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Summer Space: Artists take over vacant building in Oregon Arts District

Artists take over vacant building in Oregon Arts District: Excelsior building being transformed into Summer Space, home to numerous arts projects

Dayton – June 10, 2009 (courtesy of Downtown Dayton Partnership)

The Excelsior building on East Sixth Street might be vacant, but there’s a lot of activity going on inside.

Artist Mike Elsass, owner of Color of Energy gallery, is leading the creation of Summer Space, located in the Oregon Arts District landmark, and a hub for a variety of arts programs, including:

Body of Work Artist Residency Program: The flagship program at Summer Space, this residency will allow nearly a dozen emerging artists to receive studio space and supplies to create a serious body of work that may be shown in galleries here and elsewhere.

Artists also will have networking and resume-building opportunities, such as working with Dayton-area organizations, colleges and universities, and galleries and other creative spaces. In addition, the team of emerging artists with studios in Summer Space will have opportunities to exhibit their work locally throughout the summer and fall. In turn, the artists will hold workshops and demonstrations in the Oregon Arts District, help with such events as First Friday, and staff Summer Space and the Color of Energy gallery.

Many of the artists are being supported with private funds donated by community sponsors, including Susan Bartoo, Susan Thompson and Dr. Michael Ervin. These sponsors are working with individual artists to provide such necessities as paint and canvas – but they also are volunteering their time to provide mentoring in such areas as marketing and promotions, business savvy, and more.

“I’m interested in the Dayton arts community, and this is a grassroots effort that needs to be supported by individual people,” said Thompson, the Summer Space sponsor who’s working with Ben Norton, a recent University of Dayton graduate, painter and Nashville, TN resident.

Artists in Cahoots:  Emerging artists, all of whom have a Dayton connection, will collaborate with established local artists to create new works. This summer, recent University of Dayton graduate and photographer Amanda Baker will work with fellow photographers Jacqueline Buck and Pat Elsass to create two coffee table books. In addition, Dani Schmidt, who teaches art at Springboro Junior High School, will work with Hamilton Dixon using sculpture and welding to create 3-D works; painter Alyssa Foland and Elsass will create benches that are utilitarian works of art; and painter Shon France also will work with Elsass to create sculpture.

Artist Exchange Initiative:  Out of town artists will work with Dayton artists to hold join exhibits in the Oregon Arts District and, in turn, Dayton artists will have opportunities to exhibit in other cities. This is an extension of a program launched in October 2008 with the exhibition “You are Here” which included work by emerging artists from Austin and Dayton. Adding to the Austin exchange, Elsass is now working on developing artist swaps with Indianapolis, Hot Springs, Asheville, Nashville, Chattanooga, Paducah and Saugatuck.

Artist Survival:  Artists will be painting, sculpting and creating and performing other works on Fifth Street and at Pacchia, Blind Bob’s and Fifth Street Wine and Deli throughout the summer.

Fifth Street Live:  A variety of street performances will be held throughout the summer and early fall along Fifth Street in the Oregon Arts District, by the SMAG Dance Collective, Yolanda the Clown and others. The first Fifth Street Live performance was held during First Friday on June 5, when SMAG dancers took to the streets and performed on Brown Street outside of Color of Energy beneath giant canvases hung on the sides of nearby buildings.

Arts Outreach:  Summer Space artists will work with a variety of community and youth organizations to connect people with the arts. This program kicked off on June 1 when Baker, Norton and painter Emily Burkman worked with students at Ruskin Elementary School in Dayton.

“Summer Space is an effort that reaches far into many aspects of the arts, from supporting youth to providing community arts activities and performances,” said Elsass, also a nationally recognized painter. “Summer Space is centered on supporting emerging artists, giving them studio space and the time to develop their resume to tell their story.”