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Daytonian of the Week: Terry Welker, sculpting Dayton's art scene

Terry Welker, FAIA, approaches work with the hope that once completed, the space cannot be imagined without the artwork he’s created.

An accomplished artist living and working in Kettering, Welker is a sculptor and architect who has used his talents to “animate space with sculpture” around the Dayton-area in stunning ways. Welker has even been elevated to the College of Fellows in the American Institute of Architects.

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Welker is the son of a USAF Master Sergeant and was born at Fort Cambell, Ky., before his father chose WPAFB to work and retire. He brought his family to Dayton for good. Today, Welker lives in Kettering, working from his studio and constructing commissioned artwork throughout the region.

(Terry Welker) works on the instillation of Fractal Rain in the Dayton Metro Library. (Terry Welker)

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“I met the love of my life, Sandy, a lifelong Daytonian, in high school. After 42 years of marriage, two sons and two grandsons, she still makes me feel like a 17 year old,” Welker said.

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Perhaps most notably in the past year, Welker’s piece, Fractal Rain, was installed as the centerpiece of the new Dayton Metro Library Downtown. It’s a sight to behold that requires numerous visits to the library to appreciate its beauty.

Terry Welker is our Daytonian of the Week.

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Dayton.com: How did you find your way to being an artist? Have you always considered yourself artistic? 

👨‍🎨Welker: I look at my life as a tapestry. It’s the best analogy I can find to explain the rich mix of passions in my life that include family, friends, community, architecture and art. Art is the most consistent and dominant thread in my life’s tapestry. As a child, drawing was the only way to keep me quiet in church; as a teen it consumed me. I was an oddity living in the world of year-round sports and art. In high school, I earned date money by drawing portraits. 

To be more direct, I guess I never concerned myself with the question about whether I was artistic or not; it’s like breathing, a natural automatic life process. Today, I call myself an architect and sculptor since I live in both worlds with substantial overlap. 

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After high school, I actually began my formal education in fine art at Wright State University but gravitated toward architecture via Sinclair and eventually received two degrees in architecture at the University of Cincinnati. I think this is why I eventually turned toward sculpture instead of painting. 

 

(Terry Welker) is our Daytonian of the Week. (Terry Welker)

 

Dayton.com: Does any of your inspiration for your projects come from living in Dayton? 

👨‍🎨Welker: “My sculptures are always a response to time and place. While I’m always experimenting, most of the work that people see is the result of a commission, tailored to create a meaningful memorable sense of place. I don’t attempt to mimic forms, but rather respond to my personal memory of forms and colors from nature. For example, Fractal Rain was a direct response to my own childhood memory of a gathering storm — an Air Force brat in Nebraska — and a reference to Dayton’s own flood history as well as particular works from the Dayton Art Institute collection. 

 

Dayton.com: How does it feel when you visit local fixtures where your art is a focal point?  

👨‍🎨Welker: “I love returning to places where my work is an enduring part of a creating a new memory for others. I always try to make an installation in such a way that when it’s complete, it would be hard to imagine the place without it. Revisiting these places becomes an affirmation of those choices, and I always learn something and come away with new ideas.” 

 

Dayton.com: If you met someone who has never been to Dayton, what are some of the highlights you would tell them? 

👨‍🎨Welker: “After someone hears of the usual published landmarks, I love pointing out the extraordinary in the ordinary. Dense, chaotic urban places, quiet places and cultural utopias. Certainly, The Contemporary (DVAC), the Dayton Art Institute, Rosewood Arts Centre and my own studio act as second homes for me, but I’m most interested in the vernacular. Rather than measuring our city by comparing it to other cities, I believe in looking inward to find those things that make Dayton unique and special. Locally owned restaurants, the Oregon District, Metroparks, Kettering parks, Kettering mid-century modern architecture, microbreweries, the Century, are all examples of the vest pocket utopias I love. I like discovering beautiful hidden places like Woodland Fen and the myriad of tiny parks and paths in our region. The best way to really see a place is to slow down and sketch it.”

A detail from the new Main Library's signature art piece, Fractal rain by Kettering architect and artist Terry Welker. LISA POWELL / STAFF (Lisa Powell)

 

Dayton.com: Is Dayton a good city to live in as an artist? What do you like about our arts community? 

👨‍🎨Welker: “Dayton is a fantastic city for artists! First, The Contemporary (DVAC) with its hundreds of members, programs and exhibitions is a world-class support system for artists. The educational network for artists of any age or stage is profound. And the financial opportunities via galleries and public art commissions like the Dayton Metro Libraries or Kettering’s percent-for-art funding create genuine livelihoods for artists. It’s an exhaustive list.”

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Dayton.com: What are you up to when you're not working on a project? What are some of your favorite spots in Dayton to frequent? 

👨‍🎨Welker: “Well, there’s never a time that I’m not working or chasing a project. But, I love to start my day at a locally owned coffee house like Epic or Ghostlight. When I can take a deserved evening break, living in the moment, hanging out with friends and family at The Century is my fave vest pocket utopia. All the new Dayton Metro Libraries are my fave quiet places.”

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