Thousands of revelers are expected to gather at the Dayton Art Institute Sunday to celebrate the museum’s 100th birthday.
The landmark Dayton institution has had a storied history.
It began on March 28, 1919, when a group of notable Dayton residents signed letters of incorporation to establish what was then known as the Dayton Museum of Arts. Over the next 100 years, the museum would also serve as an art school, educating generations of students, and house countless treasures and artifacts.
The museum adopted its current name in 1930, when it relocated from a mansion in downtown Dayton to its current location.
And, the Dayton Art Institute stopped offering four-year fine arts degrees in the early Seventies.
But, says Director and CEO Michael Roediger, a century after its founding education is remains front and center to the museum’s mission.
“Students can come on scholarship and they're then trained and mentored by college students who are artists, and those students in college get to have a show in our museum. That's life changing for an artist to be able to say they've shown in a major Midwest museum,” he says.
“We [educate] in our Tiny Thursday programs where kids have these moments, they can barely even talk but they blossom in front of a piece of art. I think sometimes we take [art] for granted because we're around it all the time but I try and stop when I see a bus bringing kids that have never been here, what could be being born right at that moment, either an artist or someone who appreciates the art.”
Roediger says his focus as director has been to make sure the historic building that’s been home to the museum since 1930 remains well-cared for.
“The building itself that faces downtown that people see when they come is art within itself,” he says. “It's an Italian Renaissance design and it needed a lot of care. So we're working on that and the front hillside and people will see that evolve over the spring and summer and fall and making sure that literally the house is in order. We've been trying to make it more accessible, so updating restrooms and spaces like that. Also caring for the collection. We've had a lot of pieces that have been under conservation in preparation for the centennial to go back out."
Roediger says the running of the museum itelf is a formidable task. The institution has also faced considerable debt in the past, to the tune of $16.5 million, adding to that challenge, but the CEO says it’s a problem they’ve tackled successfully.
“It was my goal, as we got into this year, that the building be in the best shape it could be in, the collection, the staff, and that we were out of this debt. We're almost there,” says Roediger. “We have about $300,000 thousand left to pay off of that original debt and then it will be a new beginning and I think for us it's, how do we level the playing field and make sure we're relevant going into the next 100 years, because museums have changed, our community’s changed, and so we have to be proactive and progressive about how we present art to the community and to be a space where people want to be and gather.”
And gather they do. Each year, thousands of visitors are drawn to the museum's roughly 26,000 works of art. The DAI is also home to numerous community events, speaking engagements, corporate parties, concerts and other regular activities.
What, when and where:
Billed by organizers as “the biggest birthday party in Dayton,” the institute’s centennial celebration is scheduled for Sunday, April 7 from noon to 4:30 p.m.
The program is jam-packed with planned activities. Numerous Miami Valley organizations are expected to participate, the musical group Forte, the Kettering Children’s Choir, the Stivers Dancers, Zoot Theater, and others.