Dave Chappelle and John Legend’s actions after tragedy inspire art

Celebrities’ portraits part of the 2020 Dayton Skyscrapers Visual Voices art exhibition on view in the Schuster Center lobby.

Dave Chappelle and John Legend’s response to a tragic year in Dayton was the inspiration for two oil paintings now on display.

The portraits, created by artist Abner Cope, are among more than a dozen artworks in the 2020 Dayton Skyscrapers Visual Voices art exhibition in the Schuster Center Wintergarden.

“Abner Cope is a tremendously gifted painter and like all of us he was greatly moved by what happened and the response of these two giants, Dave Chappelle and John Legend,” Willis “Bing” Davis, curator of the exhibition said.

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The Visual Voices exhibition showcases the work of 13 African-American artists with local ties.

The artists have created portraits “about African-Americans from our region that stand tall in our hearts and minds for their achievements and giving back,” Davis said.

The subjects include Matilda Dunbar, the mother of poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, NBA champion Norris Cole and actor Dorian Harewood.


Among the artworks in the display is a charcoal study of musician and boxer Johnny Dillard Lytle by Gregg DeGroat; a photograph giclee print of Edythe Lewis, the first African-American disc jockey in Dayton, by Al Harden; and a scratch board portrait of local attorney Michael Wright by artist James Pate.

The Dayton Skyscrapers Visual Voices exhibition began in 2007. “This is one of the best overall shows we’ve ever done,” Davis said. “The artists have pushed themselves and take pride in producing as good a job as they can for the sake of the project.”

Among the goals of the annual art exhibition is to provide local artists a chance to be in a professional show, create positive role models for urban youth and remind the Dayton region how African-Americans contribute to the quality of life in the community.

“The show celebrates just how special our community is and our citizens are and how talented they are,” Davis said. “Even in our most difficult times there is plenty to be proud of, hold on to and draw strength from.”

The exhibition is on display Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Schuster Center Wintergarden, 1 W. Second St. until April 5. Admission is free. An artist’s reception will be held Sunday, Feb. 16 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

The exhibition will be on display at the DP&L company headquarters, 1611 Woodman Drive, from April 6 to May 4. It will then move to the EbonNia Gallery, 1135 W. Third St. until June 26.

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