Owner’s mission is to make art approachable for all

Commercial gallery mixes contemporary art with classical.

Ed Dixon never saw himself as working a 9-5 job forever. “I figured at some point I would be in business in some form or fashion. In the ‘90s, I was part of a record label. From there it was getting into real estate development. I was involved in a Chuck E. Cheese franchise.” Then, in 2017, he opened the Edward A. Dixon Gallery, a commercial art gallery housed in a storefront across from Riverscape.

“Music, art, were always an interest. At some point art moved to the forefront. I was doing a lot of traveling, going to museums and art galleries. I got a bug in a sense and just really started wanting to spend more time around art and artists. At that time, six years ago, the art scene in Dayton didn’t look like it does today. I felt like it would be a good addition, to bring something similar to what I was seeing when I was traveling.”

Dayton born and raised, Dixon, 53, lives on the West Side near Jefferson Township.


When designing his vision for the gallery, Dixon’s “original mission was to make it a place where everybody felt comfortable no matter their level of expertise or familiarity with art galleries. Sometimes people see galleries on TV, they think they need to know all these fancy terms to come in. I get people asking me, who walk up, does it cost to get in. People come in and say, this is my first time being in an art gallery. I get that often. That was part of my mission, for it to be a comfortable space for anybody from any demographic, any level of expertise.”


Dixon rises around 6 a.m. “Normally my morning is waking up and starting local news. When local news goes off, the ‘Today Show’ comes on. Then I go to international news. I go to the BBC. When I’ve just had enough of the terrible news, I go to Aerial America. They go to a different state and they show all these aerial shots flying over all these places and giving history and the landscape.”


“From 6-8 a.m., I’m on social media — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. The first thing I’m thinking about early in the day is always what can I do to market the gallery and the artists. I try to think that out in the morning so I have it in mind for posting at 3 p.m. or whenever.”


“I’m always doing little sticky notes of things I need to do. At 9, I’m consulting my sticky note pad and seeing what I need to do for that day. It may be just for that day or bigger over-arching goals I’m working on. I stick them right on my laptop.”

Dixon then goes in to the gallery for appointments. “It could be an artist that wants to show in the gallery. Every now and then, it’s a private appointment to come in and look at the art.”


The current show is “Separating the Earth from the Heavens” by Cincinnati painter and educator Cynthia Kukla, who was a visiting professor at Aristotle Thessaloniki University in Greece. “This show is about her time in Greece. There’s a section of paintings that she did while she was physically present sitting in front of those ruins.” Her work is mostly watercolor, layered with collage, and, according to Dixon, has “a contemporary feel despite the classical subject matter”.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed


The best part for Dixon is discussing the art with visitors. “Sometimes, on a quiet day, someone may come in and we spend 20 minutes talking about their relationship with art. I have a lot of friends and associates that know a lot more about art than I do. There’s people on the other end of that spectrum, too. We all can still have conversations and discuss the pieces on different levels, using different terminology. I always tell people, your opinion is the most important. What you think about it is what matters — what you see, how it makes you feel.”


There’s a lot that goes in to running a gallery beyond the exhibition. “The actual business, dealing with insurance, marketing, accounting — all that type of work I have to do besides just hanging art. I’m planning into 2024 now. I’m working on an application for the FotoFocus Biennial in October 2024. The African American Visual Arts Guild has a traveling show that starts in January of next year. It’s going to come to the gallery for a month.”

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed


Dixon, a vegan, says there are good lunch options in Dayton. “If the gallery is open, I’m here that entire time. I Doordash when it’s time to eat, Impossible Burgers or Indian food. In the Belmont area there’s an Indian street food place called Indian Twist Grill.”


“I go sit outside in intervals depending on the weather. I do that because if I’m sitting in the office (people) walk by, and even with a sandwich board and an open sign outside, they still don’t know what’s going on. My windows are always dirty because people are putting their face to the glass. You see the wheels turn. When I’m out on the sidewalk, I can help usher people in.”


Next month will be the third iteration of Dixon’s themed exhibition, “We’re Doing it all Wrong”. Artists submit work commenting on a system or institution that they see as needing repair, such as climate change or social injustice. Entries come from across the country and are judged by a blind jury of artists and curators, including Dixon himself.

“I’m on a lot of juries in the Dayton area. Right now I’m on the 8/4 Memorial jury. I’ve done the Culture Works Special Projects Grant two or three times. The National Afro-American Museum up in Central State, they have an exhibition every year that I’ve juried for.”


Dixon says that the liveliness of downtown Dayton is “night and day from 10 years ago. You didn’t see people walking around.” But now, “there’s quite a bit of activity that happens with Riverscape. Especially in this quadrant of downtown, because the baseball stadium is here and some of the developments with the apartments and restaurants. Now 5 or 6, you’re gonna see people out here walking dogs like crazy.”


“Normally by 5 I don’t quit working, but I’m hoping that I can at least have a quiet evening.” He leaves the gallery and stops by his parents’, who live next door. “That’s the first thing I do, I go in their house and check on things and talk to them and then I go home.” He pulls up to his house and takes Mia, his toy poodle, for a walk.


Dinner might be something quick, or more involved. “I just downloaded a recipe for lemongrass tofu. Sometimes it’s just cooking a Beyond Burger and some fries. Every two weeks I’m ordering from Whole Foods.”


“There’s going to be another hour or two of gallery work. I’m going to get on my laptop and on social media and make a new post, or check posts and comment. On other days, especially when an exhibition is about to open, I’m busier. Just this past weekend, I was scoring for the “We’re Doing it all Wrong” exhibition. There were 174 entries so I had to find time to do that. It ended up being 27 artists.”


“At the end of the day there’s probably some series that I’ll watch. I just finished ‘FUBAR,’ the Arnold Schwarzenegger series. I get on Youtube and watch an art or history documentary. For some reason yesterday I was watching the history of how Hungary came to be. I fell asleep on it.” The day wraps up by midnight.


Dixon’s next goal is to take work from Dayton artists to art fairs for exposure to buyers. “Being the one-man show slows that kind of thing down. When my next intern starts that may free up space to work on that kind of thing more.” In the meantime, he’ll keep promoting the arts for the whole community to appreciate.


Edward A. Dixon Gallery is located inside the Opal Building at 222 N. St. Clair St. in downtown Dayton. Hours are Wednesday and Thursday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 3 to 8 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m.to 4 p.m.

Find out more at https://eadgallery.wordpress.com/ and on Instagram @eadgallery.

The current exhibition, Cynthia Kukla: Separating the Earth from the Heavens, runs through July 15th with a closing reception on that date. Browse the gallery’s offerings at shop.eadgallery.com.

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