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Embrace your “marginalized” Dayton… c{space just did!


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By Anne Rasmussen, Creative Incubator Team

One of the most important elements of a vibrant city is the ability of its citizens to embrace the character and diversity of expression that exists in their city’s street life. Fully functioning cities find ways to celebrate even the most marginalized parts of their population, turning what some consider civic liabilities into true community assets.

Take the shady graffiti artist for example. Often considered the bad boys of public art, graffiti artists and their work can be a frustrating and illegal source of vandalism and rebellious anti-community behavior. However, this form of art is also recognized as one of the most culturally legitimate ways for disenfranchised or marginalized members of a community to express themselves, show off their artistic talent and share their socio/political viewpoints. Moreover, their artistic style, anti-establishment flare and rebellious energy often spark the admiration and attention of much less marginalized members of the community.

In Melbourne, Australia, for example, the now famous and massively graffitied Laneways of Melbourne have become a virtual mecca for tourists, local scenesters, and celebrities alike as well as the many ordinary citizens of Melbourne who enjoy this quirky part of town. Historically, these laneways were simply the back alleys of shopping districts whose storefronts were found on the opposite sides of the buildings. However, as the back alley graffiti grew over time, it became recognized as something significant and worth showcasing. As a result, a virtual 180 degree change in perspective ensued and the alleys themselves became the focal point, with an endless maze of hip little shops, bars, cafes, and galleries springing up between the highly graffitied walls that separate them.

*A bride and groom being photographed in the Melbourne Laneways, from the ABC Documentary, “Not Quite Art” (see right sidebar).

Understanding a bit about this concept, the Dayton Creative Incubator Initiative decided to hold a uniquely “embracing” event last Sunday at c{space where they held a ten hour graffiti marathon, giving the Dayton region a chance to witness its own local and regional graffiti art. C{space’s brilliantly tapped-in event organizer Mary Kathryn Burnside called upon a talented artistic friend of hers who in turn got the word out that c{space was looking for a few “muralists” to give the space a fresh new look. And magically, like the chimney sweeps in Mary Poppins, over 25 artists from cities as far and wide as Cleveland, Indianapolis, Columbus, Louisville and Cincinnati, as well as the Dayton-Springfield area, descended on c{space by noon Sunday morning.

Armed with nothing more than tote bags full of paint cans, dressed in hoodies, masks, and baggie jeans, these merry pranksters got to work instantly, staking out walls, pulling out sketch pads and breaking out paint cans. Working independently but side by side, these artists, some of whom were old friends, and some of whom were long time rivals, spent an afternoon of artistic camaraderie, collaboration and mutual admiration in an environment unlike any in which most had ever worked…a space indoors, well lit and heated, with working bathrooms and a fully stocked fridge!

Adding to the irony, the building owner, a professional photographer, a writer and several other “outsiders” stood in awe as this artistic expression unfolded at breakneck speed. In fact, in less than 10 hours, c{space was transformed into a graffiti paradise.

By 10:00 p.m. that evening, all 25 masked men had completed their mission, packed up their supplies and disappeared into the night. Besides the amazing art on the walls, all that was left at c{space was an assortment of beer cans, water bottles, pizza boxes, and hundreds of empty spray paint cans.

Tolerance as a key to community building

Of course the question will certainly arise, “What, of substance, does Dayton gain from this day of rebellious artistic revelry?” Perhaps the most important thing Dayton gains is the comfort of knowing that on Sunday, January 18, the needle moved, if only slightly, towards a more tolerant and diverse community. And as a result of this tolerance, c{space converted itself into an indoor example of what many cities are willing to embrace outdoors in their communities – the bold expression of marginalized yet relevant people who live among them.

As a result of this amazingly spontaneous and collaborative day, c{space is now considering holding a mural design contest in an effort to bring some of this art to the outer walls of the building, is hoping to hold Wright State’s “Hip Hop and Healing” event this spring, is planning to hold a “street art/street music” event in February including break dancers and other street music, and is in a variety of discussions with other urban groups and organizations about holding events at c{space.

So, embrace your Dayton everyone! C{space did, and they now have 25 new friends who won’t be defacing the outside of their building anytime soon, at least not until c{space employs them to do so.

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2 Responses to “Embrace your “marginalized” Dayton… c{space just did!”

  1. Looking through the window of the past, it always seems that what is part of the music and the arts culture always met resistance from parents and politicians. Rock and roll was damned from its genesis and there were parents lining up to protests bands like the Beatles from coming to their towns. Now the Beatles and bands of that era are house hold names that millions have come to appreciate.
    So now in our present day and age, a new art form has managed to spring out of inspiration and talent to be seen by those willing to look, graffiti art. And still, parents and politicians are armed with negative opinions and still graffiti thrives. Graffiti art has found a place of acceptance here in Dayton at C{Space which is definitely a good thing for this city. A little tolerance goes a long way.
    Maybe people’s homes won’t be beautified with graffiti in the coming decades but people will be able to say that in Dayton, graffiti art had a chance to thrive.

  2. david harewood says:

    So, where’s a contact liast, readily available and visible on the site for the organizational team? A forum for ideas to be brought to the board during the volunteer meetings? Both of thsoe would be great starts. My e-mail address should be known to all of you, and if it isn’t then it’s now on this site. Please contact me. I do have two project-oriented, possible long-term ideas to help get things rolling a little faster.