Giving the Gift of Art
A conversation with Ed Dixon of the Edward A. Dixon Gallery
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Ed Dixon, at the location of his featured exhibition, We’re Doing It All Wrong. Not only did we discuss the happenings of his current gallery locations, in Talbot Tower located on Ludlow St., but also the unique journey that led him to becoming a lover of art, a curator, and gallery owner.
His love of the arts is not the only drive behind the Edward A. Dixon Gallery. Accessibility of quality artwork for every person, inspiration for the young local artist, and simply giving the gift of art to the Dayton community are all important to Ed. I discovered that it is not simply a love of art that is the drive behind the gallery but a desire to share the gift of art and making that gift available to everyone in Dayton.
You’re from the Dayton area?
I am, born here and lived here most of my life except for moving away a couple of times for school and business, but most of my life I lived here in Dayton.
Have you always been involved in the arts?
The arts in some way. So that includes music and fashion, and then visual arts. And the visual arts were later, as far as being involved in any type of business level. I mean I was always interested in visual arts, but I never really did much with that specifically until the last eight years.
Which came first? Was it music?
I would say officially music because I was not the musician, but me and some friends had a record label back in the nineties in the building down the street. That went on for a little while, and we had, you know, some fun with it. A little success, nothing major, but it was pretty interesting.
What was the record label called?
It was called 4 Life Records. It was hip-hop, but we did sign another artist that was, I guess you would call it, alternative music, especially at that time. I was in my twenties then, that was definitely the start of it being serious and more than just a hobby kind of thing.
Not too long after that, I was involved with Film Dayton, just going to meetings and learning about the industry. I definitely was interested in that. I volunteered and was an extra in a couple of movies that I can’t even remember. I’m talking about low budget, local stuff. I wrote some scripts that I sent in to agents in California. Never really got anywhere. Even though I feel like one of my scripts made it to Hollywood, but at this point, that’s neither here nor there. That was fun too! Like I said I didn’t do a lot with it, but it was just fun. The process was fun.
Learning about the industry and trying to help out locally where I could, and that’s kind of what happened with the fashion thing too. That was just me trying to help in an industry in Dayton. Not that I was even fully into that per se, but I wanted to help it fully grow in Dayton. So, I tried to help some local organizations build their organizations up. I was also going to some events, like New York Fashion Week, three or four times, and then after that it was the art.
I started going to museums more when I was traveling, going to galleries, going to festivals like Art Basel and then eventually just saying I really want to see more of what I was seeing in these other cities and that type of thing here. So once the gallery opened, from the beginning, even though I always tried to have local artists involved, I also always tried to involve artists from other states and other countries whenever I could. That’s still going on with this current exhibition.
So you like to travel?
Yeah, before COVID, I was pretty active. I haven’t been anywhere in a year and a half (laughs). Now things are opening back up, I’ll be going to places this year. Hopefully New York, and I definitely plan to go to Africa this year, in Liberia. I’m on the Sister City committee here, and Monrovia is our sister city. They have some things going on there. Their Library for Africa is doing a ribbon cutting, as there are no public libraries in Liberia right now. So, this will be the first, and the people that are organizing it are from the Dayton area as well. So, that will be pretty awesome going there for the first time.
Art became more of a passion and not just a hobby or a passing thing. It was something I really wanted to be involved in. So, I came back one day, and said I wanted to do the gallery. I’m not going to talk myself out of it. I’m sure I could [do it], and it’s been four years now.
It’s definitely been fun, it’s been interesting, and it’s been educational. I think I’ve brought something to the city, and brought some light to the city and for the art world. Even in this exhibit, there were 243 entries, and most of those were from other states and other countries. Doing things like that, and trying to bring attention to the Dayton art market, exposing the people here to things that they maybe wouldn’t have seen ordinarily.
The space I initially had before COVID hit, I wanted it to be comfortable. I wanted it to feel not so much like a white wall art gallery. So, I painted the walls blue just to be comfortable and almost have more of a museum feel. So, it was kind of a mix between things I liked about museums and things I liked about art galleries. I haven’t been able to quite do that since I moved. This is a pop up space, and then I have a permanent, smaller space down the hall. At some point, I’ll definitely get back to what I was doing. The world is opening back up now. So, I’m starting to think about how I can expand again.
What are you looking forward to doing in the future, now that things are opening back up?
I want to do more exhibitions. The key thing is being able to not have the restriction on how many people can be here at one time. Now that things are relaxed, I can do gatherings in a more comfortable way, and I’m definitely looking forward to doing that again, in addition to traveling again.
Your current exhibition is a big message - many messages actually. How did you go about conceptualizing everything?
When I opened the gallery, I initially wanted to do something because division was starting to grow because of the election and things. I didn’t want it to be something that was focused on just political things though. I didn’t want an exhibition with twenty different things about Trump. I wanted something to talk about the different issues that people are going through that are not being addressed, largely because of our division. You can’t get anything done. Nobody is on the same page. So, all of these things that are represented in this exhibition are going not necessarily unnoticed all the time, but still no action is happening. A lot of these things we can’t come to enough common ground to get anything done. That division is making problems that are already occurring, worse. I wanted to focus on the issues and not the political problems we are dealing with.
Many of the artists in this exhibition are from other states and even other countries. Do you find artists through entries?
Yeah, I did a call for entry last year, and it lasted for a few months. During that time, I probably got an entry from every state and about ten or eleven different countries. There were three different judges, and we judged about 243 different entries and then narrowed them down to 43. I really wanted to do more. The more I did, the more issues would get highlighted. But space-wise, I did good to get everything comfortably in this space. So, I had to cut it somewhere.
Are you going to be doing entries in the future for exhibitions?
I will for sure do this every year and have the call for entry start about the same time. The call for entry last year was around November. So, probably November of this year it will start again. I have an online only exhibition that is actually active right now as far as entries. It’s on a website called Café, and it’s well known by artists. So by me using their service, it allows me to connect with artists all over the country and the world.
What can we look forward to as far as the future of the Edward A. Dixon Gallery? I’m figuring out where my next permanent space will be. This [location] is definitely a possibility. I definitely want to get back into a bigger space. I have some ideas that I will incorporate in the next space that weren’t in the last space. I love the comfortable atmosphere, physically and attitude wise. When people come in I never want people to feel intimidated by the art for any reason. That was always one of my goals: to have a comfortable space. I always try to be welcoming and tell people that their opinion of art is just as important as anybody else’s. In the future I want to get back to a bigger space, have events, and get as many people involved in the arts as possible, especially people who have no prior experience to the arts. I think art has a lot to offer to everyone and the more people that can be exposed to it and spend time around it, the better.
The Edward A. Dixon Gallery is located at 118 W First St. Suite 11 and 133 North Ludlow St. in Downtown Dayton. The gallery is open to the public on Thursday 12pm-4pm, Friday 4pm-8pm, and Saturday 1pm-7pm. Ed Dixon Gallery is also available off hours by appointment. To schedule an appointment, visit eadgallery.com or call 937-985-2115. Artist entries can also be submitted via eadgallery.com.