UD Students Focus on the River as Art

There’s a lot that I like about the Activated Spaces program happening downtown.

There’s the obvious – Art in empty storefronts makes downtown look more welcoming and friendly.

There’s the more artsy – It’s a chance to see the diverse skills and cool work from some of our talented local artists.

But there’s something more – Especially this round, which invited the artists to highlight favorite neighborhoods or community assets, I got to see Dayton through the eyes of the artists and I got 15 new perspectives on what’s important in our region. Here at DaytonMostMetro.com we talk a lot about all the good stuff happening in the community, so I wasn’t surprised to see people lovin’ on their neighborhoods and gardens and people and parks. But what drew my attention (for this article at least) is what did surprise me. And that’s Dayton getting some love from some UD students. Too often we talk about how UD is in a bubble, but this round of Activated Spaces features a great group of UD students who are engaged in our region through volunteerism, sustainability, and now – art.

So, since they’re giving Dayton some love, I say we send it right back and give some attention to what these UD students are doing for our community, for the river, and for Activated Spaces.

Artists Susan Byrnes and Dennie Eagleson worked with a group of students – “River Stewards” from the University of Dayton Rivers Institute – to photograph a variety of images during the Institute’s annual two-day trip through Dayton. These picture spotlight the river system that the group believes “helps us define our sense of place” in the community. Highlighting the area between Island Metropark and the Steward Street Bridge, with a focus on the bridges themselves, this installation offers a unique perspective of Dayton by presenting views of the bridges from the viewpoint of a kayak in the river and from along the bicycle path.

Eagleson is the Artist-in-Residence for the River Stewards; last year they created a sound installation and the students discussed what they saw and how they experienced the river. This year, Eagleson wanted to focus on something more tangible and structural as they experienced the river through a visual art project.

About 10 students shared six cameras on the trip; each student was assigned a specific bridge to feature, but additionally they had a great time snapping away and documenting the experience. The group used a plastic lens camera which allows for a narrow area of focus and it becomes fuzzy or darker as it moves to the edges. Each bridge is represented in a composite; some camera glare, the use of photos from both up close and far away, and the overlapping pictures as they’re framed hint at the experience of enjoying the bridges just as much as a visual representation of the structure.

Byrnes discussed the beauty of the bridges through the corridor and how the trip allowed the students to see them from a unique perspective. She says, “It was interesting for us to see the difference between the old and new bridges and understand the details that got translated from the old bridges.” Eagleson adds, “When you drive over a bridge, you don’t know what the true structure is. The bridges in Dayton are so beautiful, we really enjoyed seeing the shapes and how the bridges are made.”

You too can enjoy the structures and the experience of Dayton’s bridges – stop by the River Stewards’ display at the Main Street Garage. Officially launching on Urban Nights. And be sure to visit the many other displays that represent Dayton’s assets through the eyes of Dayton’s artists.

More info at Activated Spaces or on Facebook.

About the River Stewards
From the University of Dayton Web site: The Rivers Institute administered by the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community at the University of Dayton is an initiative to bring key partners in Dayton and surrounding communities together to promote our watershed while preserving and protecting its resources. Students, faculty and staff from the University are working with community members, stakeholders, and local organizations to build community around our rivers. The Rivers Institute’s work focuses on promoting learning and undergraduate research, bringing UD to the river, and bringing Dayton to the river.

About Susan Byrnes
Susan Byrnes is an artist, art administrator, and art educator. She holds a BFA in photography from Syracuse University, and an MFA in sculpture from Eastern Michigan University. She exhibits sculpture, installation, and performance work nationally. Susan also produces arts-based broadcasts for college radio, and produces sonic art and audio stories. Born in Rome, NY, she resides in Dayton, OH and serves as director of ArtStreet, a multi-arts learning facility at the University of Dayton.

About Dennie Eagleson
Dennie Eagleson is a documentary and fine art photographer and educator. She was an Associate Professor of Photography at Antioch College until it closed in 2008. Since then, she has taught photography and documentary studies at The Nonstop Liberal Arts Institute in Yellow Springs, and at the University of Dayton as an Artist in Residence in the fall of 2009. Her fine art work has focused on place and artifacts of people’s lives, using alternative imaging tools such as pinhole and plastic lens cameras. Eagleson’s documentary work has investigated alternative families, life and culture in Cuba and Nicaragua, local and sustainable agriculture, and art and music as a empowerment tool in community building. Eagleson recently developed skills in radio production as a Community Voices Trainee. Her piece on a writing program in the Springfield, Ohio Youth Detention center was aired as a part of Film Dayton’s Screenless Screening program.

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avatar About Megan Cooper

Megan is a Dayton transplant active in the community as the Executive Director of FilmDayton and as a volunteer for multiple area arts groups, Activated Spaces and updayton. Additionally, she performs at local theatres in roles ranging from Shakespearean heroines to crazy convicts.


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