World bog snorkeling competitor and advocate for the arts is our Daytonian of the Week

If you’ve attended a PechaKucha Dayton lately or tapped into your creativity and made art, there’ s a good chance you have Shayna McConville to thank for it.

The tireless cheerleader for the arts in our community is the Daytonian of the Week, and we recently caught up with her.

You are the Division Manager of Cultural Arts for the City of Kettering. Tell me about your job. What is it you do?

I am on a team of talented and passionate individuals who work hard to provide creative experiences for all people in Kettering and beyond. I oversee Rosewood Arts Centre, a community facility and program that is a part of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts (PRCA). The Rosewood team is amazing; we are small and mighty, many of us are artists, and we all are dedicated to providing positive experiences in the arts.

I also manage the city’s percent for art program, which adds to the character and beauty of our public spaces. In addition, I collaborate with the Kettering Arts Council, a city-appointed committee of residents committed to the arts, and the Art in Public Places committee, a board of artists, art advocates and architects who guide our public art collection.

What is your background? What brought you to this job? 

I grew up surrounded by creative people. My grandparents moved to Yellow Springs in the 1950s to raise their family, and it’s where my mother chose to raise my brother and me. She was a fine arts student at Wright State, so we were surrounded by her artwork growing up. She also went along with my crazy ideas, and as a teenager determined to see the world, I embarked on a year-long AFS program to Eastern Europe. The exposure to history, culture, art and architecture was deeply impactful, and when I returned, I knew my future would be in the arts.

After finishing high school, I moved to New York for several years to study painting and art history, and eventually on to Philadelphia. I worked in contemporary art galleries and museums, and after receiving my MFA, came to the realization that I was most energized by supporting artists, arts organizations and creative communities. When the Division Manager of Cultural Arts position opened up in Kettering with the retirement of my mentor Connie Campbell, I was eager to be a part of a city that understood the importance of arts accessibility for their residents.

Choosing a career in the arts has been great, although I create my own art on a less frequent basis, I am constantly inspired by the stories, artworks and people I experience every day.

Kettering has a history of appreciation for the arts. Tell me about some of the special art features that can be found in the community. 

Kettering is known as a forward-thinking city, with a long-standing investment in enriching the lives of their residents. The arts have been a part of Kettering since it was incorporated in the 1950s; like the Kettering Civic Band, which formed in 1959 (this year is their 60th anniversary!), the establishment of the Kettering Arts Council in the 1970s, and the creation of Rosewood Arts Centre in the 1980s.

Rosewood is a remarkable place; it is a 1965 elementary school designed by Kettering architect Eugene Betz, and today hosts over 400+ classes per year, an active contemporary arts gallery, a theater program, and specialized studios for people to create ceramics, darkroom photography, jewelry, glass and dance.

The staff works tirelessly to create opportunities for people to participate in the arts both at Rosewood and throughout Kettering, including organizing the Art on the Commons Fine Arts Festival in August at Lincoln Park, and a kids art-making event every May in Southdale Park.

While visiting some of our parks, you may encounter mosaic sculptures by local artists Beth Holyoke and Käthe Siedl (created with hundreds of Kettering youth), or Japan-based artist Keizo Ushio’s infinity knot sculpture in Lincoln Park (sculpted from limestone by the artist over a summer in Kettering). There are over 25 artworks that the public art program has commissioned or purchased, and represent a wide range of ideas, materials, and artistic diversity.

Why do you think the arts are vital for communities? 

There are so many reasons that the arts are vital. The arts bring people together and bridge divisions. They help heal. The arts allow people to think, learn, and understand process. They inspire, and even drive economic development.

You don’t have to be an artist or a creator to be impacted by the arts. They are a part of our daily life; film, writing, photography, music, poetry, design are the examples that we might take for granted. I love telling the story of a kid who was being picked up from our annual Comic Book Studio Day. He told his parents: “I never want to leave! I want to live here!” I regularly talk to people that moved to Kettering because of the city’s support of the arts.

Communities with the arts are communities with possibilities — with inquiry, with different perspectives, with critical thinking, with a place for expression and discourse — a crucial component in making a place inviting and vibrant!

You are a co-organizer of PechaKucha Dayton. For those who might not know, please explain what a PK is. 

What great fun! PechaKucha Nights started in Tokyo as a new way to share information and counter the experience of a “death by Powerpoint” presentation. PK has a few rules. There is a strict 20 x 20 presentation format (20 seconds per slide, 20 slides) and a mandatory beer break. After PK started in Tokyo, it really took off and now PK Nights are organized in over 1,000 cities around the world!

It’s a great way to meet people, learn something new, and share your story. Our volunteer PK Dayton team is comprised of movers and shakers — Jason Antonick, Katy Kelly, and Mike Beerbower — and we host four events annually. We travel to different venues for each one, giving our audience the chance to visit a place they may not have been before. We have been all over, including the Masonic Temple, the Steam Plant, and the downtown Dayton Metro Library.

Presentation topics are wide-ranging, and have included how to care for a bearded dragon, the therapeutic qualities of crocheting, the stories of Woodland Cemetery’s residents, volunteering in Appalachia, and art therapy, just to name a few. I recently gave one on bog snorkeling!

This year marked the 10th anniversary of PK Dayton. Why is this event so special to the community? 

PK was brought to Dayton in 2009 by Jill Davis and Matt Sauer, two devoted and awesome Daytonians. Since the first event 10 years ago, PK Dayton’s audiences have grown, and the stories keep coming! We’ve had hundreds of people present, and the wide-range of topics is constantly compelling. We’ve been fortunate to have organizations and individuals step up and support the event too, which makes it free to attend. The quality of presenters here in Dayton is really special, too. I often hear people enthusiastically recount a past PK presentation that stuck with them. PK’s success is a testament to Dayton. We have so much incredible talent, history, culture and interests to share and learn from.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you make happen in Dayton? 

I would give all Dayton nonprofits an endowment!!!! What if every organization had a sustainable, sufficient fund for capital and operating expenses? Imagine all the energy that could go into innovative endeavors! Our historic landmarks would be preserved, community services would be robust, and maybe everyone would walk around with a smile and a little pep in their step until they find something else to worry about!

Tell me all about bog snorkeling! Where and when did you do this and what was it like? 

In 2017 and 2018, I traveled to the “smallest town in Britain,” Llanwrtyd Wells, and competed in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships! I was ready for an adventure (aka mid-life crisis), and wanted to do something that was going to push my comfort boundaries. I’ve heard about this event for ages, and with a nudge from friends, I planned a journey to Wales in 2017 to compete.

The trip was so much fun, I went back last year to do it again! While I didn’t win the title of bog snorkeling champion either time, I did learn to turn off the rational part of my brain as I donned a wetsuit and costume, and jump into cold, dark bog waters — and with a smile! The World Bog Snorkeling Championships rules include no swim strokes, breathe through a snorkel, and wear fins. Fancy dress is encouraged, and the costumes people put together are marvelous.

Here is the weird thing (right? more weird things?): it’s actually quite an athletic endeavor! I saw a lot of people get a little ways down the bog and realize they couldn’t physically do it, and have to climb out. The setting of Llanwrtyd Wells is a lovely place to tourist, the townees are gracious and kind, and, since it’s just a strange thing to do, the people involved are quite interesting and kindred spirits! Lastly, it was great fun because I had my good friends with me, and I am forever grateful to their cheers from the sidelines as I emerged from the dark bog waters and collected my competitor’s medal!

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