Know Your Neighbors: Get comfy with art at the Blue House Art Gallery

If you’re not an art lover, we’ve found the perfect art gallery for you. If you are an art lover and haven’t visited the Blue House Art Gallery yet, it’s time to discover this hidden gem.

Walking through a professional gallery, where the decibel level hardly rises above a whisper and the piece descriptions seem to be written only for art history majors, can be an intimidating experience. You can miss out on some fascinating art pieces because you don’t feel at home in a gallery or are hesitant to seem uninformed.

That’s why the Blue House Art Gallery works: How can you not feel at home at an exhibit actually in a home? When you’re examining pieces on the walls while sipping a beer you picked up from the kitchen down the hall, and you’re feeling the squish of a carpet beneath your feet as you move onto the next piece?

Artists and husband-and-wife duo Nicholaus Arnold and Ashley Jonas weren’t initially planning on making Dayton their home for the long haul; they were to stay in the Gem City, Arnold’s hometown, long enough to help a friend turn a cobwebby two-story home on Catalpa Avenue into an art gallery after Key West native Jonas completed grad school in Boulder, Co.

“We were driving back here, and I told him, you know we’re not going to live in Dayton forever, right,” Jonas laughed. Never say never, right?

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As they worked on the house, the draw of an artistic renaissance in the city became too appealing to pass up.

“A lot of stuff did die in Dayton, but the upside is that artists can actually live here now,” Arnold said.

After about six months of breaking down walls, building new ones, painting and renovating, the Blue House Art Gallery opened in August 2014, and now it boasts art gallery space with a waiting list of monthly rotating contemporary exhibits, a currently occupied artist-in-residence space, and studio space for Jonas and Arnold. Oh, and their home areas upstairs too.

“This was just going to be home base for a little bit, but then opportunities just started happening, so we just said, let’s go through these doors and grab these opportunities,” Jonas said. “It’s been less than a year that we’ve had it open, and we already feel that it’s already gotten good.”

Both adjunct professors by day at several colleges in the area, the couple curate each exhibit along with a little help from friends, and throw a free public opening ahead of the exhibit, with complimentary wine and beer for art lovers and non-art lovers alike. It doesn’t matter if you’re a staple of the local scene or you’ve never set foot in a museum; you’re at home here.

“We get a lot of people from the neighborhood who come in for our openings, and they’re seeing pretty contemporary work where they probably wouldn’t see it on their own,” Arnold said. “It’s a welcome, not preachy art environment; it’s just in our house; have a drink and chill out.”

It’s also, they hope, an exchange of exposure.

“We’re bringing people outside of Dayton into Dayton, with our visiting artists, and also exposing Dayton to work they wouldn’t see if we weren’t here,” Jonas said.

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