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Artist pays it forward by exposing others’ art

Artist pays it forward by exposing others’ art: Mike Elsass is currently helping six local artists show their work on a national level from his new art space, Color 2 by Pamela Dillon for Dayton Daily News

Mike Elsass learned the process of minimalist painting on rusted steel from nationally renowned artist Roger Sayre, who passed away in March 2010. A little more than a decade after his first art lesson, Elsass has his own national following in about 20 major art havens such as New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Sante Fe, N.M. He gives his late friend and mentor a great deal of credit for his success and said he wants to “pay it forward.”

“I’ve had a variety of experiences over the years, and there are so many good artists in Dayton” he said. “I thought they deserved a chance to show on a national level.”

“These are local Dayton artists who are building a body of work, who are ready and want to take that chance,” said Elsass, relaxing in his new art space, Color 2.

Color 2 is located at 519 E. Fifth St., just around the bend from Elsass’s Color of Energy Gallery in the Oregon Historic District.

The first six artists fortunate enough to learn from Elsass’ experience are Bob Rhoads, Darren Haper, Ann Kim, Jennifer Rosengarten, Amanda Baker and Ben Norton. Their artworks are presented in the 1,000-square-foot gallery next to art neighbors 5th Street Clayworx and Elaine Balsley Fine Art.

“This used to be the Link Gallery, and I liked how Kaye Carlile used the university concept. We did a test from July through October of last year,” Elsass said. “I interviewed heads of art departments and lots of artists.”

The emerging artists he gathered into his sphere of influence represent both academia and business. Ann Kim is a painter and assistant professor of fine arts at Indiana University East. Rosengarten is an adjunct fine-arts professor at University of Dayton. Both Amanda Baker and Ben Norton are recent UD graduates. Haper managed McCallister’s Art and Supply Store for 10 years, and Rhoads is a well-known Dayton area custom-home builder.

“About three years ago, Mike encouraged me to revisit some ideas I had using wood saw boards and acrylic painting. As the economy slowed, I found I had more time and I began to produce art pieces,” said Rhoads, who has been friends with Elsass for 30 years, after he bought one of Rhoads’ homes. “With Mike’s help to place my work in other galleries and venues across the country, I believe it may be possible to expand my creativity and more fully realize my talents.”

So far, Elsass has helped place Rhoads’ wood saw cuts and Rosengarten’s paintings at Skyline Art Services in Houston; Kim’s paintings at the A Muse Gallery in Columbus; Haper’s works in Birmingham, Ala.; and Norton’s paintings at the Malton Gallery in Cincinnati. Baker’s photography will be part of a group show at GoHome in Centerville in the spring.

“I’ll be taking a group of artists to the Tucson, San Antonio, New Mexico areas later this year,” Elsass said. “Color 2 is just a couple of months old, but the possibilities are really exciting.”