Daytonians making their morning commute near the levy by the McPherson Town Historic District on Monday, Oct. 17, were greeted by something out of the ordinary.
Large white letters spelling out “DAYTONWOOD”— a nod to the iconic “Hollywood” sign—lined the top of the hill. Though the sign was taken down by noon that same day, the obvious question of who put it there continues swirl about.
That credit (or blame, if you’re so inclined) partially goes to Dayton creative think tank The Collaboratory.
The group’s founder, Peter Benkendorf, and a team of six others conceptualized, designed, built and installed the piece as an example of guerilla art over the course of three days.
“It was initially motivated by one of the artists that is part of our collective who, for the last year and a half, had been doing some guerilla art on his own and was kind of interested in seeing more guerilla art here,” Benkendorf said. “At one point in time I had an ‘ah ha’ moment that I thought was a cool idea to kind of rip off the Hollywood sign.”
To describe Benkendorf at work is to visualize an idea machine constantly churning. He talks fast and is seemingly always in motion. But whereas that might be annoying to some, what he has to say is worth listening to—all of it, and what he’s saying now is Daytonians should expect more guerilla art in the near future.
“We need more color. We need more splash. We need to do some things that get people talking and thinking and feeling good about the sense of imagination and artistic creativity even if it doesn’t last forever,” Benkendorf said.
What he and his collaborators are aiming to do is generate more appreciation and support for art that involves less controlling environments. They want establish art in places you would never expect to see it. But Benkendorf believes it goes deeper than that.
“We have some fairly strong support for the institutional arts organizations in this community—and we’re very lucky to have those arts organizations. We tend to use them as an economic development tool,” he began. “But when it comes to really pushing the imagination and creativity boundaries of visual artists—particularly artists who tend to be more of the provocateurs—I think part of our concern is how do we become a more supportive community and more willing to engage in art that’s a little bit more outside.”
Benkendorf and his fellow collaborators have already started rolling on their next guerilla art piece, with a planning meeting set for next week. He also wants to bring more creative minds into the fold.
Though the exercise is about pushing boundaries, they are adamant that no property is damaged in the process of displaying their art. The guerilla art project is simply about challenging artists and the community’s ability to accept their work in other environments.
“In a larger sense (we’re) really questioning how the community sees art and creativity and imagination when it’s in a much more unbridled sort of way,” Benkendorf said.