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Visual Voices

VISUAL VOICES 2017: DAYTON SKYSCRAPERS 10TH ANNIVERSARY was at the Schuster Center February 6-March 31, 2017.

Visual Voices 2017

The EbonNia Gallery, in collaboration with Victoria Theatre Association, celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Dayton Skyscrapers Art Exhibit project at the Schuster Center. Each year we partner with Shango Center for African-American Art and Culture, and Willis “Bing” Davis, curator of Dayton’s EbonNia Gallery, to display an exhibit of art by local African-American artists. Past themes have included a tribute to Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Dayton’s role in funk music, and “Dayton Skyscrapers,” which celebrate African-American men and women who stand tall as role models in the community.

“DAYTON SKYSCRAPERS is a metaphor for African-American high achievers who have made a mark in their field and role models for inner-city youth in the community,” said Davis. Emerging to mid-career African-American visual artists from the Miami Valley researched prominent African-American skyscrapers living or deceased, wrote an essay about their life and work, and finally featured the skyscraper in an original work-of-art that was displayed in a professional gallery exhibition.

The DAYTON SKYSCRAPERS 10TH ANNIVERSARY was one of the major programs of Shango: Center for the Study of African-American Art and Culture, the non-profit wing of the Davis Art Studio in the Wright Dunbar Historic District. Corporate support was received from the Dayton Power & Light Foundation, Rotary Club of Dayton, Westmont Optimist Club of Dayton, Ohio, Bill Pflaum Family Foundation, and from individuals across the Dayton and Miami Valley area.

The 2017 exhibit was displayed February 6-March 31 at the Schuster Center, during April at DP&L Headquarters in East Dayton, and at the EbonNia Gallery on West Third Street May-July. The exhibit featured drawing, painting, ceramics, photo, mixed media, and sculpture.

Abner Cope“JUDGE RUSSELL LUTHER CARTER” (Judge Russell Luther Carter, Skyscraper) | Abner Cope, Artist | Oil | 24″ x 20″ | $2,500

Judge Russell Luther Carter, the pioneer responsible for breaking the color barrier in the judicial, political, and medical arenas in the city of Dayton, as well as in the state of Ohio, was born on April 10, 1919, one of 11 children, to William F. and Mary Royal Carter. Attorney Carter was appointed to the bench of the Dayton Municipal Court in 1953 by Governor Frank J. Lausche. He served on the Dayton Civil Service Board from 1966-1974. Some of his most historic legal work came from 1948-1963 when he was legal counsel for the Ohio Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. It was documented in Judge Russell Luther Carter’s obituary that “he lived his life so that future generations would no longer have to be distinguished as the first ‘black’ this or that, but as the ‘best’ at whatever they sought to achieve.”

Frances Turner“WHAT GOES AROUND, COMES AROUND” (Ethel Prear & Exine Prear-Wilson, Skyscrapers) | Frances Turner, Artist | Mixed Media | 42″ x 32″ | $5,000

Ethel C. Prear (Mother) and her husband, Dr. Robert M. Prear, came to Dayton, Ohio, from Bedford County, Tenn, making their home on Horace St. located in the Wright-Dunbar Historic District. She raised four children, two boys and two girls, and worked tirelessly in her community with the Urban League and the NAACP. She became the first African-American woman to run for office with the Dayton Board of Education in 1939. She was a member of Greater Allen AME Church, where her family still attends. Ethel was founder of the Southern Ohio Lay Council and was a licensed evangelist. She was a member in the Westside Women’s Republican Club and attended the National Republican Convention in 1952. She was a member of the American Woodman Camp #21 Abbie M. Johnson Temple IBPOE of the Western Federated Women‘s Club of Dayton.

Exine Prear-Wilson (Daughter) came to Dayton with her parents and remained a resident for 50 years. She was a graduate of Steele High School and continued her education at McKerry Medical College School of Nursing. Her graduate training followed at Miami University, Sinclair Community College, and Wittenberg University. Exine was employed as a registered nurse at the Dayton VA Center and worked there 25 years as one of the first African-American women to hold a Registered Nurse’s position. She was a member of the National Nurses’ Association and awarded the National Nurses Association Nurse of the Year Award in 1970. She was a charter and board member of the Dayton Charles Drew Health Center. She was awarded a Service Award from the Dayton Red Cross. Exine was the first African-American nurse to work in the Dayton Public School System.

Morris Howard“THE BLACK EAGLE” (Joe Madison, Skyscraper) | Morris Howard, Artist | Oil on Canvas | 24″ x 18″ | $1,800

Joseph (Joe) Madison was born on June 16, 1949 in Dayton, Ohio. Known as “The Black Eagle,” he is a radio host and activist, educated in the Dayton Public School System. Shortly after graduation from Washington State University in St. Louis, he became the youngest (age 24) executive director of the Detroit NAACP. Madison went on to lead four separate voter registration marches called “The Overground Railroad” in which he and hundreds of volunteers crossed the country on foot to register new voters. Madison was eventually elected to the National Board of Directors, where he served 14 years. Madison began his broadcasting career in 1980 at Detroit’s legendary WXYZ-AM Radio Station. Joining an otherwise white lineup at WWRC-AM in the early ’90s, he developed a crossover appeal handling issues that included race, but targeted the station’s multicultural audience. Madison can now be heard Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Urban View, channel 126, SiriusXM. When disaster strikes the “Black Eagle” flies into action: Madison traveled to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and assisted relief workers in the Gulf states after Hurricane Katrina. To bring attention to genocide in Sudan, Madison led 90 straight days of demonstrations and peaceful arrests in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C. He also traveled to war zones in Southern Sudan to deliver survival kits to refugees and participated in freeing over 7,000 slaves.

Andrea Walker Cummings“FROM CLASSICAL TO FUNK” (Charles Spencer, Skyscraper) | Andrea Walker Cummings, Artist | Textile | 42″ x 32″ | $5,000

Charles Spencer was born on September 3, 1927 in Struthers, Ohio. He graduated from Bluffton College in 1956 with a major in music and minor in physical education. Mr. Spencer had a long career teaching vocal music in the Dayton Public Schools, as well as becoming an accomplished trumpet player playing with artists like Aretha Franklin and The Temptations while they were in town. Spencer’s life achievements come not in multiple awards and public recognition, but rather from his impact on the students he sent out into the world. One of his students, Deforia Sims Lane, PhD, says, “Mr. Spencer coached me before, during and after school (weekends, too) in preparation for Solo and Ensemble Competitions. His mentoring helped me win a scholarship to the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, a career in operatic performance, and as a music therapist. Fifty years later, my music therapy interns, medical school students, and oncology patients receive the life-changing/saving experience of music.”

Yvette Walker Dalton“TOO SUAVE TO BE THE LION #1” (Ted Ross Roberts, Skyscraper) | Yvette Walker Dalton, Artist | Acrylic | 18″ x 24″ | $1,000

“TOO SUAVE TO BE THE LION #2” (Ted Ross Roberts, Skyscraper) | Yvette Walker Dalton, Artist | Graphic Pencil | 16″ x 20″ | $850

When Ted Ross Roberts was 7 years old, he moved to Dayton from Zanesville, Ohio, with his mother, Elizabeth Russell. Ted only completed the 11th grade and, like many who do not finish school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. At 18 and on furlough, Ross visited the Top Hat Bar on Germantown Street, entered an amateur night singing contest, sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and won $5. Winning started his singing career. Ted Ross’ professional career began in 1969 in Los Angeles when he landed his first stage role as Weasel in Big Time Buck White. Buck was played by Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), who started acting after he was stripped of his heavyweight title because he refused to be inducted into the armed services. Mr. Ross is most famously remembered as The Lion in The Wiz, in both the Broadway production and the movie. The Wiz played on Broadway for four years, and he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical. Stewart F. Lane, author of “Black Broadway, African Americans on the Great White Way” said, “The African-American actors and actresses whose names light up Broadway marquees have earned their place in history, not only through hard work and talent, but also because of the legacy left by those who came before them.” Ted Ross Roberts has a place in this book and in history.

Clifford Darrett“THE GOLDEN 13 CONNECTION” (George Clinton Cooper, Skyscraper) | Clifford Darrett, Artist | Oil | 36″ x 46″ | $2,500

George C. Cooper was born in Washington, N.C. on September 2, 1916. He was one of 11 children born to Edward and Laura Cooper. George learned his work ethic and values for life from his parents. George graduated from the Hampton Institute with a degree in vocational education-metal-smith. He taught metal-smith at Wilberforce University, the Hampton Institute, and the Naval Training School. He was chosen to be one of 15 black men to train to become a United States Navy Officer and became one of the 13 first black Navy officers in the U. S. Navy. After serving his term in the Navy, George was honorably discharged and returned to Hampton Institute as a counselor for returning World War II veterans, helping them readjust to civilian life and to teach them what benefits were available to them under the GI Bill. In 1950, George came to Dayton and got a job with the city of Dayton as a housing inspector. In 1951, he got a job in city planning for the city of Dayton. After retiring, George founded the “Golden 13” Naval Foundation Fund in 1994. The fund, established through The Dayton Foundation in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “Golden 13,” is part of the foundation’s African-American Community Fund Scholarships.

Willis Bing Davis“ANCESTRAL SPIRIT VESSEL FOR WILLIAM MCKNIGHT FARROW” (William McKnight Farrow, Skyscraper) | Willis “Bing” Davis, Artist | Mixed Media | 23″ x 15″ x 5 ½” | $600

William McKnight Farrow, who was born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1885 and lived on Dale Avenue (now Conover Street in the west Dayton Wolf Creek neighborhood), is a true Dayton Skyscraper. The son of school teachers, he moved to Indianapolis at the age of 15, where he finished high school and took the advice of Indianapolis artists, William Edward Scott, to attend the School of the Chicago Art Institute. Farrow attended the institute from 1908-1918 and was employed by the institute from 1917-1945, heading the printing department. He became assistant curator of exhibitions and also managed the collection of Egyptian art. Farrow had a reputation for his outstanding skills with graphic art and commercial art. He taught art from 1926-1948 at the Carl Schurz High School, but was fired when school officials, who assumed he was white, were told of a profile of him that appeared in an article the May 1, 1948 Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, written by the African-American historian J. A. Rogers. This Dayton-born visual artist, teacher, author of three books in the 1930s, and inspiration to artists of the Harlem Renaissance, is worthy to be celebrated as a Dayton Skyscraper.

Lois Fortson“LIFT UP MY EYES UNTO THE HILLS” (Reverend Dr. Charles Brown, Skyscraper) | Lois Fortson, Artist | Clay | 13″ x 6″ x 6″ | $1,500

Dr. Charles S. Brown is best known as Pastor Emeritus of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Dayton, Ohio, having served from May 1982 through March 2011. He is currently Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Payne Theological Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio. Dr. Brown is a Florida native who has essentially made Dayton his home since June 1956, when he was employed as a mathematician at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base after graduating from Morehouse College at the age of 18. He joined Bethel Baptist Church and accepted the call to ministry in 1959, whereupon he resigned his employment at Wright-Patterson and enrolled as a divinity student at United Theological Seminary. Dr. Brown graduated cum laude from United in 1962 and moved to Boston to pursue doctoral studies at Boston University School of Theology. While completing his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Brown was appointed to the faculty of United as Assistant Professor of Church and Society. Dr. Brown was recently honored during the Wesley Community Center’s 50th Anniversary Celebration as a Social Justice Champion for the contribution of his 1973 Wesley Center Report to the vision and ongoing program of the center.

Craig Screven“THROUGH THE YEARS WITH ROY MERIWETHER” (Roy D. Meriwether, Skyscraper) | Craig Screven, Artist | Digital | 18″ x 24″ | $200

Roy D. Meriwether was born in Dayton on February 24, 1943. At age 3, he crawled up on the piano bench and played his first song. He was playing every hotel in Dayton, and after a Dayton Memorial Hall General Motors convention, he made a down payment for the family’s first Cadillac by age 4. By the time he was 5, Roy was playing the organ for his father’s church and performing in talent shows and concerts in and around his hometown of Dayton, Ohio. He started playing for a 22-voice choir at age 7. Roy turned professional at 18 and cut his first jazz album, Soup and Onions, with Columbia Records a few years later. Mr. Meriwether, a multidimensional and self-taught virtuoso pianist, blends jazz, blues, and gospel with classical elements in a unique and innovative style that has drawn enthusiastic crowds to night clubs and concert halls across the United States for several decades. In 1973, the National Endowment for the Arts grant partly sponsored Black Snow, a musical interpretation of African-American history. Black Snow was performed live with the Howard Roberts Chorale and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company at the Memorial Hall from April 10-11, 1976. In March of 1999, Roy received a Lifetime Achievement to Music Award from the city of Dayton, Ohio.

Dwayne Daniel“STILL PRESENT!” (Hallie Quinn Brown, Skyscraper) | Dwayne Daniel, Artist | Digital Painting | 34″ x 52″ | $2,400

Behind her pleasant expression lived a powerful orator who defended the vulnerable and encouraged them to arm themselves with education and the necessary courage to put it to good use. She also challenged the powerful to stop justifying their greed and pay attention to the immorality on which a great deal of their success was built upon or affiliated. The West African textile influenced design and adinkra symbols within the composition are visual representations of aphorisms that are evident of her life’s work. The library on the campus of Central State University, Hallie Q. Brown Memorial Library, stands as a monument to her honor. Among her contributions is the impact that she had on women having the right to vote, all evidence that Ms. Hallie Quinn Brown is “Still Present.”

Kevin Harris“BOIKAI TWE SCRAPES THE SKY” (Dr. Boikai Twe, Skyscraper) | Kevin Harris, Artist | Digital Media | 16″ x 20″ | $360

Born in the West African nation of Liberia, Dr. Boikai Twe stands tall as a representative of the African diaspora promoting unity in our global community. He is an outstanding educator, an international activist, a dynamic community leader. Dr. Twe, Ed.D. earned his doctorate from the University of Cincinnati in 1985. He is a professor at Sinclair Community College where he serves as the longstanding Chair of the Departments of Psychology and Africana Studies. Dr. Twe organizes Sinclair’s annual festive pre-Kwanzaa celebration of creativity. He is also a regular speaker at Sinclair’s annual REACH (Realizing Ethnic Awareness and Cultural Heritage) Conference where attendees pack the lecture hall to hear his message on African history, wisdom, heritage and faith. Dr. Twe is a recipient of Sinclair’s African-American History Month Committee’s NIA (Purpose) Award. Parity, Inc. honored him as one of Dayton’s Top Ten African American Males in 2014. A motivational mentor, Dr. Twe is a member of the Africana Council of Elders serving the greater Dayton community by promoting cooperative economics and striving to develop youth leadership by encouraging self-determination and collective work and responsibility.

James Pate“BLACKBALLED TOTEM DRAWING: ROGER ‘THE RAJAH’ BROWN” (Roger W. Brown, Skyscraper) | James Pate, Artist | Charcoal | 52″ x 40″

Roger W. Brown, nicknamed “The Rajah,” was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on May 22, 1942. He grew to become a 6’5″ nationally ranked forward/guard at Brooklyn’s George W. Wingate High School and signed to play for the University of Dayton (UD) in 1960. Brown was unjustly banned from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) when, after a standout freshman year at UD, it was revealed that he’d been accused of participating in a gambling scheme while in high school. After being detained for four or five days of round-the-clock unlawful interrogation, Brown wasn’t indicted or charged with any crime, but the NCAA’s and NBA’s lifetime blackball remained intact…for the time being. Though kicked out of UD, Roger returned to Dayton, Ohio, to set up residence at the west Dayton home of the late Azariah Smith and his wife Arlena. While in Dayton, Brown stayed on top of his game and became a superstar in Dayton’s amateur leagues. At age 25, he emerged out of exile and became the first player signed by the Indiana Pacers of the newly formed American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1967. Roger took Dayton with him as he led the Indiana Pacers to three ABA championships, received a number of scoring titles as well as league and playoff MVP honors, and landed in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame’s class of 2013.

Visual Voices 2016

VISUAL VOICES 2016: BLACK LIFE as subject MATTER reflected the broad and diverse range of African-American life through the eyes of emerging and mid-career African-American visual artists from the Dayton and Miami Valley region. The 2016 exhibit featured the work of 16 local African-American visual artists and a recent Dayton Public School graduate. The exhibit provided opportunities for the Dayton and Miami Valley region to share, celebrate, and honor the importance of Black life. The BLACK LIFE as subject MATTER art exhibit was curated by Willis “Bing” Davis with assistance from fellow Dayton artists Dwayne Daniel, Derrick Davis, and James Pate and featured Francine Bankston, Andrea Walker-Cummings, Dwayne Daniel, Clifford Darrett, Derrick Davis, Willis “Bing” Davis, Al Harden, Kevin Harris, Morris Howard, Carolyn Moore, Robert Parkey III, James Pate, Craig Screven, Chris Turner, and Frances Turner.

Visual Voices 2015

Students from the Ponitz Career Technology Center (Dayton Public Schools) received specialized interview technique training and worked with the artists in that year’s Visual Voices 2015: Dayton Skyscrapers to record and edit interviews about their art. Hear their stories at soundcloud.com/victoriatheatre.

Visual Voices 2014

Featuring a concert with the Ohio Players, Visual Voices 2014: Visions Of Dayton Funk challenged artists challenged to create visual art that captures the essence and flavor of the Dayton funk sound. Students from the Ponitz Career Technology Center (Dayton Public Schools) trained with WYSO 91.3FM Community Voices radio project to record and edit interviews with the artists, musicians and others about the artists’ creative process and to provide a historical perspective on the Dayton funk movement. Hear their stories at soundcloud.com/victoriatheatre.