Jes McMillan: Community activist, mosaic artist and Executive Director, The Mosaic Institute

use headshotJes McMillan combined her skill and experience as a mosaic artist with her passion for community to create her career as a humanitarian artist.

 In the beginning…

While growing up in Kettering, Miamisburg, Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, Jes McMillan always “wanted to be an artist”. In elementary school, she “loved going into the art room. (It was her) favorite class”. Her talent and interest were recognized early when the teacher chose her in second grade to “paint a window of the art room for the holidays… Usually (they) only let the 6th graders paint the windows”.

How did Jes become a mosaic artist?

Jes followed her passion for art in high school. “I took every art class that was available”. She gained her first experience with handling, cutting and grinding glass when she did a fine design stained glass stepping stone project in art class. The project taught her how to cut the shapes exactly so they would fit together in the pattern with even spacing throughout.

“I did my first mosaic in high school at age 16. I got a piece of wood from the garage, 2’ tall by 4’ wide” and used glass for the pattern. Jes made a second piece which she “traded to my art teacher for a set of all the tools you need to do the glass, so then I was on my way”.

What did Jes do after high school?

After Jes graduated, she pursued industrial design. “I’ve always had a building and engineering type of mind”. She earned her Associates in Science degree in Industrial Design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. They recognized her talent and skills with mosaic art immediately and employed her to represent the Art Institute at festivals and to teach workshops on mosaics.

While she was going to school, Jes also worked at the YMCA.  By the time she graduated from the Art Institute, she was advancing “up the ladder through the child care and I wanted to be a director”. She enrolled at Point Park University in Pittsburgh to get the necessary credits for that position. She majored in Art History and Child Development and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Design & Applied Arts.

What did Jes do when she returned to Dayton?

Pittsburgh “was a great city… I loved that experience”, but family ties brought Jes back to Dayton in 2005. Despite her experience in child care at the Pittsburgh YMCA, Jes discovered the Dayton YMCA lacked openings for child care directors. “I did try being an after-school site director, but I’d already passed that point and I didn’t want to take steps back”.

Jes secured a job as an industrial designer in Franklin, Ohio, but had the misfortunate to injure her hand. “I was dealing with a lot of models and you need your hands”. Shortly thereafter, she was laid off.

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K-12 Gallery & TEJAS

Next, Jes combined her background in art with her training in child development at K-12 Gallery & Teen Educational & Joint Adult Studio in downtown Dayton as a mosaic art class instructor. In order to supplement her income, she also managed Design Sleep, a high-end organic bedding store in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

 How did Jes start combining mosaic art and community work?

Jes created her “first community collaborative piece” while teaching mosaic art at the K-12 Gallery & TEJAS. She led others to make “huge pieces of art that were affecting the community in a really big way. So that kind of changed the course for me right away”. use community mosaic MI

For almost eight years, Jes taught and directed community art projects at the K-12 Gallery & TEJAS. In November 2013, she “parted ways with them to create my own vehicle for community work”. While she considered what that meant, she worked as a database manager for Healthy Alternative, an independent chain of health food grocery stores. In 2015 she founded a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, The Mosaic Institute of Greater Dayton, to carry out her commitment to community through its mission: To Inspire, Empower and Unify Community Through Art.

Through contacts made while volunteering at One Bistro, a nonprofit restaurant in Miamisburg, Ohio, Jes found a building with 15,000 square feet available in the same town. In September 2015, The Mosaic Institute use elem classroomopened a walk-in mosaic studio with bins of pre-cut glass sorted by color that customers could use to create “make it and take it” mosaics. The studio offered a full class schedule, private parties and other events.

Since 2015 Jes has involved The Mosaic Institute in almost 20 community mural projects, both paint and mosaic, in Miamisburg.   “I have done mosaic murals in every single elementary school in Miamisburg but one”, and that elementary school is scheduled to create one during the 2018-2019 school year. Miamisburg High School is also on the schedule. Eventually Jes “will have mosaiced with every child in” Miamisburg.

use blocking muralFor the 2017 River Blast Festival, Jes and The Mosaic Institute partnered with the City of Miamisburg to create a giant painted mosaic on 350 feet of levee wall along the Great Miami River. Jes and her Mosaic Institute team taped the giant mosaic pattern on the levee and gave each participant a “paintbrush with the right color and directed them towards the spaces… Everybody from babies to seniors got involved in that mural”. The project made the City a semifinalist for the 2017 Governor’s Award for Parks & Recreation.

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Levee Mural, City of Miamisburg, OH

During its first year, The Mosaic Institute also used their building’s big open space to hold ten art shows with music, performance art, and visual art. It was “a lot of fun”, but, due to the heating and cooling expenses, “the building ended up being just a monster”. Jes needed to relocate The Mosaic Institute.

Since The Mosaic Institute had been active in the community, Jes negotiated with the City of Miamisburg for some space to open a community art center. Her dream is to use her “skills and abilities in partnership with (the City of Miamisburg) to build a Rosewood Arts Center, a city-sustained arts program”. The City did provide some space in a community park, “but it was like starting over from square one”.

Why did Jes move The Mosaic Institute to downtown Dayton?

While Jes was wrestling with relocation, her friend, Mike Bisig, bought the building for

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Mike’s Bike Park, 1300 E. 1st Street, Dayton, OH

Mike’s Bike Park, which included extra space. Jes had spent many years as a young artist at The Front Street Building and knew it always had a waiting list for studio space. When she saw the available space in Mike’s building, she “instantly thought it was a good opportunity to rent these out to artists”.

Jes faced a choice: “do I start over in Miamisburg or do I take this new opportunity? It puts me back in the city (Dayton), which is where I want to be and eventually it could be self-sustaining”. In Miamisburg, Jes relied on income, grants and donations generated by The Mosaic Institute. Funding was always difficult. The Crane Studios Market business model predicted a more consistent cash flow. “Once I rent these out, I’ve got a commitment”.

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Consequently, she moved The Mosaic Institute to 221 Crane Street, Dayton, and “opened up Crane Studios Market to be a tenant in my own arts market”.

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Crane Studios Market, 221 Crane Street, Dayton, OH

“I started out with 13 studios. Each one (is an) individual shop where artists of different types are doing their own galleries/retail business”.  Jes priced the rent, which includes internet access, to be attractive to entrepreneurial artists testing the risk of opening a studio gallery. “Can I get customers? Can I market? Can I switch it up enough in my shop?”

Studios in Crane Studios Market

The leases require the artists to open their shops whenever Crane is open: each 1st Friday, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., and every Saturday, Noon – 5 p.m. For those lacking the time to run a studio shop, Jes rents wall space and handles the sales of that artist’s work.

Crane opens a new show with a visiting artist every first Friday. That visiting artist returns on the second Saturday to give an artist talk from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. A free bourbon tasting is included.

“We’ve grown into an awesome team. We still have a lot to learn… I’m coming up on my first year as far as managing tenants and spaces, but it’s been great”.

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What community work is Jes doing in Dayton?

When Crane began attracting suburban residents to the first Friday artist talks, Jes realized “there was a huge disconnect” between the suburbs and the art activity in the city. Many people are unaware that East Dayton contains the highest concentration of artists in Dayton. In order to raise awareness, Jes developed the East Dayton Arts District.

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1st Street overpass, Dayton, OH

Her immediate goal is to brand the area and “create some unity with the artists and the arts here and just try to change the face of the East side. In a collaborative setting, art has the power to transcend the barriers of division in every way”.

Her first steps to brand the district involved setting up the website and painting the First Street overpass to be a gateway to the area. The next step will require attending neighborhood association meetings in the district to get them on board. “I think the more people that we get on board, the easier it will be for us to build the district”.

Additionally, Jes is spearheading creation of a memorial for victims of the opioid epidemic, The Wall of Perseverance. Her speech at the 2018 UpDayton Summit earned a grant for seed money for the project. The award also gave her “a team of all these professional people who do all these awesome things”.

The project will invite people to write the name of a loved one lost to opioids on the back of a tile and incorporate it into the 3-D memorial. Jes envisions it as a way “to physically do something to help rebuild broken lives”. We will “make Dayton the Capitol of Healing”.

Jes’ reflections:

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Sidewalk mosaic, Miamisburg, OH

The most difficult thing Jes does now is “managing the tenants, the different artistic personalities. I’m just trying to gather the team; that is the challenge… What an adventure! If you asked me two years ago, would I ever be a landlord to 13 people, no way that I would’ve said ‘yes’ to that”.

Jes would like to get back to doing her own mosaic work. “I haven’t had a show yet and I really would really like to”. She has been doing mosaics for 20 years now and says, “I really enjoy it, so getting back to that would be great.”

Jes’ career observations: 

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Sidewalk mosaic, Miamisburg, OH
  • Explore experiences to find out what it is that matches with you as a person
  • Remember to meet people, network and communicate in order to make projects come alive
  • Build leadership experience by getting people active and involved in projects that make a difference
  • Infuse humanitarian acts, caring and giving, into your career regardless of what you do, whether you’re doing a job you love or not
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Sidewalk mosaic, Miamisburg, OH

“I’ve definitely hit this point with opening Cranes and The Mosaic Institute here that I have this amazing team of professional creative people here with me that are helping me do everything with the community work; they’re very supportive. Team Crane and Team Mosaic are all kind of merging together… a lot of us really care and are invested and excited about making a difference… This is my 20th year as a mosaic artist and almost all of my career out of college has been dedicated to community”.

“Those who can have the responsibility to”.

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Mural in Miamisburg, OH

You can find more information about Jes at:

City of Miamisburg levee painting (WDTN.com, December 14, 2017)

Art projects in Miamisburg with The Mosaic Institute (Dayton Daily News, August 26, 2016)

Meet 2018 Artfest Featured Artist Jes McMillan (Dayton Local.com, August 22, 2018)

Dayton Wall of Perseverance to Memorialize Opioid Epidemic Victims with Art (WYSO, May 28, 2018)

Hamilton Dixon, Metalwork Sculptor

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Photo by Bill Franz, http://www.billfranz17.com

Hamilton Dixon combines his artistry and expertise in metalwork with his interest in old buildings to thrive as a full-time metalwork sculptor and entrepreneur.

In the beginning…

Growing up in Rome, Georgia, Hamilton Dixon “was a bit of a loner. We lived on a piece of property that wasn’t near many other houses, so I spent a lot of time charging around through the woods by myself with my dog, rigging up booby-traps for invisible bad guys”. His father collected cars, mainly Morgans.

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Vintage Morgan

“He ended up opening a car shop to buy cars, fix them up, and sell them”. Hamilton spent time there “learning to be mechanical and how to weld”.

How did Hamilton build his metalworking skills?

“I had some welding classes in high school and I really liked that”. Hamilton also had a friend in Jasper, Georgia who worked with metal in an old-style blacksmith shop. “He’d heat metal up in a forge and hammer it on an anvil and he was very particular about techniques. And that interested me a lot”.

Following high school, Hamilton joined a friend to work “offshore on an oilrig out in the Gulf of Mexico, just trying to find my way. I liked the welding and fabrication. It was grueling work. You’re on 12 hours and you’re off 12 hours. When you’re off, you aren’t doing anything but sleeping, because you’re just totally ruined”.

After about a year of working on the oilrig, Hamilton traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico to hone his metal working skills at Turley Forge Blacksmithing School .

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Then Hamilton returned to Rome, Georgia and began “tinkering around” in his father’s car shop. When his dad decided the car shop was no longer a viable enterprise, “I kept the building and started doing stuff on my own”.

How did Hamilton build his reputation as a metalwork sculptor?

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The Bench

“Somebody said, ‘Hey, they’re doing a streetscape project for Rome, Georgia. Do you have any good ideas for a bench?’” Hamilton immediately produced a sketch, which the project planners liked. After some negotiation, they ordered 60. Eventually, he made over 200 benches and sold them to other communities and some colleges. “So that kind of put me on the map with people”.

How did Hamilton transition to Dayton?

In 1990 Hamilton relocated to Dayton, Ohio to join friends. Following a search, he found inexpensive space for his shop in The Front Street Building in downtown Dayton.

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Front Street Building

“That was my headquarters. I knew everyone in Front Street and pretty soon I got a couple projects”.

During the Dayton Art Institute renovation in 1997, the planners asked Hamilton to submit a design for the rotunda handrail. After lengthy negotiations and revised drawings, the planners selected his design.

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Detail, Dayton Art Institute railing

“It was 130 feet of huge railing. That is a lot of forged steel”. Since he was on a tight schedule, “everyone who ever stopped by and hung out at my shop…helped do portions of that railing”.

“After I did that railing, I was getting calls to do all sorts of stuff for all sorts of people – interior railings and you name it. So that’s what I’ve done ever since”.

What is Hamilton’s process to go from a drawing to a finished piece?

Often people have seen one of Hamilton’s existing pieces and ask for something similar. “I’ve always been able to draw just free-hand drawings of a thing. That’s how I talk to a customer”. He sketches his idea, they discuss it, and then he does a more refined drawing. At that point, they generally reach an agreement and Hamilton begins production.

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Drawing on the work table

 “I’m at the person’s house, and I’ll draw on a piece of paper. When I come to the shop, I’ll do a drawing on the table. I figure out life size – how big is that from here to here, how much steel is that? I literally lay a flexible tape measure on that and I’ll just measure the length. All the steel I use starts out as straight bars of steel.”

The size, shape, and textures of the design determine Hamilton’s next steps. In order to bend and shape the metal, he fires the natural gas forge he built, which can be heated to 2,000 degrees. “A piece of steel can be heated up to bright red in about 15 minutes” and ready to shape.

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Anvil

For certain effects, Hamilton hammers metal manually on his anvil. “Basically I have to beat the crap out of it to achieve the textural element”.

For pieces requiring greater force, he uses a power hammer built in the 1940’s acquired from an old metal shop and foundry in Rome, Georgia. “I can hold steel with both hands and then operate this machine. I can hammer steel pretty quickly this way.”

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Forge

To create twisted shapes, “I rush from the forge with a piece of bright red steel” and clamp it in the vise. “I get a big crescent wrench and a big leverage bar. I’ll put a bunch of pressure on it and begin to twist it. Sometimes I hang on it with my entire body weight and other times, I can just twist it easily with one arm. The bigger the piece is, the more difficult it is, but the longer it will stay hot. The smaller it is, it will cool off so quickly that you have to rush”.

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Demonstrating twisting a steel bar

 “I learned a lot of that stuff from the guy in Jasper, Georgia. It’s the same technique as doing little stuff with little jewelry. There’s a million steps to working with metal”.

 How did Hamilton get started renovating old buildings?

Hamilton and his wife, Carli, were friends for a long time before they became a couple. Their first adventure renovating an old building together started when they were deciding where to live after the birth of their first child. They quickly realized Carli’s house was too small for a baby and Hamilton’s collections. They put her house up for sale and began renovating Hamilton’s 1876 house, which needed a lot of work. “There’s no electric and there’s no running water and there’s no kitchen”. Carli’s house sold quickly, however, and the buyers wanted immediate occupancy. “So we had to move into my house and put a temporary wall up in the downstairs and live in the front half of my house with a new baby”. Ultimately, they finished the house.

 When did Hamilton combine renovating old buildings with his metalwork?

Driving into Dayton, Hamilton frequently passed a block of old buildings for sale. “It was basically cordoned off and this building was boarded up”. When Hamilton wanted to move his shop out of The Front Street Building, he and Carli walked through the buildings and the “giant rooms” sparked their imagination.

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Old Atta Boy gas station

The sellers didn’t want to separate the three parcels – the 18,000 sq. ft. building (905 E. 3rd St), the Atta Boy gas station (817 E. 3rd St) and a smaller building (811 E. 3rd St), but Hamilton and Carli didn’t need all that space. They made an offer for the smaller building that was declined. After a year, “we got a nudge to go make them another offer. We worked some miracles financially and made them an offer for the whole parcel.” After a lot of negotiation, they struck a deal.

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Hamilton’s shop

In the first phase of renovation, Hamilton set up his shop in the smaller building, rebuilding the floor and adding three-phase power for his machines. In the next phase, they tackled the larger 1880’s era building. “It was full of abandoned donations for Hurricane Katrina victims. It was pitch-black dark in there; everything was boarded up”. Hamilton and Carli spent thousands of dollars to bring the building up to code and install utilities.

Then they rented space on the first floor to Shon Walters and the Zoot Theater Company. “So we were pulling in a little bit of rent”.

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905 E. Third St.

In time their tenants needed more space and moved out. By then Hamilton and Carli were ready to relocate her business, Bloombeads by freezeframe, from Clayton, Ohio. Since Carli’s business needed space both upstairs and downstairs for production and her showroom, they had to make additional renovations. “There was an old rickety stairway that went up into the ceiling and that was the only access to the upstairs. In order to have a legitimate upstairs, you had to have a code-meeting fire-rated stairwell”.

With help from family, friends and multiple contractors, Hamilton and Carli devoted the time and money necessary to clean out the building and redesign the area in the front. In 2013 they moved Bloombeads by freezeframe into the building.

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Entrance to Bloombeads by freezeframe and The Brightside

Now they are in the next phase of their vision, creation of The Brightside Music and Event Venue. They completed the bar area in the room behind Carli’s showroom and are finishing the big back room. To learn more about their renovation efforts, watch their video story.

The Brightside offers a venue for music, parties, art shows, wedding receptions, and other events. They have a liquor license, “so we can now have our own programming going on here. We’re hoping to get a few more people to invest to get this final room breathing again”.

Hamilton’s observations:

  • At first, to set the prices for the small pieces he started showing in small galleries, he looked at the prices charged by other artists for similar work. Once he sold a few pieces, he had a better feel for his base prices.
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    Functional sculpture, http://www.hamiltondixon.com

    Pricing big jobs was hard, though, because “I had no reference point”, but he discovered his “old friend down in Jasper, Georgia had good reference points for things like that; he helped me figure stuff out”. He also learned that asking customers the scope of their budget helps determine pricing.

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    Gates by Hamilton Dixon that will be repurposed to create a headboard
  • Hamilton and Carli work as a team. “Carli’s the brains behind the thing; she’s the one with the ability to juggle spreadsheets and employees,” while Hamilton provides a wide range of mechanical skills.
  • When Hamilton is overwhelmed, Carli will break the project down into tasks. “A lot of times I’m paralyzed when I come to this building. There’s everything that needs to be done”. Carli will say, “’let’s just do this part right here first; just work with me for 30 minutes’. And four hours later, you’re almost done with the whole thing”.
  • Hamilton advises, “Learn how to be self sufficient…learn how to do mechanical things, stuff you need instead of depending on someone else to do it for you”.
  • In conclusion, Hamilton said, “Try to just do the things you know are good and right”.
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Jewelry by Hamilton Dixon; http://www.hamiltondixon.com

You can learn more about Hamilton and view his sculptures and process at http://www.hamiltondixon.com/ You can find photos of Hamilton at work by Bill Franz at https://billfranz17.com/2015/08/09/hamilton-dixon-steel-sculptor/

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Welding; Photo by Bill Franz; http://www.billfranz17.com

For information, photos, and booking options for The Brightside Music & Event Venue go to: https://www.thebrightsidedayton.com/

In the Dayton area, Hamilton’s artistic metalwork can be found at the Dayton Art Institute Rotunda, University of Dayton Serenity Pines, the weather vane at Delco Park, the Kettering City Building, Hospice of Dayton entrance sculpture, and many other places.

Maria Gossard, Owner/Creative Director of Think Printing & Maria Gossard Designs

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Maria Gossard overcame significant health obstacles to develop her business featuring beautiful paper, stunning designs and artisanal printing done with close attention to the customer’s vision.

In the beginning…

Maria Gossard grew up surrounded by her extended family in Cyprus. Her English mother and Greek Cypriot father loved growing things and they raised much of their own food on their farm on the Mediterranean coast. “We worked hard and we played hard”.

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Cyprus

One of Maria’s aunts was an amazing seamstress. “She would allow me two scraps, so I could do dresses for my dolls”. After Maria learned how to sew, she decided, “I’m going to design clothes for me, not because I couldn’t go buy them, but because I found those more interesting. It was an art form”.

When did Maria come to the U.S.?

One of six children, Maria was conscious of the fact that American universities were half the price of English ones. Consequently, she enrolled at Bob Jones University in South Carolina as a biology major with the intention of pursuing her lifelong love of the ocean by becoming a marine biologist.

One night, friends invited her to go to the Art Department. Despite her limited exposure to art classes, “I just fell in love. I never knew that you could have a career in art”. Her “Greek grandfather was a carpenter. He was also a sculptor, but not for a living,” so she grew up thinking “art is what you do on the side”.

“I started doing research and talking to other art majors, ‘How are you going to make a living with this?’” After many conversations with her father, she switched her major to Art & Design. “I took off. It became effortless for me”.

Did Maria continue with Art & Design after she graduated?

After graduation, Maria secured a visa to remain in the U.S. for two years of practical training. She got a position as a “rendering artist with a leading design firm in Washington, D.C., which specialized in palatial residences throughout the Middle East”. Her goal was “to learn as much as I can, but I’m heading back”.

The job was very competitive with a cutthroat atmosphere; 60 to 80 hour weeks were the norm. “Reps visiting from top manufacturers would say, ‘we can cut the tension with a knife’. It was probably the toughest time of my life, but that’s where I learned; where my game was elevated”.

Did Maria remain in that environment?

A year before Maria intended to return to Cyprus, she met her husband, Paul. “He was my kismet”. LexisNexis recruited Paul to come to Dayton, Ohio. “The money was really good, but who lives in Dayton, Ohio? We agreed to try it out for a year. And that was 29 years ago”.

While Maria raised their four children, she freelanced as a designer specializing in interior and product design. “I would design products for the home and garden, then I would sell the ideas to other companies”. Her friend, the owner of Terra Cotta, a store in Columbus, saw some garden markers Maria made for her own garden and offered to sell them. Inspired by that success, “I went to a show with them and a big company said, ‘we’ll give you a $250,000 opening order’”. She quickly discovered “they dangle this carrot in front of you, then they justify stealing the product from you eventually after the first order, having the product mass-produced overseas, and putting you out of business”.

“In this big fish eat the smaller fish kind of world, I learned fast that anything new in the market is yours for one season”. Accordingly, Maria decided just to sell her ideas as prototypes. “That kind of kept me happy for a few years while the kids were growing up”.

 How did Maria get into the printing business?

Maria’s printer decided to retire and approached her to take over their downtown Dayton business-to-business operation, Think Printing. Maria and Paul decided to buy it. “We revamped it, modernized it, turned a 30% profit the first year and then, the big crash happened in 2008”.

Despite the economic downturn and changes in the business landscape, Maria pressed on. But, “after a few years, I got really sick with Lyme disease”.

How did Lyme affect Maria?

“I was misdiagnosed for 10 years, so I kept losing quality of life. Intuitively, I knew something was very wrong. I felt like I was dying from the inside. I couldn’t even get out of bed. I couldn’t walk from my bedroom to my kitchen. I forgot my purpose. The disease kind of rapes you of every energy and every positive thinking”.

“You go to a complete place of helplessness and hopelessness; helplessness is one thing, but hopelessness is a really dark place. But when your brain isn’t working anymore, you’re in this constant brain fog and your body aches, it’s beyond depression; it’s really, really dark. I could no longer participate in my life. I went from being a producer to being a survivor”.

Fortunately Maria’s office manager, Jeff Firestone, had already joined the business. He “became my right hand, very organized, very great work ethic, good with machinery. He actually was able to run it for me. He was amazing”.

Did Maria recover?

Finally Maria found doctors who diagnosed her Lyme disease; recovery took five years. “That time in my life was a time of fasting, praying, seeking just God’s healing. God had my complete attention. He actually showed me things in me that had to change, so it was a spiritual and physical healing”.

“I’m still recovering. Every now and then I’ll get this burst, ‘I’m actually thinking, I’m actually producing again!’ It’s going to be two years that I’m completely Lyme disease free. Big difference, because my brain started working again. Lyme disease changes your life. I’m to the point that I cannot take a day for granted; every day is a gift”.

Why did Maria move the print shop to Cross Pointe Shopping Centre in Centerville, Ohio?

Think Printing DMS was struggling due to the economy and competition from big online printing companies. When Maria’s son, Thomas, got married, “I realized how limited Dayton was in high-end specialized papers for invitations. There was no one in town doing engraving or letterpress. I thought ‘Okay, I’m going to take one more chance with the business before I decide to throw in the towel’”.

Shop3Relocating to Cross Pointe Shopping Centre in Centerville, Ohio allowed Maria to expand her market to individual consumers. “Immediately the reception and the climate and the whole direction was very strongly a positive ‘yes’”.

After a year in the new location, “we were just completely busting at the seams”. She hesitated to move, however, because she had a 5-year lease.

“I said, ‘Oh Lord, it would be so nice if I had a table to sit down with clients when they come in, especially brides, since we were doing more and more weddings, and space to showcase our work’”. A week later, the owners of Cross Pointe asked Maria to relocate since the daycare center next door needed more space.

How did this move affect Maria’s business?

Invitation2Maria officially launched Maria Gossard Designs in March 2016 with an expanded, trendsetting team. Jeff now works part-time, as he is back in school. Roger Owsley, a nationally recognized designer, leads the graphic division. Maria added an experienced silkscreen printer, Bobby Trimbach, to offer items such as golden edges silkscreened on invitations, and limited edition posters for bands and artists around the country.  A retired pressman, Mark Bundy, runs the recently acquired letterpress machines. “I’m proud of our fleet of Chandler & Price Co. manual letterpresses from the late 1800’s, 1909 and 1912”.

 How did Maria learn to operate a business?

When Maria was at a crossroads, trying to decide whether to continue or close, a client encouraged her to checkout Women in Business Networking. She did and decided to commit to their two-year Bridges to Success Mentoring Program, which required periodic training and monthly meetings with different mentors – CEOs or business owners.

“In that two-year process, I realized how much I still had to learn and how I had to grow as a person, because our success in the business world reflects our personal growth. And the 10 years that I had been so sick, I didn’t grow as a person. I shrank as a person”.

program & trimmingsShe invested in educational, entrepreneurial and leadership materials, and workshops with coaches like DaniJohnson.com. “I’m very involved with the mentoring program in the city and now I’m a mentor myself”.

What is Maria’s vision for the business?

Invitations set“Our dream is to bring to Dayton an elevated printing service that only exclusive neighborhoods in bigger cities have and help put our city on the map. It’s all about educating our community and serving them with products” so they don’t wish that they lived in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. “Instead they’ll say, ‘I got this done in Dayton, Ohio’”.

Invitations set2

Maria’s observations:

  • Ask: “Why do you want to do what you want to do? What’s the purpose? What is your goal? Who is your mentor? Do you understand all the ins and outs?”
  • Understand: “entrepreneurs burn their relationships faster than anyone else, because it’s very stressful”.
  • “You can’t be all things. When you start a business, you cannot be the lawyer; you cannot be the accountant; you cannot be the networker, the one that sells, and the producer. You need a team…nobody can do all those things well”.
  • Avoid thinking: “I want it to happen fast; and if it doesn’t happen fast, I’m a failure. Nothing good in life happened overnight”. Place cards
  • “Having a supportive family is very important, too, and being honest with them, up front. ‘I’m going on this journey and it could be painful at times, it will definitely be stressful at times; is that okay with you?’”
  • “Always having that teachable spirit. I have to remind myself, I might be able to learn from this person or, if it was criticism, what can we learn from this experience? How can we tackle it better next time?”
  • “At the end of the day, can I sleep tonight, because the way I handled all my relationships, my projects, my peers, my clients, was honorable? That to me has far more value than anything else”.

“God has given me the opportunity to tap into my entire life experience and utilize everything I’ve been learning to actually be able to say I am having the best time of my life”.

To learn more about Maria Gossard Designs go to the website at: mariagossarddesigns.com

You can also find Invitations, fine paper, printing and design by Maria Gossard Design on the wedding planning website, the knot, at https://www.theknot.com/marketplace/maria-gossard-designs-centerville-oh-1064055, and on ETSY at https://www.mariagossarddesigns.com/etsy/

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Maria Gossard Designs
175 E Alex Bell Rd #204
Centerville, OH 45459

	

Marsha Pippenger, Artist

use pipp 1stMarsha Pippenger’s determination to make art is the steel thread running throughout her career. Like many practicing artists, Marsha has held a variety of jobs, but regardless of whether she was in advertising, retail or education, art remained her focus. I asked Marsha how she crafted her career. The highlights of her story follow.

 In the beginning…

Marsha Pippenger grew up in Celina, Ohio, the youngest of three. “I was by myself a lot because I am much younger than my brother and sister. I was perfectly content to play alone. I liked to read and I did a lot of drawing. I never really played with my Barbie dolls; I built them houseboats to live on and things like that…I’ve been some sort of maker most of my life.”

Marsha focused mainly on academics during high school, only taking art as an elective her senior year. College was different. “I knew when I went to college…I wanted to major in art.” She didn’t apply to any art schools, because having to submit a portfolio was daunting, and “I wanted to take other liberal arts subjects as well…that’s why I chose a university with an art department.” Ohio Northern University met her parents’ need to have her close and her desire for an art department with a “comprehensive offering of media.”

Did Marsha pursue art in college?

In college Marsha majored in art with a concentration in printmaking, but she also “took a lot of English classes. I would’ve been an English major if I hadn’t majored in art.” With four additional education classes, she graduated with a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts (BFA) and a certificate to teach art in grades K-12.

Was Marsha able to find a job using her art background?

After graduation, she worked for about a year at Cotter Advertising in Dayton doing all their commercial silk screening. “Most of the things I did were real estate signs…I also printed big yellow stars on the Montgomery County Sheriff cars.”

The following year, Marsha got married and moved several times as her husband, Alan, went to graduate school, did an internship, and got a job. Over the next six years, they lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Kansas City, Missouri, and Annapolis, Maryland. Marsha worked in an office supply store, art supply store, and a Scottish and Irish Imports store.

Regardless of where they lived or where Marsha was working, she persisted. “I never stopped. I was really determined about that. I wasn’t going to be one of those people who majored in art and then never did it again. That happens to a very large percentage of art majors who go off and within five years they’re not making any art.”

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Fishes, color pencil on Bristol paper, 13″w by 13″h, Marsha Pippenger (1980)

Marsha’s space to make art changed each time they moved. In Ann Arbor, they lived in a tiny apartment, but she was still drawing. “I kept my art supplies under the couch…so I did a lot of color pencil.”

In Kansas City, “I got my first real drawing table and a stool, so I had a place to work.” In Annapolis, Marsha started as the assistant manager at Scottish and Irish Imports, Ltd. She then became their one-person art department, primarily producing their national mail order catalog and doing “anything that required art…I was working from home…so I had a studio in the house.”

Did Marsha stay in Maryland?

After about four years in Annapolis, Marsha and Alan returned to Dayton, Ohio. Marsha got a job as a copywriter for the department store, Elder Beerman. When she went to a talk at the Dayton Society of Painters & Sculptors (now the Dayton Society of Artists), she realized she had known the speaker, Bing Davis, when he bought art supplies for a ceramic mural commission from the Kansas City art supply store where she worked.

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Marsha’s studio

After reconnecting with Bing Davis, Marsha decided she wanted to work with him on a Masters in Fine Art (MFA). He had formerly taught at Miami University, but Miami required MFA students to be full-time, and Marsha needed to work. Instead, she spent one and a half years in an independent study program under Bing at Central State University. “He would come to the house and critique my work, bringing his daughter, Nia, with him. She was the same age as our daughter, Laura, and they would play while we worked.”

Bing Davis encouraged Marsha to try teaching, so she renewed her certificate to teach art in grades K-12, and taught in the Dayton Public Schools at Meadowdale and Jefferson Elementary Schools.

Did Marsha keep teaching?

Marsha left elementary school teaching after four years and joined the Santa Clara Gallery artist co-op. When Santa Clara closed, she joined six other artists to start a new gallery in Tipp City, Conversation Pieces. They were “all equal partners in the gallery. We staffed it and ran the business, too…we all had to balance the accounts at the end of every day… that was really useful. I learned a lot.”

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Redefining Walls, 12″w by 9″h, papier colle on canvas, Marsha Pippenger (2011)

Owning the gallery was a “really great experience” from a personal as well as a business perspective. “There’s something about telling people you’re an artist…you feel kind of like a fraud…that’s not serious enough…it sounds so light. It was having the gallery that made me realize, become comfortable with the fact that, yes, this is what I do, I’m an artist… this is a job; this is a vocation, it’s not just a hobby.”

After eight years, the gallery closed in 2001 due to the economic downturn after 9/11, as well as the health and retirement issues of some of the other artists.

What did Marsha do after the gallery closed?

Marsha decided it was time to get her Master’s. Since Wright State University in Dayton doesn’t offer an MFA, she would have had to go out of town. Unable to spend that much time on the road, she got a Masters in Humanities with a focus on fine arts at Wright State instead.

“Wright State didn’t have a lot of art classes that I hadn’t already taken…so I took a couple of independent study art classes and a lot of art history. While I was taking those classes, they asked me to teach the General Education courses art history. In the morning, I was taking classes… and in the afternoon, I was teaching.”

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Marsha explaining her process

Does Marsha still teach?

Marsha continues as an adjunct professor, teaching introductory level art history classes at Wright State. Adjunct professors teach part-time and are paid per course. Without a Ph.D., she can’t teach classes at higher levels, but she prefers the more introductory level classes anyway. ”I’ve got more freedom…I’m teaching a lot of kids who have never been to an art museum and I like that…I like to create new art lovers.”

Since she got her Master’s, Marsha has also taught at Sinclair College, Edison State Community College, and Kettering College. This fall she will also teach a class at School of Advertising Art in Dayton.She taught her first art history class at Kettering as a substitute teacher. “I did an informal survey of my students and they were really interested in a more hands-on class, so I went to the dean and made a proposal, and he said if you get enough students to pay your adjunct fee, you’ve got a class, and I’ve been teaching there ever since.”

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Although she teaches big art history lecture classes at Wright State, “I’m trying to do a few hands-on things…I pantomime how to do certain things, I bring in art supplies and demonstrate, I use a lot more video…I like to throw in some of the personal quirks of some of the artists, those things help you remember…Caravaggio was always getting into fights and getting thrown into jail…makes it more memorable.”

Does Marsha still make art?

In Annapolis “when I was doing commercial art… probably because graphic design is more tightly controlled art, I felt like I was getting very tight with my work, my drawing, hunched over like Ebenezer Scrooge.”

When Marsha moved to Dayton, “I was going through that little crisis of my work becoming too tight and not free enough, and that’s when I started working with Bing.” Bing Davis suggested collage would force her to loosen up.

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Marsha’s paper sorted by color

“I realized…I had been incorporating collage into my work all along…I might do a drawing and I’d add in some collage pieces… I think in terms of paper.”

When she first started making collages, her work was simpler, lighter and less complex. “It’s really changed a lot, gotten more complex over the years…I gravitate towards color…I’ve tried to do softer things and they always get more colorful…what I do now is more abstract.”

How does Marsha get her creative juices flowing?

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Marsha in her studio

“You think with your pencil…you can’t wait around for inspiration to strike… you just come in and work…some of it can be really lousy. A lot of times, it’s something I read. Ideas…words will give me ideas…that make me see pictures…or sometimes it’s a really interesting piece of paper. It’s good to set yourself some parameters. When it’s really open-ended, it’s harder to create. If you create within limitations that you set for yourself, you actually can be more creative. It’s fun to work within those limitations.”

Marsha’s observations:

    • “Get the fundamentals – the basics of drawing and composition, because I think it’s good to start at the beginning when you’re a beginner”
    • “I draw every day …I look at other artists’ work. I love looking at the old masters to see how they did it; you can really learn a lot that way. And you can see where their mistakes are!”
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    Christine…Icon, papier colle on canvas, 30″w by 48″h, Marsha Pippenger
    • “Knowing something about the history of what you do helps inform your own practice; then you can look back and see what previous artists have done…so teaching art history helps me in my art, too”
    • “Learn about the business of art; ask questions; find an older artist to give you some help”
    • Rather than giving small children art lessons, have “the materials around…so that they can have that experience of having stuff around to manipulate and play with and do… it’s that critical thinking idea”
    • Sources for opportunities to apply for commissions:
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DVAC Invitation to Annual Members’ Show, Source, Marsha Pippenger (2017)
      • Call for Entry
      • EntryThingy
      • Google to find periodicals that list calls for entry and requests for proposals
      • Professional artist magazines
      • DVAC “is a support group for artists… helping artists to find opportunities…putting artists and business opportunities together”
      • Dayton Society of Artists
      • “A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.” (Edgar Degas)

Recently, the Dayton Metro Library commissioned two works by Marsha to hang in the Northwest and Kettering branches as part of ReImagining Works:

You can learn more about Marsha and view her work at www.pippengerart.com.

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/plan/, papier colle on canvas triptych, framed, 23″w by 25″h, Marsha Pippenger

Rodney Veal: Independent choreographer, interdisciplinary artist, TV host and educator

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Rodney Veal

So you want to be a dancer or an artist!

When you told your family, did you hear, “How will you pay the rent? Get a real job, a real career.”

Rodney Veal has proved that you can support yourself, pay the rent and enjoy life while practicing the art you love. Rodney is an independent choreographer, interdisciplinary artist, TV show host, and adjunct faculty for Stivers School of the Performing Arts, Sinclair Community College and the University of Dayton.

I asked Rodney how he crafted his career. The highlights of his story follow. If you want to read more, go to the long version

How does a kid from rural Jefferson Township, Ohio make a career in the creative arts?

When Rodney Veal was growing up, he knew several things:

  • He relished the hours he spent drawing, painting, and making sculptures from a variety of materials
  • He was curious about many things and loved reading, particularly history, politics, government and science fiction
  • He was going to college

Rodney went to Eastern Michigan University intending to major in Visual Arts. He quickly learned that college is different than high school. Early in his first semester, one of his professors doled out nasty, harsh critiques, quickly taking the joy out of making art. So Rodney called his mother to tell her he was going to change majors. His mother said, “Oh no. You need to finish what you started.” But she offered an alternative, saying, “You can get an additional degree.”

Rodney knew he enjoyed reading about government and politics, so he opened the course catalog and found Political Science. He did a double major in Visual Art and Political Science, which took more classes. Five years later, he graduated.

But when did he learn dance?

Rodney took his first dance class at EMU to fulfill his physical education requirement and discovered he had an aptitude for ballet and modern dance. He happily took dance classes for the rest of his time in college, performing in front of audiences and choreographing works throughout college. Making a career in dance never occurred to him.

In his final semester at EMU, Rodney discovered it’s a bad idea to wait to the end to take your math requirement. Rodney passed – barely. He graduated from EMU with a strong foundation in the visual arts, knowledge of political systems, a love of dance, and no idea of what came next.

Okay, he got a college degree. Now what?

Rodney returned to his old summer job at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). They placed him in mechanical parts distribution and he hated it. He stopped dancing, stopped making art and gained a lot of weight eating the ever-present donuts.

When you’re Rodney and you’re unhappy, what do you do?

Learn more! Rodney started taking dance classes at Sinclair Community College in the evenings. From there, he went to classes offered by the Dayton Ballet. He caught the eye of Barbara Pontecorvo, because he had “musical ability, ‘turn out’ and was a guy”. She invited him to dance with the Dayton Ballet II, so long as he lost weight and took every class they offered.

How did Rodney support himself as a dancer?

For two years, Rodney worked for ODOT during the day and danced at night. In 1992 Pontecorvo retired from the Dayton Ballet and founded Gem City Ballet, taking Rodney with her. When the stress of balancing work at ODOT with dancing wore him down, Rodney left for a series of jobs at Books & Co, the Neon Movies, and as a legal runner for Altick & Corwin, L.P.A. In addition, he acted in a variety of commercials to earn extra income.

Finally! Dance pays the rent!

Over the years, Rodney met a lot of people within the Dayton dance community. That network paved the way to an offer of a job as an adjunct teacher of dance at Stivers School of the Performing Arts, a public arts magnet school for Grades 7 through 12 in Dayton, Ohio. Teaching and choreographing dance at Stivers led to an invitation to teach dance at Sinclair Community College. After years of juggling dance with other work, Rodney was finally able to make a living as a dancer and dance teacher.

Then Rodney’s work world shifted. How did he cope?

In 2008, Sinclair changed its policy, requiring all adjuncts to have a master’s degree. Rodney recognized it was time to take the next step – pursue a Master’s in Fine Art (MFA). He had worked on projects with graduates of the MFA program at The Ohio State and liked the way they thought, so he applied.

But his college GPA, negatively impacted by that low math grade, almost killed his MFA hopes. The borderline status of his GPA increased the pressure to nail his audition and interview. He succeeded, however, and began three years of intense work and little sleep.

Driving daily between Dayton and Columbus, Rodney continued to teach at Stivers and Sinclair, while carrying a full course load at OSU. Stivers and Sinclair paid his rent and living expenses, and student loans paid for his MFA.

Did the MFA program change him?

Rodney started the MFA program at OSU focused on choreography, but quickly opened his mind to interdisciplinary dance creation. His professors encouraged him to connect dance with digital and media technology, using his skills in visual arts.

His MFA challenge: Go bigger; think deeper!

Throughout his time in the MFA, professors pushed Rodney to expand his ideas as he connected dance with other media. That push led to:

Summer 2009: Artist in Residence with the Blue Sky Dayton Project at the University of Dayton.

Project: create a multi-faceted, large scope performance art installation piece in collaboration with a creative team of high school students.

Result:  “To Me You’re a Work of Art”. Rodney and his team created  a world bt combining raw space in a building in downtown Dayton with dance, film, sod, and paint. As part of the piece, he got people to perform who had never danced before.

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To Me You’re a Work of Art Performance
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To Me You’re a Work of Art

2009 – Second Year: studied with William Forsythe, internationally renowned for combining traditional classical ballet with other disciplines.

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Class with William Forsythe

Impact: Forsythe exposed him to the techniques needed to combine digital technology with dance.

Impact: Forsythe used a particular methodology for creating choreography, so Rodney developed a shorthand to capture the choreography process.

2010 – Third Year: MFA Thesis Exhibition

Project: “The Persistence of Memory”. Rodney combined traditional dance choreography with a giant paper sculpture suspended by cables, and video monitors projecting images from his past.Large View of Installation

Rodney Performance
The Persistence of Memory Performance

So Rodney got his MFA, and…?

Using all his experience from his MFA, Rodney has crafted a career of

  • Teaching dance at Stivers, Sinclair and the University of Dayton
  • Creating art – installation pieces and choreography
  • Performing as TV host and TEDX Dayton presenter

Wait! How did Rodney become a TV host?

In 2013 Rodney gave a TEDX Dayton presentation, moving through shadows, a video of dancers from Stivers Dance Ensemble performing his choreography to music by an Australian composer played by a French musician. Because ThinkTV filmed TEDX Dayton, Rodney reconnected with Richard Nordstrom, Chief Videographer. They met previously when Rodney acted in commercials while dancing with Dayton Ballet II and Gem City Ballet. Consequently, Nordstrom knew Rodney was comfortable on camera and could read from a teleprompter. So when ThinkTV started searching for a host for The Art Show, Lynnette Carlino, Producer at ThinkTV, called Rodney to invite him to audition and he made the cut.

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The Art Show host

Now in its third year, The Art Show is an Ohio Valley Regional Emmy© Award winning weekly series on ThinkTV WPTD Channel 16. Rodney introduces profiles of artists in visual art, music, dance, and theater from southwestern Ohio and across the United States.

 Installation exhibitions:

Since 2010, Rodney has created a major installation each year. Rodney’s installation artworks combine video, 2-D images, sculptural pieces, music and performance inside a designated space to create an experience. Examples include

  • Reveal: Five Zones of Beauty, Springfield Museum of Art (2011)
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Reveal: Five Zones of Beauty
  • Mythologies, Blue Sky Dayton (2012)
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Mythologies
  • 2, 3, 4 – collaboration across the 2nd, 3rd and 4th dimensions between Rodney Veal (choreographer), Katherine Mann (visual artist), and Shaw Pong Liu (composer and violinist) (2012)
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234 Performance
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Ghetto

 What Rodney has learned…

  • Risk failure – when you fail, you’ll still be able to breathe and go on to the next thing
  • Remember failure isn’t personal – so many factors contribute to a result that it’s impossible to assign blame
  • Barter with your skills to get materials within your budget
  • Define your terms of engagement broadly – art is about the search for answers, not about accolades or stellar reviews
  • Pay attention – the questions you ask may control the answers you find
  • Take a deep breath – only your art peers will see the flaws in your work; the public is looking for answers
  • Make art that matters to you

Rodney recommends if you want to make money with your art, build your resume

  • Show and sell your work in curated galleries
  • Apply for curated shows in museums
  • Create and promote your digital presence

Want to learn more about Rodney?

2012 interview with Philip Titlebaum, Dayton Most Metro.com
2013 TEDX Dayton moving through shadows
2014 interview with Meredith Moss, Dayton Daily News
2015 interview with Amelia Robinson, Dayton.com

Rodney’s Bio:

Rodney is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University with a B.S in Political Science and Visual Arts and The Ohio State University with an MFA in Choreography. He earned several Montgomery County Arts and Cultural District grants and fellowships. In addition, he received the 2016 OhioDance Award for outstanding contributions to the art form of dance in the state at the Ohio Dance Festival and several of his works have been performed as part of the Ohio Dance Festival. He was one of five artists chosen nationwide to participate in the Blue Sky Dayton Project Artist in Residency Program held in collaboration with the University of Dayton. He currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Ohio Dance as Vice President, as chair of the Blue Sky Project, and on the boards of Involvement Advocacy, HomeFull, Musica, the advisory board of WYSO and the Friends of Levitt Pavilions Dayton.