The Contemporary gallery is awash in color and pattern

Exhibit features tours, artist talks.

Has the first day of Spring ever been more welcome? After two challenging pandemic years and with COVID cases finally decreasing, we’re all thrilled to greet the season that begins today.

Here’s a happy way to celebrate: Pay a visit to the The Contemporary, Dayton’s newest art venue located in the downtown Arcade. You won’t be disappointed in the riot of color and pattern filling the three gallery spaces. Admission, which includes artist talks, excellent take-home gallery guides and tours, is always free. It’s a great way to entertain out-of-town guests who may be visiting for the upcoming spring holidays. The show will be up through April 16.

Featured artist: Heather Jones: “Storytellers”

Until now, The Co’s main gallery has featured the work of nationally-known artists. This time around, an artist with Dayton roots is the focus. Heather Jones, who teaches at Centerville High School and lives in Springboro, has four large paintings on the gallery walls as well as a number of additional works. You’re in for a surprise when you stand up close to this art: the paintings are actually all made of fabric!

Jones, who was elected as an artist-in-residence for the internationally renowned artist, Kehinde Wiley’s inaugural class at Black Rock Senegal in 2019, was born in Dayton and says the inspiration for her work can be traced back to family who relocated to our area in the 1910′s from Appalachia in search of jobs and a better life. “When they moved north, they brought their cultures and traditions with them including patchwork and quilt making,” says Jones in her artist statement. “In my practice I am interested in exploring how those traditions are passed down from generation to generation, how they change over time and how they remain the same.”

Jones says she likes the familiarity of working with fabric. “We’re all covered in textile from the day we are born to the day we die,” she told me.

Featured artist: Odili Donald Odita: “3 Steps from Center”

The giant mural designed by Nigerian-born, Columbus-raised and Philadelphia-based artist, Odili Donald Odita is site-specific, created exclusively for these walls. It was painted by a team from his studio that traveled to Dayton for 17 days to carry-out his design and will be painted over when the show ends.

Odita explains he was influenced by an artist father who encouraged him to draw and who was the first Black Africanist teaching in America. He says he was also influenced by comic books and movies and by a mother who took him to garage sales where he could experience objects in a tactile manner. “It became more important later when I understood the capabilities of what drawing could create in a space, how it can define and make space,” he says.

Odita says like all art, you need to be able to see it in person to be able to understand what you are seeing and know what it is.

“I continue to explore in the paintings a metaphoric ability to address the human condition through pattern, structure and design, as well as for its possibility to trigger memory,” he has written. “The colors I use are personal: they reflect the collection of visions from my travels locally and globally. This is also one of the hardest aspects of my work as I try to derive the colors intuitively, hand-mixing and coordinating them along the way. In my process, I cannot make a color twice – it can only appear to be the same. This aspect is important to me as it highlights the specificity of differences that exist in the world of people and things.”

Featured artist: Jeffrey Gibson: “To Feel Myself Beloved on the Earth”

The Co’s video gallery is currently screening a 16-minute film entitled “To Feel Myself Beloved on the Earth” by Choctaw-Cherokee artist Jeffrey Gibson who lives in Brooklyn. The title of his is taken from the final poem in Raymond Carver’s last published work, “A New Path to the Waterfall.”

Produced in 2020 during the pandemic and national civil unrest, you’ll see colorful handmade costumes worn by trained and untrained dancers who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. They dance to the sounds of drumming in various natural and urban locations in and around New York City and the Hudson Valley.

Introducing children to the art

Kids will love all the colors and patterns in these three galleries. I invited my daughter-in-law, an art teacher, to come up with questions you can use on your visit to The Co to promote intergenerational discussion. Hannah Kasper Levinson is a graduate of the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and earned an MFA from Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.

About the Heather Jones art:

Textiles are all around us, including the clothes you are wearing, the blanket on your bed, and even your favorite stuffed animal! Do you have anyone in your family who sews, knits, or makes quilts? These are all ways of working with textiles.

There are many shapes in Heather Jones’ artwork. Can you point to and name the shapes you see? There are squares and triangles in her piece, " Chasing Down the Days.” Can you count them all?

About the Odili Donald Odita art:

Odita chooses every color in his work with intention and carefully decides which colors to place near each other. With some knowledge of how artists use color, you can find clues about why he arranges his paintings the way he does. This knowledge is called color theory, and it guides an artist in mixing paints and choosing colors that may go well together. Complementary colors sit across from each other on an artist’s tool called the color wheel. These colors go especially well together; They are red & green, blue & orange, yellow & purple. When you look closely at the mural, can you find complementary colors near each other? Another aspect of the color wheel is warm and cool colors. Warm colors are red, orange, and yellow. Cool colors are blue, green, and purple. Does Odita pair warm and cool colors together? Look closely and name the colors.

Notice how straight the lines are in Odita’s painting, “Code Switch.” How do you think Odita gets them so perfect? He uses a special kind of tape called painters tape which is placed on the canvas before the paint. The tape creates the design that guides the painting. In a way, it is like drawing with tape. When the paint dries and the tape is peeled off, these crisp lines appear.

Here’s an idea for a project at home. Use masking tape, or painters tape, which you can find at the hardware store. Tear strips of tape and smooth them down on a piece of white paper. Experiment with overlapping the tape. Leave the tape on as you cover all the visible paper with paint or crayon. When dry, slowly peel off the tape. You will see the white of the paper that was not colored, in perfect straight lines. Now, how do you think Odita made his painting using tape without those blank spaces showing?

About the Jeffrey Gibson video:

How do you think Jeffrey Gibson uses sound and movement to convey certain feelings? This video often shows us the performers’ faces close up. How do their expressions make you feel? There is no right or wrong answer - everyone feels art differently!

As you watch this video look for common themes that appear and remind you of the artwork you’ve seen hanging in the other galleries at The Co. Look at the drums and the costumes - do you see anything that reminds you of the other pieces in this show? There are common themes among all the artwork in this exhibit, regardless of whether they were made with fabric, paint, or video art.


What: Exhibits by artists Heather Jones, Odili Donald Odita and Jeffrey Gibson

Where: The Contemporary Dayton, 25 W. 4th Street in the downtown Arcade

When: Through April 16. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. On First Fridays: the Gallery is open until 8 p.m.

Admission: Always free

For more information: 937-224-3822 or

Related programs:

  • An ARTIST TALK by Heather Jones will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, April 1. It’s live at The Co and will also be streamed live online. Visit for more information. You can also check out the artist talks by Odili Donald Odita and Jeffrey Gilson on the gallery website.
  • A SPOTLIGHT TOUR is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 9 at The Co. No reservations are required.

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