing the work. Gallery walls are painted in rich tones of browns and copper that perfectly frame the 80 pieces of striking contemporary art. The juried exhibition is an entertaining mix of paintings, sculpture, multi-media art, printmaking, masks and photography. The 45 artists whose work is on display are a blend of nationally recognized and emerging African-American artists from across the United States. In addition to the juried artwork, the final gallery highlights work by members of the local organization who served on the exhibit committee and were therefore ineligible for the juried contest.

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Responding to a call-for-entry, the final works were selected by internationally recognized artists Dean Mitchell of Florida and Andrew Scott of Texas as well as AAVAG exhibition committee members. A 110-page full color catalog accompanies the exhibit and sells for $29 in the museum gift shop. The shop is also selling a variety of Black art and Black history books, as well as “Black Art Matters” T-shirts, mugs and pencils. There’s a neat project bag by Yetunde Rodriguez.

The exhibit’s subject matter ranges from social commentary to African American culture. Some examples?

  • The quilt entitled “When They Go Low, We Go High” shows a little girl gazing at Amy Sherold’s portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. Jamestown artist Maxine Thomas says although she was immediately inspired to turn the portrait into a quilt, it wasn’t until she learned the story of little Parker Curry, transfixed by the portrait, that her work was born.
  • The kids will love Don Coulter’s amazing street scene, “The Seventh Groove” that depicts busy life in the 70s on a Cleveland street. Layered on top of the drawing are leather, suede, denim, synthetic hair, wool and various fabrics. You’ll need some time to study the intricate details in this one!

Credit: Chris Casella

Credit: Chris Casella

  • Al Harden’s dramatic photograph “Lorraine Motel” depicts a raised fist– “a symbol of solidarity as well as strength, unity and resistance.” Within the hand is a photograph of the sign for the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, the site where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Lorraine Motel was converted into the National Civil Rights Museum in 1991.

  • Bryane Broadie of Maryland fell in love with art as a child and remembers using cotton balls, popsicle sticks, paint and glitter to create a snowman. These days Broadie is well known for digital art on stretched canvas. Three of his pieces on display focus on education. “Read Black Boy, Read” relates to anti-literacy laws that, he says, were actually written and then passed in order to suppress the entire black community. “The effects of those laws are still hurting my community being passed down through systemic racism within our educational system,” he writes.

  • “I believe that steel has a memory and when I create these pieces, they have a life,” says M. Saffell Gardner of Highland Park, Michigan whose welded steel sculpture is titled “Third Eye Matriarch.” “My work has a historical, Afrocentric ancestral connection. My father told me years ago that whatever I created, part of my spirit would be imbued in that work.”
  • Angelo Hopson’s painting, “The Harlem Hellfighters,” is the second installation of a two-piece black and white series concentrated on the Great Migration when African American Families migrated to industrial cities. The Harlem Hellfighters were the 369th infantry unit of the U.S. National Guard during World War I and World War II.
  • “Zayo Imaski” by Onzie Norman and Darin Darby is a strikingly dramatic mask fashioned of acrylic, spray paint, ink, wood and resin.

Check out the award winners

The judges have just announced the prize winners for this exhibit. Dayton artist James Pate took Best of Show for his charcoal drawing, “Ayo’s Chair 2.” His award includes a 2023 Focus Exhibition at the DAI.

Awards for Two-Dimensional Art are being given to Bryane Broadie, “Affordable Education” (1st place) and Derrick Carter, “Art of a Vigilante.” (2nd place). Three-Dimensional art awards go to Onzie Norman and Darin Darby, “Banner of Ihlubuka,” (1st place) and Harriette Meriwether, “Essence of Jazz. " (2nd place)

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Mayberry says current events are reflected in the arts and that’s certainly true of this exhibit. “You can look and see the signs of the time and what’s going on in society but the judges also had a keen awareness about creating a community inspiring exhibit that is family, adult and child appropriate. It is intended to be all about uplift.”


What: “Black Heritage Through Visual Rhythms”

Where: Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park, North, Dayton

When: Through May 22. Hours are 11a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Admission: $15 adults; $10 seniors (60+), active military and groups (10 or more); $5 students (18+ w/ID) and youth (ages 7–17); and free for children (ages 6 & younger). Admission is free for museum members. For more information go to www.daytonartinstitute.org/visit or call (937) 223-4ART (4278). Connect with the Dayton Art Institute on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest for additional information.

A full color catalog accompanies the exhibit and is being sold in the DAI gift shop.

Related Programs

  • Curatorial Conversations talk on Zoom: March 24. 1:30–2:30 p.m. Curatorial Conversations talk in the galleries: May 7, 1:30–2:30 p.m.
  • Interactive Virtual Community Tours on Zoom: 2 p.m. on March 5; 6 p.m. on March 31, April 28 and May 19. Also at 11 a.m. on March 19, April 16, May 14 and May 21.
  • Panel Discussion with members of the African American Visual Artists Guild on April 22 (Time TBA)
  • ARTventures at Home: Families can download an interactive art-making guide to create a work of art inspired by the exhibition.
  • At-Home Portrait Collage: Downloadable instructions to design a portrait collage inspired by the exhibition.

For more information go to www.daytonartinstitute.org/visit or call 937-223-4ART (4278).

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