Explore Dayton

A day trip to the Dayton Art Institute is time well spent

Natasha Baker

Confession time: I have lived in the Dayton area for more than 25 years and have never taken a full tour of the Dayton Art Institute. No, seriously. I have been to the Institute for meetings and a few events—and of course for Oktoberfest—but have never walked through an exhibit.

I have always intended to at some point. On the occasions I have attended events I walk away thinking, “Someday, I need to actually walk through this beautiful museum and learn more about all of the treasures kept here.” Like so many of us, I go back to my crazy life and forget the promise until the next time I am driving by on Interstate 75 and think, “One of these days…”

As the Arts & Culture writer for this publication it is embarrassing to admit to this lack of cultural exploration, although I don’t think I am alone. I have a feeling lots of our readers are in the same position. We live in this great city and we hear and read about all of the fantastic access we have to the arts, especially for a city our size. However, we never find the time to see and experience it.

So a few Sundays ago I made a point of spending an afternoon getting to know our fantastic gem—Dayton Art Institute—and it did not disappoint.

What’s the big deal

Overlooking downtown Dayton and easily recognizable with its red tile roof, the Dayton Art Institute was founded in 1919 by several of Dayton’s most prominent citizens, including Orville Wright and the Patterson family.
Designed by architect Edward B. Green, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

According the Dayton Art Institute website, the museum’s collection spans 5,000 years of art history with about 1,000 pieces of the museum’s permanent collection on display at any given time.

Divided into three main wings of European art, American art and Asian art, the museum also features galleries devoted to African art, oceanic art, pre-Columbian art, Native American art and glass. There are also beautiful sculptures to explore outside on the grounds of the museum.

What to see

In all the years I talked about going to the museum, the sheer size of it seemed overwhelming. Combined with what I believed to be limited skills for “analyzing” art and a lack of understanding how judge the important influence of an artist, I was intimidated. What if I didn’t like some of the pieces I saw? Isn’t every piece in the collection a masterpiece?