When you travel along the winding roads of Southeastern Ohio’s hill country, you will notice many unique things. Besides the beautiful scenery, from lush, rolling hills dotted with livestock to the dense, tree-lined roads snaking through Wayne National Forest and beyond to the banks of the Ohio River in lively Marietta, one can find many interesting people and stories if they drive through Ohio’s Appalachian region.
If you don’t want to drive all around, though, you can just go as far as historic Lancaster, to the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio for the “Artists of the Winding Road A-Z” Exhibit, running from January 20 until April 15, 2018. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday – Friday 10 am to 4 pm and Saturday & Sunday 1 pm to 4 pm.
The Artists of the Winding Road exhibit features works by 12 different artists living in Appalachian Ohio. The multi-room exhibit showcases a wide range of artistic styles and techniques, including sculpture, bottle cap art, painting, poetry, and quilting.
“They’re Appalachian artists,” said Decorative Arts Center External Relations Manager Judith Oppenheimer. “Their work is as varied as the day is long. What bonds them is that they all live in this region.”
An eclectic mix of colors and textures, something will catch your eye in each room of the exhibit. An artist using one of the more unexpected mediums is co-curator Michael Seiler, who puts a twist on his canvas by adding asphalt. Seiler’s paintings combine colors and interesting composition to create works of art that he says have “the potential for unexpected change.” His wife, Kathleen Seiler’s original poems, which are a literary response to the visual canvas, are paired with his paintings.
Alan Cottrill, whose statues grace the sidewalk in Zanesville right outside his studio as well as being featured around the world, has several statues on display at the exhibit. Cottrill’s intricate, powerful work continues to be recognized for its quality, including his statue of Thomas Edison, which was selected as one of two statues from Ohio to be placed in Congress’ Statuary Hall.
Other three-dimensional works in the exhibit include detailed bottle cap mosaic works and other folk artwork made through creative use of re-purposed materials by retired teacher and artist John Taylor-Lehman. Ohio University Professor of Ceramics Brad Schweiger has several ceramic pieces on exhibit, as well. Schweiger has been instrumental in the revitalization of the arts scene, including in the offering of the first Zanesville Prize for Contemporary Ceramics and the creation of the PSZ Clay Center in downtown Zanesville.
Another interesting medium to be found in the Artists of the Winding Road Exhibit is the embellished embroidery work of Susan Nash. She uses fabric and symbolism to explore complex ideas, like how people treat those who are different from them.
Rick Akers is a Somerset native who has several landscape paintings in the collection, including one wherein he manages to capture the vital substance that proves an illusive subject: water.
Hong Yin, Assistant Professor of Art at Muskingum University, works as a painter and print maker. Her work depicts a wide range of subjects, including landscapes and portraits. The exhibit also includes paintings from Yan Sun, which show remarkable detail, including several depictions of the human form. The China native is the Ruth Dorsey Neptune Distinguished Professor of Fine Arts at Muskingum University.
Nora Daniel creates vibrant paintings of both landscapes and everyday subjects. The colorful landscape paintings create a vivid depiction of familiar Appalachian charm she no doubt sees at her farm outside Zanesville.
Zanesville artist Paul Emory uses paint and other forms of media to create fascinating, colorful works of art, some of which depict landmarks and other symbols of Appalachian culture. Another Zanesville native, Linda Gall explores many interesting ideas and juxtapositions with her colorful paintings. She often explores the relationship between nature and industry, a relationship that has undoubtedly shaped Appalachian Ohio.
There are several events at the Decorative Arts Center open to the public, which enhance the artwork in the exhibits and allow people to interact with the exhibit’s featured artists. RSVP for the programs at decartsohio.org or 740-681-1423.
The Winding Road: Art Changes the Conversation
All of the wonderful artistic talent being showcased at this exhibit comes with the backdrop of Appalachian Ohio and the realities that face many of the people there. Declining industry and dropping populations have hurt many small town economies and left many buildings empty, including historic masterpieces on downtown streets. This exhibit tells another story, on an iPad standing in one of the halls above a plaque reading “Bricks to Brushes”
Several years ago, the city of Zanesville began writing a different script for economic development, based around the arts. The First Friday Art Walk was born after The Art Colony of Zanesville (ArtCOZ) began opening studios in the historic downtown district in Zanesville. The first Friday of every month, people can stroll the downtown street and learn about ArtCOZ and the artists helping to restore downtown buildings, and revitalize the city.
Co-curator of the Artists of the Winding Road Exhibit David Mitzel, another instrumental part of the ArtCOZ effort, talked about the goals of the exhibit and the overall economic development effort.
“The [region’s] economy had been basically an economy of extraction–whether it be coal or oil or gas or timber,” Mitzel said. “So instead of extraction we’re looking for attraction–we want people to come here, we want people to stay here, we want people to live here.”
The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio
The Decorative Arts Center of Ohio is located in the beautifully restored Reese-Peters Home, at 145 East Main St., Lancaster, Ohio. Widely known in Lancaster as the nicest house in town, the Greek Revival mansion was built in 1835 for Pennsylvania native William James Reese and his wife Mary Elisabeth Sherman. The house has been restored with much of its original finishes and time-period accurate furniture.
The staff at the Decorative Arts Center have taken care to preserve the history of the house, and tours of the beautiful home are available for free. One of the docents at the museum shares an even stronger connection with the house, because her mother worked as a maid in it.
The Decorative Arts Center is a shining beacon in the southeast Ohio art scene, offering art classes as well as three different, free exhibitions each year, which run for about four months. Upcoming exhibitions for 2018 are “Creating the Illusion: Costumes and Characters from the Paramount Pictures Archive,” which will run from May 19 to Aug. 12, and “Imagining a Better World: The Artwork of Nelly Toll,” which runs from September 14 to December 23.
To learn more about the goals of the Winding Road Network Initiative, which encourages the creation and expansion of unique, authentic cultural, environmental, and historical experiences and products to create a sustainable, small-scale tourism economy and a renewed sense of hometown pride, through collaborative networks of individuals, small businesses, organizations and nonprofit volunteers committed to working together to better this area for visitors and residents, visit our website, OhiosAppalachianWindingRoad.org. To get involved, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.