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The Contemporary Dayton presents The Inaugural Exhibitions in the Dayton Arcade

Opening April 30, 2021

The premieres include a massive new art installation by internationally renowned Dayton resident, Zachary Armstrong, and the unveiling of a permanent sculpture by Dayton native, Shon Walters, each created especially for the opening.

DAYTON (April 20, 2021) – The Contemporary Dayton (The Co), formerly known as Dayton Visual Arts Center, is thrilled to present the Inaugural Exhibitions at its new home in the historic Dayton Arcade, featuring the work of Dayton natives, Zachary Armstrong and the late Curtis Barnes, Sr., and LA filmmaker, Cauleen Smith. Additionally, The Co will unveil a commissioned sculpture by Daytonian, Shon Walters, which will serve as the permanent welcome desk for the new space. The three exhibitions and the sculpture unveiling will open concurrently on Friday, April 30, 2021 with a socially distanced public party followed by a celebratory weekend with extended hours. The exhibitions will be on view April 30–July 17, 2021.

Of the Inaugural Exhibitions and the exhibitions slated already for the next two years, The Co’s Executive Director, Eva Buttacavoli, states:

“The Co’s focus will remain as it has for its 30-year history–to present the ideas and expressions of artists whose work emanates from Dayton, from Ohio, nationally, and internationally whose practice speaks to prominent issues of our time. Subjects that continue to be explored are the social justice concerns of our Generation; including Voting Rights, Racial Injustice, Climate Justice, Healthcare, LGBTQ Rights, the Refugee Crisis, Income Gaps, Gun Violence and Hunger & Food Insecurity.”

The Co’s Curator, Michael Goodson, expands:

“For this next evolution of The Co, we will definitively put into practice what many arts and cultural institutions around the country are ruminating upon. Through thoughtful discussion and ineffable action, we will define our movement toward equity not only in statements and well-meaning missives, but through that which is tangible and demonstrative—exhibitions, programming, and public outreach—that both speak to our dedication to this idea, but that also indelibly address it with members of our community for whom contemporary art has likely felt an exclusive endeavor. It is not, and, from this moment forward, will not be treated as such by The Co.”

The Inaugural Exhibitions Series begins with premiere of new work by internationally renowned artist, Dayton native and resident, Zachary Armstrong, will christen The Co’s new galleries’ most distinct feature—a dramatic 74-foot wall, bisecting the main gallery—with a floor-to-ceiling “installation.” The exhibition, Zachary Armstrong: Grids & Abstracts, curated by the Co’s curator, Michael Goodson, will feature a dizzying array of large encaustic paintings and sculptural forms sourced from Armstrong’s childhood drawings, family history, and a gathering of iconic Dayton signs and symbols (such as the Elder-Beerman logo) layered on top of floor-to-ceiling vinyl “wallpaper” of repetitive, swooping forms executed entirely in shades of gray. The artist worked closely with Chris Welker of Dayton’s Select Signs to create and install the custom wallpaper, meticulously bespoke to the space. An original short film produced by The Co will accompany the exhibition along with a full-color catalogue that will include essays and interviews by Goodson and Dr. Greer Pagano, Instructor, Columbus College of Art & Design and former Chief Curator, The Pizzuti Collection, Columbus.

Consisting largely of self-portraits and paintings of family members and friends, the late educator, mentor, and Dayton legend, Curtis Barnes, Sr. represents a generation of black painters whose contributions are still deeply felt today. The artist’s prolific output and myriad stylizations will be on full display in the new Dr. Robert L. Brandt, Jr. Family Gallery and the new T. Chase Hale and Jon A. Hale Gallery through groupings of several dozen vibrant and compelling large and small paintings. Curtis Barnes, Sr.: Love & Peace is curated by Michael Goodson and Zachary Armstrong, who worked closely with Barnes’ family to restore and present a never-before-exhibited immersive grid of 36 “community portraits” made by Barnes during his long affiliation with Dayton’s Wesley Community Center. An original short film produced by The Co, featuring Barnes’ longtime friends, including Custom Frame Services owner and craftsman, Dave Crowell; artist, gallerist, and community activist Willis “Bing” Davis; artist and former Sinclair Community College Gallery Coordinator, Pat McClelland; and artist and Sinclair Community College Art Professor, Sally Struthers, will accompany the exhibition along with a full-color catalogue.

The Co is thrilled to present the regional premiere of LA-based, globally recognized filmmaker and recent Studio Museum (Harlem, NY) Wein Artist Prize winner for her work on Black Identity, feminism, and Afrofuturism, Cauleen Smith. Cauleen Smith: Remote Viewing will be on view in the new Eichelberger Video Gallery. Smith’s short film depicts a true story about a boy who witnessed the whites in his town attempt to obliterate every trace of the black community’s history by digging a deep hole in which to bury a historical schoolhouse. Curated by Michael Goodson, the exhibition will be accompanied by a screening of a selection of Smith’s short films and Virtual Artist Q&A.

Finally, The Co is excited to unveil what will be an intrinsic presence in its new galleries in the form of a commissioned work by accomplished Dayton-based sculptor, Shon Walters. The 18-foot long organic, bulb-like form will be presented in the space as both a work of art and as a reception point for visitors. The sculpture was created from Ash trees that fell in Dayton’s Sinclair Park during the devastating 2019 tornadoes which Walters painstakingly milled; glued together shaped and joined 26 layers; then sculpted and sanded to form the massive 1,120-pound sculpture. Walters describes the distinct “spear” of the work–which is designed to literally pierce the walls of the gallery–as his interpretation of “a delicate vulnerability stricken with inexperience, wonder, and will that push beyond what we know and where we have been.”

Tuesday, April 27, 2021
8:30 a.m.–10:00 a.m.
The Contemporary Dayton at the Dayton Arcade
25 W 4th Street, Dayton, OH, 45402
Pastries and coffee provided

Friday, April 30, 2021
Members Preview Party: 5:30 p.m.–7:00 p.m.
Public Party: 7:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.
Free Admission.
Beverages and light bites; donations appreciated

Saturday, May 1, 2021
Gallery Hours: 11:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
Celebration with the friends and family of Curtis Barnes, Sr.: 2:00 p.m.– 4:00 pm.
Gospel Ensemble Performance at 3:00 p.m.
Free Admission.
Beverages and light bites; donations appreciated.

Sunday, May 2, 2021
Gallery Hours: 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

In Studio: Zachary Armstrong with Michael Goodson & In Studio: Curtis Barnes, Sr.
April 29, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Exclusively Online
The premiere of The Co’s new short film series includes an in-depth look at Armstrong’s Dayton studio; followed by an in-depth look at Barnes through the eyes of Dayton-area friends.
Register at

Virtual Screening of Remote Viewing and Q&A with Cauleen Smith
May 27, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. Exclusively Online
Join us for a virtual screening of Remote Viewing followed by a livestream Q&A with the artist.
Register at

Curator’s Tours
2nd Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.
May 8, June 12, July 10, 2021


Mission: To provide art for the community and a community for artists.

Overview: The Contemporary Dayton (The Co) is the region’s contemporary art center. Established in 1991 as Dayton Visual Arts Center (DVAC), a 501c3, The Co produces and presents original exhibitions and programs, art events, community partnerships, and artist opportunities. Exhibitions and education programs feature artists living and working today, both nationally and in Ohio, with an emphasis on those whose work focuses on issues of social justice. In addition to its three galleries—open to all and always free—its retail store, the CoSHOP, provides income for Ohio artists and extends The Co’s accessibility to art, from visitor engagement to educational outreach through store products, programs, and experiences.

The Co is proud to support the creation of connections among the arts, community building, civic engagement, community planning, and use of public space, and makes an annual economic impact of 3.4 million to the region. Recently raising 1 million during the Pandemic to expand and move into its new home in downtown’s historic Dayton Arcade, The Co is led by Executive Director Eva Buttacavoli, a 30-year art museum administrator, curator, and educator, whose previous roles were at The Contemporary Austin, TX and The Perez Art Museum Miami, FL; and Curator Michael Goodson, who previously served as Curator at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Beeler Gallery, Columbus College of Art and Design, OH; and as Director at James Cohan Gallery, NY.

The Contemporary Dayton receives operating support from Culture Works, Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District, Ohio Arts Council, the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation, and Members.