3 major exhibitions planned this year at Dayton Art Institute

Visits to the Dayton Art Institute in 2024 promise to be a great mix of entertainment, education and inspiration. As we head into a new year, the museum has just announced three major exhibitions.

Here’s a rundown:

  • “The Artistic Life of Aka Pereyma” (Feb. 17-May 12) highlights the work of the Troy artist best known for her beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs. Pereyma, who was born in Poland and died in 2013, was a graduate of the DAI. “In addition to her amazing eggs, she created paintings, drawings, ceramics, wood and welded metal sculpture, textiles and printmaking,” said head curator Jerry N. Smith. “It’s wonderful work and when you see it, you’ll understand why Aka has an international following. She was always working, creating, looking for ways to beautify her surroundings.”

  • “Riveting: Women Artists from the Sara W.and Michelle Vance-Waddell Collection” (June 22-Sept. 8) showcases a variety of styles and media with an emphasis on feminist viewpoints and LGBTQ+ communities. You’ll see work by internationally recognized artists like Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith and Ana Mendieta as well as emerging and local artists. Smith said it’s an exhibit that supports the DAI’s mission of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility and addresses important special issues of the day.

  • The season will wrap up with two family-friendly traveling exhibitions that will be shown together: “Merry Grinchmas: Art of Dr. Seuss’ Holiday Classic” and “(B)ART! America’s Funniest Animated Family.” (Oct. 26, 2024–Jan. 19, 2025) Expect to see more than 200 original animated drawings by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and Chuck Jones, who brought Dr. Seuss’ holiday tale to life in the 1966 animated TV special. You’ll also visit with Homer, Marge, Lisa, Maggie and Bart through original handmade animation cels from the famous TV series. “The cells are from the first 13 seasons of ‘The Simpsons,’ so they aren’t the computer art we see these days,” explains Smith. “And there will be fabulous photo opportunities to take selfies on the Simpson family sofa.”

In addition to the three major exhibits, the museum is planning a series of smaller focus exhibits. The single-gallery shows have become visitor favorites. They include:

  • “The Quiet World of Edward Hopper” highlighting the DAI’s holdings of Hopper and additional key loans.
  • “James Pate Techno-Cubism: The Art of Line Painting” showcasing one of Dayton’s most heralded contemporary artists. Pate was the winner of “Best of Show” at the “Black Heritage Through Visual Rhythms” exhibition at the DAI.
  • “Hand-Colored Photographs” demonstrates how early photographers looked for ways to enliven their black and white photographs by adding color by hand, often with watercolor.
  • “Captivating Clay: Contemporary Japanese Ceramics from the Horvitz Collection” includes more than 30 artworks spanning eight decades.
  • “Those Who Care” explores what it means to care for others, whether individuals, a larger community, pets or even belongings. “It brings together a range of works showing people in the act of caring to consider how being open and attentive to others is essential to a flourishing society and gives richness to our individual lives,” Smith said.
  • Devil’s Promenade.” Photographers Lara Shipley and Antone Dolezal returned to their home region of the Ozarks to consider the importance of the “Spook Light,” a natural phenomenon connected to local folklore.
  • “Making Faces: 18 Essential Kabuki Plays” focuses on Kabuki theater’s exaggerated movements and speech, bold makeup and oversized costumes. Eighteen woodblock prints are featured.
  • “The Need for Beauty” explores the idea of “beauty” as it relates to art: how the concept has been interpreted across time in different cultures, and how beauty has played a central role in the formation of what’s thought of as the “fine art” in museums today.

Behind the scenes

Years before we see an exhibition at the DAI, the museum’s curatorial team is busy at work investigating potential exhibit opportunities. “I visit collectors’ homes to see the amazing things they collect, I travel to other museums to see their exhibitions, I meet with other curators and explore possibilities of collaboration,” said Smith, who has been at the Dayton museum since 2017.

Exhibitions are typically initiated three years in advance.

“It’s looking to make sure there’s a nice balance of things we can afford to put on,” Smith said. “Sometimes exhibitions that travel with a fee can be millions of dollars, way out of our price range. "

When it comes to borrowing art from other museums, he says you’re more likely to get a favorable response if you request a loan from a person as opposed to writing a letter to the institution.

“It’s networking, it’s visiting with artists, going to galleries and artist studios,” Smith said. “It’s not your typical 9-5 career. A lot of time you go home and things are just starting. You’re going to openings and events.”

Sometimes it necessitates acting quickly. One example is the Toulouse Latrec exhibit that closes today. “I talked to the exhibit organizer and we moved quickly on it and made a decision within a couple of weeks. We are the only place in North America showing it.”

For the upcoming Aka Pereyma exhibit, Smith, along with museum director and CEO Michael Roediger, paid a visit to the home of Christina Pereyma to discuss the possibility of doing an exhibit of her mother’s work.

“She lives in the home that Ala used to live in and we walked into the house and saw a lot of amazing art,” he said. “She lived in Troy since 1959 and her exhibit will be a wonderful way to connect to the local community.”

Sara Vance-Wadell of Cincinnati, Smith says, is a passionate collector. Together Smith and the DAI’s photography curator Mariah Postlewaite went through the collection and selected about 85 works of art including photography, paintings, sculptures and textiles.

“We will have things from the 19th century up to today. There is potential for some powerful and wonderful talks.”

Smith discovered the Grinch and Simpson exhibits at other museums.

“They are fabulous, there’s so much joy and action and color involved in these two shows,” he said. “There’s a reason both the Grinch and the Simpsons have run for as many years as they have. People love the characters and the art is a big part of that.”

Smith says he enjoys hearing stories from collectors and finding out why others are passionate about art.

“It’s possible to have a complete life and not include the arts,” he said. “It’s just not the life I would want.”

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