The challenge: how to best mark the 50th anniversary of Five Rivers MetroParks?
“I honestly wanted to avoid doing a foil-stamp on our envelopes and a sepia-tone coffee table art book,” jokes Beth Miller, director of marketing and public information for the parks.” We knew we were going to be 50 years old and we know the magnitude of the impact the park agency has had on the community. It was fitting to celebrate the collaboration and vision of open space protection.”
That celebration — and the creative concept Miller eventually hit upon — will be unveiled on Wednesday evening at the Schuster Center in Dayton. The public is welcome, and the event is free.
The theme is Hidden Treasures. Five artists from our area were invited to create works of art to mark the important anniversary. Within the five colorful posters created from each piece of original art are interactive elements designed to help you discover the “hidden nature” of the history of Five Rivers MetroParks.
“When people visit the parks and are out in nature in general, it’s different for everyone,” Miller says. “Some people want an active and physical interaction with nature and other people seek out serenity. For other people it’s the legacy and the shared experience of a natural environment.”
It’s similar, she says, when we view works of art.
“What you see is a very personal experience,” Miller says. “There’s a human filter for both the way in which they are created and how we use them.”
Her goal, she adds, was to come up with a campaign that would allow the whole community to celebrate and recognize the historical and citizen-driven impact of Five Rivers MetroParks, to protect the archives and to provide opportunities for people to experience the parks today.
All five of the area artists invited to contribute their work accepted immediately, Miller says. They include Amy Kohler Anderson, Bing Davis, Gretchen Durst Jacobs, Marsha Pippenger and Ron Rollins, who is a longtime Dayton Daily News editor. Each artist contributed five nature-inspired works to the traveling exhibit and each created a piece that’s the basis for one of the posters that will be given out and signed by the artists at this week’s art opening.
Pippenger, who based her art on the monarch butterfly, believes we are blessed with a beautiful and varied park system that is enjoyed by many people in and outside of the Miami Valley.
“I myself feel great pleasure in enjoying the natural landscape of MetroParks, the flowers at Riverscape, watching the skaters in the winter, going to Cox and visiting the butterflies and the turtles, biking through Island Park, getting fresh bread and produce at the 2nd Second Street Market, and many other activities,” says Pippenger, who lives in Harrison Twp.
Anderson, whose humorous painting shows a squirrel planting his acorn with a shovel, says she and her husband live about a mile from Huffman MetroPark and are official volunteers.
“We can ride our bikes there for a little getaway and we helped work on the mountain biking trails — helping to clear the invasive honeysuckle trees,” she says.
Anderson was thrilled to receive the invitation to participate in the celebration “of this amazing organization.”
“I talked with some of the folks at MetroParks and they told me how the squirrels are a big part of the natural reforestation process because they bury seeds but only recover a small portion of them,” she says. Her humorous artwork, “Plant it Forward,” shows a squirrel planting his acorn with a shovel. The background is created with glitter in a five-way pattern that represents the FiveRivers MetroParks.
QR codes in the art
You can search for the hidden quick-response codes and phone extensions in each poster. Use your smartphone or tablet to scan the QR code that will lead you to a video clip. Enter the four-digit extension number and hear a special recorded message about Five Rivers MetroParks.
More to do and see
Check out the “50 Things to See and Do” found at metroparks.org/history. You can follow the directions to each park site; when you arrive, a sign will mark the special feature and suggest additional activities.
“We’re hoping people will visit locations to discover something they never knew was in their favorite MetroPark,” says Miller. “Something that was hidden in plain sight!”
To learn the history
In addition to the “Hidden Treasures” art exhibit, organizers are hoping you’ll want to visit the online archive developed in conjunction with Wright State University Special Collections and Archives.
The items you’ll see displayed are a result of lots of digging through boxes of old photos, brochures and park files that are being catalogued, preserved and stored for future generations. To see some of the nuggets that have been uncovered, go online to metroparks.org/history.
HOW TO GO
What: “Hidden Treasures,” an art exhibit celebrating the golden anniversary of Five Rivers MetroParks
When: Opening reception is 5:30 to 7: 30 p.m. Wednesday. The artwork will be in the Wintergarden through May 10.
Where: The Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton
Cost: Free admission; parking in the adjacent Arts Garage is free.
Note: The traveling art exhibit moves to the Kettering Arts Council Gallery at Rosewood Arts Center from June 3-July 31 and then to other locations. Visit metroparks.org/history and click the link to the art exhibit to find out where else it will be.
MEET THE ARTISTS
Amy Kohler Anderson is the gallery coordinator for the Rosewood Gallery located in the Rosewood Arts Centre in Kettering. Her studio is in Yellow Springs.
She says about her poster titled “Plant It Forward”: “I am a tree hugger and love how the MetroParks have a reforestation program designed to remove invasive species and reestablish the native ones. They told me how the squirrels are a big part of the natural reforestation process because they bury seeds but only recover a small portion of them. The piece shows a squirrel planting his acorn, but with the comical twist of a shovel. The background is created with glitter in five-way patterns that represent the FiveRivers MetroParks, as well as the stylized leaf pattern on the ground. I documented the creation of this piece.” To watch Anderson at work, go online to
Bing Davis is known as both an art educator and a working artist. He spent 20 years at Central State University where he taught and chaired the art department and has been featured in a Dayton Art Institute exhibition. He was recently commissioned to create a work in honor of the Schuster Center’s 10-year-anniversary.
He says about his poster titled “Ancestral Spirit Dance #563”: “In my works I am concerned with taking a given medium and making a personal statement based on my perception, observations and response to my environment. The rich artistic heritage of African art with its religious, social and magical substance is what I select as an aesthetic an historical link.”
Gretchen Durst Jacobs worked as a corporate graphic designer before opening Art Source, a business that helps local artists sell their work and is now under the direction of the Dayton Visual Arts Center. She lives in Dayton and spends most of her summers in Ontario, Canada, along the shoreline of Lake Huron. That shore and those forests have been a dominant feature in her subject matter for the past six years.
She says about her poster titled “Hiding Oak”: “As I regularly walked past this old oak, it would seem to disappear as the light changed throughout the day. The old tree appeared to melt into the surrounding foliage and then reassert itself when the sun came out.”
Marsha Pippenger has been active in Dayton’s art community for more than 20 years, creating and exhibiting colorful collages and promoting the visual arts. She teaches art history at Wright State University and studio art and art history at Kettering College of Medical Arts. Marsha has worked in graphic arts, taught art in the Dayton Public Schools, and was a founding owner/artist of Conversation Pieces Gallery in Tipp City.
She says about her poster titled “Ode to King Billy”: “It is a visual poem to the monarch butterfly. I was inspired to create this collage when I read Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, ‘Flight Behavior’, about the mysterious appearance of monarchs in Appalachia. Of course I thought of the Butterfly House at Cox Arboretum, as well as the lovely monarchs that grace all our Metro Parks. Folks in Appalachia refer to the monarch as King Billy. With our community’s close ties to Appalachia it seems fitting for this collage to be an Ode to King Billy.”
Ron Rollins is a writer, associate editor of this newspaper and artist who lives in Kettering. His artwork is usually acrylic and pastel on paper or canvas, influenced by the work of his mother, Barbara, a watercolor artist, and by the Abstract Expressionists of the mid-20th century.
He says about his poster titled “Autumn”: “Fall is my favorite season, a time of transition as summer goes rusty and the forest becomes a crinkly campfire of red, yellow, orange, purple and brown. This painting is about the dramatic change in the foliage and the slow, grand sweep of this most wonderful, deliciously melancholy season. Leaves fall, the trees turn; paint can suggest how color is the key to feeling and appreciating it.”