Celebrating the 10th anniversary of Dayton Skyscrapers

“Lift up my Eyes Unto the Hills” clay likeness of Reverend Dr. Charles Brown by Lois Fortson. PAMELA DILLON/CONTRIBUTED
“Lift up my Eyes Unto the Hills” clay likeness of Reverend Dr. Charles Brown by Lois Fortson. PAMELA DILLON/CONTRIBUTED

High achievers reach for the clouds and leave a positive mark on those with whom they interact. Celebrated artist and mentor Willis “Bing” Davis has done much to highlight African-American icons in the Dayton area.

Ten years ago, he decided to coordinate “Dayton Skyscrapers” — an annual exhibit to shed some light on these special people. The Victoria Theatre Association partnered with Davis and his studio, Shango: Center for the Study of African American Art and Culture, to display this exhibit at the Benjamin & Marion Schuster Performing Arts Center.

“Dayton Skyscrapers is a metaphor for African-American high achievers who have made a mark in their field and are role models for inner-city youth in the community,” said Davis.

This ongoing exhibit is doing much to influence inner-city youth today at the Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy on West Third Street. DPS purchased the first 65 works in this series to prominently display at the pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade school.

“This provides students with an opportunity to learn in the midst of positive role models who have experienced many of the same obstacles that they face daily; yet they became high achievers,” said Davis.

The 10th Anniversary works:

“Judge Russell Luther Carter, Skyscraper” by Abner Cope

Cope portrays the compassionate visage of Judge Russell Carter as he looks down from the bench in a 24-by-20-inch oil painting. He was appointed to the Dayton Municipal Court in 1953, and served on the Dayton Civil Service Board from 1966-1974.

“It was documented in Judge Russell Luther Carter’s obituary that ‘he lived his life so that future generations would no longer have to be distinguished as the first black this or that, but as the best at whatever they sought to achieve,” said Cope.

“What Goes Around, Comes Around” by Frances Turner

The profiles of Ethel Prear and Exine Prear-Wilson, mother and daughter, stand out in the colorful, 42-by-32-inch fiber/mixed-media work.

Ethel Prear raised four children in the Wright-Dunbar district with her husband, Dr. Robert M. Prear. She worked with the Urban League and the NAACP, and became the first African-American to run for the Dayton Board of Education. She was a member of Greater Allen AME Church, a licensed evangelist, and founder of the Southern Ohio Lay Council.

Exine Prear-Wilson worked as a registered nurse at the Dayton VA Center for 25 years, and was awarded the National Nurses Association “Nurse of the Year Award” in 1970.

“From Classical to Funk” by Andrea Walker Cummings

The 42-by-32 textile piece depicts Charles Spencer with piano keys for a tie, amid a trumpet and musical score backdrop.

He taught vocal music in DPS and played with artists like Aretha Franklin and The Temptations when they visited Dayton.

“Spencer’s life achievements come not in multiple awards and public recognition, but rather from his impact on the students he sent out into the world,” wrote Cummings.

Other works in the exhibit:

“The Black Eagle,” oil on canvas of Joe Madison by Morris Howard; acrylic “Too Suave to be the Lion #1” and graphic pencil “Too Suave to be the Lion #2” of Ted Ross Roberts by Yvette Walker Dalton; “The Golden 13 Connection,” a large-scale oil about George Clinton Cooper by Clifford Darrett; “Ancestral Spirit Vessel for William McKnight Farrow,” mixed media by Bing Davis; “Lift up my Eyes Unto the Hills,” a clay likeness of Reverend Dr. Charles Brown by Lois Fortson; “Through the Years with Roy Meriwether,” digital work by Craig Screven; “Still Present!” a digital painting of Hallie Quinn Brown by Dwayne Daniel; “Boikai Twe Scrapes the Sky,” digital media by Kevin Harris; and “Blackballed Totem Drawing: Roger ‘The Rajah’ Brown,” by James Pate.


What: 2017 Dayton Skyscrapers: 10th Anniversary Exhibit

Where: Schuster Performing Arts Center, 1 W. 2nd St.

When: Through March 31

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; noon to 4 p.m. Saturday

More Info: 937-223-2290, victoriatheatre.com