Skip links

A fond farewell to Dayton artist, Roger Sayre

Dayton artist, Roger Sayre, dead at 67 by Meredith Moss for Dayton Daily News

Roger Sayre, a Dayton artist whose contemporary work was exhibited throughout the world and was represented in a number of major corporate and private collections, died Saturday, March 20.

Sayre, best known for his abstract, minimalist art on steel and canvas, was 67.

His friend and guardian Mike Elsass said Sayre was his artistic mentor and described him as “a good person, who would help anybody.”

“He had a charming personality and insight into art,” said Elsass, who said Sayre became a local legend while working at the Front Street artists warehouse for more than 20 years.

According to a biography published when Sayre was inducted into the Northridge High School Hall of Fame, the Sandusky native graduated in 1961.

His formal art education began at the School of the Dayton Art Institute and continued at the University of Cincinnati where he earned his MFA and MA.

He taught at the University of Dayton, Wright State University and the University of Cincinnati and served as the head of the sculpture program at Indiana University East.

Exhibitions of Sayre’s work have been held at Western Michigan University, Indiana University, the Wooster College Museum, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati and the Dayton Art Institute.

Exhibitions have also been held in Canada, Argentina and Japan.

What’s less known, Elsass said, is that Sayre had a gold hit record in the ’60s, “Hey, Little Willie,” when he played guitar and performed vocals for a Dayton band known as the X-cellents.

Sayre’s sculpture and painted steel pieces have been collected by actor Rob Lowe, actor and singer Noel Harrison, Virginia Kettering, Boeing, MeadWestvaco Corp., Delco, Sears, Roebuck and Co., cabinet maker Kraftmaid, Provident Bank, and Ameritech.

Three of his works are in the permanent collection of the Dayton Art Institute.

Sayre received numerous prestigious awards for his work including a Ford Foundation Scholarship, an Atelier Scholarship from the Dayton Art Institute, a Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District Individual Artist Fellowship and an Art for Public Places grant from Dayton.

A memorial exhibit of his art will be 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, June 4, at the Color of Energy Gallery, 16 Brown St., in Dayton’s Oregon District.

A memorial talk will be 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 3, at the gallery.