The Dayton Art Institute's fountains have not streamed water since the late 60s or early 70s. They are expected to be reopen this fall.
Photo: Amelia Robinson
Photo: Amelia Robinson

New festivals part of museum’s 100-year celebration — and the first one is one week away

One of Dayton’s most iconic institutes is starting its next 100 years with a new logo, two new free festivals — one potentially paying tribute to a long-gone “zoo” — and the reopening of fountains that last streamed water decades ago. 

The Dayton Art Institute revealed how it would celebrate its centennial during its annual meeting, Thursday, Feb. 28.

The first of the free community festivals is happening next weekend on Sunday, April 7.

>> The Dayton Art Institute is throwing a FREE birthday bash — and you’re invited

Dayton Art Institute CEO and President Michael Roediger and Alexis Larsen, its external affairs director, unveiled DAI’s new logo at the institution’s annual meeting Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019.
Photo: Amelia Robinson

>>RELATED: When the community chipped in to open the Dayton Art Institute

“It is going to be an exciting year,”  Michael Roediger, the museum’s  director and CEO, said before the meeting. “We will have 100-plus happenings.”


A crowd gathers around a cage to see Skipper the monkey at the Dayton Art Institute. Siegfried R. Weng, who at age 25 became the museum’s first director, created a zoo to attract visitors during the 1930s and 1940s. DAYTON ART INSTITUTE
Photo: Dayton Art Institute

The highlights of the year will include two free, interactive, family-friendly festivals supported by the Miriam Rosenthal Foundation. 

The Happy Birthday DAI: Centennial Community Day is scheduled for noon to 5 .m. Sunday, April 7. The event will include entertainment and art-making activities inside the museum. 
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The second festival is scheduled for noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, inside the museum and outside on its grounds. Roediger said the Centennial Community Festival will include food trucks, music and art-making activities.

The museum hopes to provide a petting-zoo experience that is reminiscent of DAI’s “menagerie of animals” of the 1930s to 1950s, affectionately known as Weng Zoo (named for former director Siegfried R. Weng).

>> The Dayton museum history you didn’t know: When there was a zoo at the art institute

Exotic Demoiselle cranes, toucans, swans and peacocks roamed outside the museum and swam in a pool. 

Skipper the monkey was among the animals inside. 

Roediger said no animals will be inside the museum for the festival, but there will be plenty of fun. 

He said there will be special education components to each festival. 

“We started as a school, so education is important,” he said. 

>> When the community chipped in to open the Dayton Art Institute


The Dayton Art Institute opened in January 1930. DAYTON ART INSTITUTE

The museum’s meeting came 100 years to the date that DAI’s letter of incorporation was signed by a list of dignitaries that included aviation pioneer Orville Wright, attorney Valentine Winters and Julia Shaw Patterson Carnell, a business woman and the museum founder. 

“These are people who really wanted to see the birth of a cultural community,” Roediger said. 

A portrait of Carnell was unveiled at the meeting with relatives present.  

The original museum opened in 1919 in a house at the corner of Monument and St. Clair streets. 

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DAI opened at its current space, 456 Belmonte Park N., with much fanfare and a special seven-page section of stories and photographs in the Dayton Daily News in 1930. 


The Dayton Art Institute's fountains have not streamed water since the late 60s or early 70s. They are expected to be reopen this fall.
Photo: Amelia Robinson

Roediger announced the museum’s Centennial Campaign at the DAI’s Oktoberfest in September. 

The museum had quietly raised $14 million of the campaign’s $27 million goal. 

Roediger said progress has been made on several of the museum projects, including the remodeling of several galleries, bathrooms and a new walkway leading to the river. 

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Work will begin this spring on an endeavor that will see the DAI’s historic hillside and front stairway remodeled and illuminated. 

“We will be able to change it (the light colors) in response to what is happening in the community,” Roediger said.

The Dayton Art Institute will get $750,000 in the new state budget for historic stair and hillside preservation.

He said the lights could be changed to match the colors of weddings and events being held in the museum as well as things like Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Pride and University of Dayton basketball championship wins. 

The front stairway closed to the public just under 10 years ago. 

Its fountains have not operated since the late 60s or early 70s. 

Museum officials hope the stairway’s balcony is open in time for Art Ball, a fundraising gala, in June.

They hope the fountains are running by fall. 


Dayton Art Institute's new logo was unveiled at the museum's annual meeting, Feb. 28, 2019.

The museum unveiled its new, modern logo during the annual meeting. 

The logo was designed by DAI External Affairs Director Alexis Larsen using feedback from students from The Modern College of Design (formerly the School of Advertising Art). The red and black design marks the first substantial overhaul of the museum’s branding since the mid-1990s.

It will allow for unified branding.  

Larsen studied logo redesigns of museums in Cleveland, Detroit, Seattle and Cincinnati. 

“I am really excited about the look,” Roediger said. “I like the colors. It is clean.” 

The Dayton Art Institute's fountains have not streamed water since the late 60s or early 70s. They are expected to be reopen this fall.
Photo: Amelia Robinson
The art walk was added to the grounds outside of the Dayton Art Institute in 2018.
Photo: Amelia Robinson