Daytonian of the Week: Tess Cortes

Since she was 17 years old, Tess Cortes has lived in Dayton and poured her imagination and creativity into the heart of the city’s artistic community.

“I enjoy Dayton because it’s just small enough to do what you want to do, but big enough to get lost when you need to get lost. It’s also a little rough around the edges, which I like,” Cortes said.

Cortes has been the Gallery Coordinator at Wright State University’s Creative Arts Center for 13 years, and has recently helped with the University’s expansion project for the arts center. 

“It’s been an interesting year with the completion of the Creative Arts Center expansion project. I’m really happy to have been a part of that,” she said. “It was really challenging, but [also] rewarding.”

Stein Galleries Senior Thesis Exhibition

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In an interview with Cortes, we chatted about life in Dayton, her husband and four-year-old son Enzo, and her efforts in showing what art is and what it can be. 


Where is your favorite spot in Dayton? 

I’ve lived in downtown for many years, so pretty much anywhere downtown with the exception of some parks. We really enjoy doing the bike paths and walking downtown, especially in the summer. Enzo loves playing in the fountains [at Riverscape Park] when they go off.

What is your guilty pleasure? 

Any time I can turn a meeting into a brunch so I can get a Bloody Mary at Lily’s Bistro. They really have the most awesome Bloody Marys. I’ll be like “Let’s go to Lily’s!”


How would your son and husband describe you in one word? 

I can think of what I hope they would say. I hope they would say fun or silly. If you don’t laugh sometimes you just cry, right? And that’s just not an option most of the time.

What would you say is your greatest artistic accomplishment? 

Professionally: The galleries at Wright State have been a big accomplishment, getting moved and helping with the space. I think the students should be proud of the space. It’s sufficient to care for our collection for a long time.

Personally: I had a really great opportunity to corroborate with a Wright State student at the TEDxDayton. It was the first time on that scale that I got to do my interactive work in front of people. I’ve been doing it a little bit here and there.

Dayton artist Tess Cortes

What motivates you and inspires your work? 

Being able to share new ideas. It motivates my own artwork, too. New technology really fascinates me and it kind of drives me to learn new things. I also want to explore those in my work and share my knowledge with people about the things that excite me.

What is your favorite part about being a mother? 

Seeing things anew through my son’s eyes – like seeing him get excited about things that I am not. It’s really exciting and it really helps you shift your perspective a little bit.

Want to visit Tess and the gallery? Stein Galleries at Wright State University, located in the Creative Arts Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy., is now open. Find gallery hours and upcoming events online here. (Pro tip: the Creative Arts Center is marked as “CA” on all campus maps.)

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