BEST OF DAYTON: DAI wins Best Festival with Oktoberfest, also voted Best Art Gallery

The Dayton Art Institute’s annual Oktoberfest draws thousands of visitors to the outdoor event while throughout the year gallery exhibits indoors attract another 125,000 patrons or more.

For the art institute, it’s all about meeting the expectations of the community it serves.

The efforts were recognized in this year’s Best of Dayton contest when the Dayton Art Institute was named Best Art Gallery and it’s Oktoberfest was named Best Festival.

Oktoberfest is one of the biggest fundraisers for the DAI.

“It’s the tradition,” said Keith Packard, a co-chair for this year’s Oktoberfest set for Sept. 22-24. “It’s the community. The environment is art-based but also community-based. It’s also obviously the social side of it and the family atmosphere and to have that in an area that benefits the museum, to me that’s pretty impressive,” he said of the popular festival.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

What makes the festival so amazing are the people working behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly each year, Michael Roediger, director and CEO of the DAI said.

“I think it’s a testament to the group of people we have. They’re putting in all this energy telling their friends and co-workers. You can tell at our festival every morning, they’re all out cleaning … and picking up the grounds. These are a group of committed people that make it happen besides a really hardworking staff,” he said.

In the galleries, the DAI’s goal is to keep exhibits diverse and accessible to all people, Roediger said.

“We’re the best gallery because we’re working hard to make the galleries current and to make sure everyone sees themselves whether it’s the Black community, Hispanic community, LGBTQ+ community or even women artists who have been traditionally underserved,” he said.

The DAI sees between 100,000 and 125,000 visitors every year. The DAI also works closely with area schools and libraries. This year it is hiring three new museum educators.

Community Days are held throughout the year to allow groups free admission to the exhibits. Special tours have also been created for people with disabilities, whether it be low sensory or physical impairments.

The DAI’s collection has upwards of 30,000 objects, but at any one time there will only be 1-3% on view, Roediger said. Many works of art need to “rest” after being on view, he added.

Recent exhibits include works of Japanese washi (handmade paper), ceramic works of Japanese women, work of documentary photographer Lewis Hine, Indian calendar art, and works inspired by African-Americans, which is an exhibit created in partnership with the Dayton Unit NAACP. Old favorites like Monet and Degas are also still on view.

“We’re really trying to look at making sure we’re programming things that speak to people. But then when they come in, they discover other people,” Roediger said.



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