4 reasons we agree that Dayton has one of the nation's best arts scenes

It's no secret to Daytonians that we have one of the most amazing arts and cultural scenes for a town our size.

Well, now the rest of the country knows it, too.

Dayton was recognized as one of The 10 Most Artistic Mid-Size Cities in America, according to GoGoBot.com.

No. 4 to be exact. The top 10 list was the product of the following criteria among mid-range cities:

  • Number of museums
  • Number of art galleries
  • Number of art schools and supply stores
  • Number of performing arts venues

But here's the real story as to why Dayton's art scene is just so special and treasured by this community: Dayton offers some of the best Broadway musicals and touring shows at gorgeous venues and art exhibits by European masters to amazing works and performances by our own up-and-coming artists. But these big arts destinations are only part of the story. There are also tons of smaller arts companies and groups from traditional to contemporary to cutting edge in all performing arts forms that really make Dayton a destination for artists and arts lovers.

In honor of being ranked No. 4 on this list, here are four key reasons why we at Dayton.com love Dayton's art scene:


"I think one of the things that really makes the arts scene special is just the diversity of it,” said Eric Brockman, marketing and communications manager for the Dayton Art Institute. “When people are visiting from out of town (performers in shows coming to the Victoria or artists or curators from other museums), they are always impressed with the diversity of the Dayton arts scene. We have performing arts, we have the Philharmonic Orchestra, we have the Art Institute, the dance companies, the theater companies. We’ve got an arts scene that easily rivals much larger cities."

Dayton alone has more than a dozen museums, galleries and studios, a half-dozen theater companies of all sizes that all bring something unique and special. There is the Victoria Theatre Association, offering more traditional Broadway style productions at the gorgeous Schuster Center or the historically charming Victoria Theatre. Then there is the Human Race Theatre Co., which offers American classics, cutting edge dramas and regional and world premieres, the unique puppetry of the Zoot Theatre Company and improvisational comedy, Chicago style, at the Black Box Improv. When it comes to visual arts, Dayton is home to the Art Institute that offers more than 25,000 pieces and the Dayton Visual Arts Center, which is a gallery space and an organization promoting local artists.

Dayton also has ballet and contemporary dance, an opera company and a philharmonic orchestra. The suburbs all have their own robust arts programs, not to mention local colleges with robust offerings as well, including Wright State, University of Dayton and Sinclair.


"If you look at the Schuster Center, there are communities, much larger than Dayton, that would die to have a performing arts facility as fantastic as the Schuster," Brockman said.

The 10-year-old Schuster Center includes a 2,300-seat theater with outstanding acoustics, coupled with technical capabilities designed to meet the most demanding touring attractions, highlight the auditorium’s construction.

The historic Victoria Theatre originally opened in 1866 as the Turner Opera House and enjoyed three years of success before fire consumed the hall. The job of rebuilding took two years, and it reopened in 1871 as the Music Hall. Some of America’s most prestigious stars, including Edwin Forrest, Lillie Langtry, Harry Houdini, Sarah Bernhardt and Mark Twain, were featured in productions there. The theater changed names several times during this period as well, becoming the Grand Opera House in 1885, the Victoria Opera House in 1899, and, finally, the Victoria Theatre in 1902.

The Loft Theatre is home to The Human Race Theatre Company. It is located on the third floor of the Metropolitan Arts Center. As a “three-quarter thrust” stage, The Loft Theatre’s performance area juts out into the audience, allowing the seating to wrap around the front edge and giving each patron a different view of the action onstage. It's a very intimate place to feel like you're part of the show.

And this only begins to scratch the surface...


One of the things that really makes Dayton standout is the collaboration between its arts groups.

In July 2012, Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Ballet, and Dayton Opera announced a groundbreaking merger, forming the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (DPAA), the first and only merger of its kind in the nation.

While each organization is unique and offers unique programming, they work together, plan together and sometimes perform together. Not every community puts on performances that feature all of these different forms of art together on a single stage in a single production.


One of the things that makes Dayton’s arts scene so special is simply the people – the breadth and the depth of our local artists -- and the connections the artists have with this community, said Eva Buttacavoli, executive director of the Dayton Visual Arts Center.

“Emerging artists are not afraid to take off and try new things because they have a supportive community and mid-career artists are able to exhibit and find affordable studio space and have access to sell their work to collectors and there are lots of wonderful fairs, festivals and opportunities for people to buy their work. Artists are enriched by this community. The community is supportive and artists benefit from it,” she said.

Volunteers, volunteer groups and generous benefactors have offered support through the years. The Dayton Art Institute's two signature events (ArtBall and Oktoberfest) are largely the work of volunteers. And businesses and individuals -- from big names and foundations to everyday arts patrons -- have offered financial support.

"The community, for more than a century now, has really been willing to support the arts from the early days of the Art Institute, the Patterson family, the Kettering family, the Wright Brothers, the leaders of the community," Brockman said.