Art for the Community

Jerry Smith Brings Unique Programs and Art Curation to the Dayton Art Institute

Article by Jonathan Stout

Photography by Kelly Ann Settle - Kelly Ann Photography

Originally published in Centerville Lifestyle

A pillar of the community since 1919, the Dayton Art Institute (DAI) has offered a wide variety of art to the public for over 100 years. Since September 2017, Jerry Smith has determined many of the exhibits that are displayed, serving as the chief curator and director of education.

“I’ve overseen more than 60 exhibitions thus far, which range from Leonardo da Vinci to Andy Warhol, and classical guitars to New Mexican retablos,” Jerry tells us. “Each has something special.”

As a curator, Jerry networks with other art and museum professionals, to keep in touch with what is happening in the art world and learn of opportunities.

“At the museum, I work with a talented team of art professionals, to assure that we fulfill our mission of creating meaningful experiences with art available to all,” Jerry explains.

The team accomplishes this by collecting, caring for, and exhibiting the chosen world-class art.

“We display works in our collection galleries and offer a variety of temporary exhibitions that run the gamut from large traveling shows to smaller, more intimate focus exhibitions,” Jerry says. “There are a lot of logistics involved in bringing exhibitions in, and each requires extensive research.”

Additionally Jerry and his team figure out how to arrange works, write the information labels found alongside the art, and provide information that will hopefully resonate with a wide audience.

“We work hard at getting past the stuffy, overly academic style many associate with museums and aim to provide a more enjoyable, engaging experience,” Jerry explains.

Jerry has a long history of art studies and curation work with museums. He first studied art history, receiving bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Arizona State University. A PhD from The University of Kansas followed.

Prior to his work at DAI, Jerry served as chief curator and interim director at the Museum of Fine Arts, in St. Petersburg, Florida, and spent more than a decade as curator of American and European art at Phoenix Art Museum, in Phoenix, Arizona.

As director of education, Jerry works with skilled art educators to help the museum create art activities and a variety of online and in-person engagements.

“We regularly offer a variety of instructional art making activities, like ARTventures, which is aimed at younger guests; Tiny Thursdays, for PreK children and their guardians; and Draw from the Collection for all ages, where you get to draw in the collection galleries,” Jerry tells us.

The Lange Family Experiencenter is a special feature of DAI. An all-ages art gallery space that offers activities and self-guided instruction, it is designed as a way for younger audiences to learn about art.

Jerry is proud of DAI and its support from the community.

“There is real civic pride in our area for DAI,” Jerry explains. “The museum provides a place to meet others, spark imagination, see the community’s treasures, learn about history, enjoy visual art, and experience centuries of world cultures. We are a destination in our city. The museum is also an economic driver for the region.”

In terms of the future, DAI plans to expand its outward reach and inclusivity.

“We are intentionally working on inclusion, equity, diversity, and accessibility in everything we do,” Jerry tells us. “We want people to feel welcome and have a sense of belonging when they visit.”

During the pandemic DAI also created more than 200 digital and virtual engagements and made its entire collection of more than 27,000 objects searchable online.

“We are making new friends not only locally, but around the globe,” Jerry tells us. “I think that is vital for the future, to expand our outward reach.”

This year the museum will also finally be returning to its signature in-person events, including its largest fundraiser, the three-day Oktoberfest event in Sept.

It will also be holding Summer Art Camp again this year. Returning campers will experience new renovations to the education studios, new spaces, and greater opportunities for engagement. Tours for students and families will become available again at the beginning of the school year.

Upcoming special exhibitions include Art for the Ages: Conservation at the DAI, which looks at the care needed for objects in the collection. In the fall DAI will present American Myth and Memory: David Levinthal Photography, which features photos about American life and history, coming from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Those who are interested in participating in DAI events, volunteering, and learning more about featured programs should check out the DAI website, at DaytonArtInstitute.org.

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