DayGloSho Draws Record Numbers to Waterloo Arts Gallery
On Friday February 2, the Waterloo Arts gallery hosted a blacklight Mardi Glo party to show off the sixth annual DayGloSho exhibition. The exhibition featured work made by forty-two local artists all using the famous fluorescent paint donated by Cleveland’s own DayGlo Color Corp. Thus the exhibition displayed work throughout the space under blacklight, even spilling over into the next-door, adjoining space Callaloo Café. The Creative Space classroom was used as a craft area for both children and adults, and some goers were even dressed in the Mardi Gras theme, wearing masks made with DayGlo paint. The Executive Director of the arts nonprofit, Amy Callahan, chose the artists using a combination of a formal application, as well as cultivating local talent by reaching out to new artists, so that the show stays innovative and full of fresh talent from year to year. DayGlo was also generous to sponsor prizes for six different artists, with Douglas Max Utter taking home the first-place prize. The winners were chosen by members of Waterloo’s gallery committee, Robert Thurmer, Director at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery and Nancy Prudic, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Lake Erie College.
Originally the show was initiated by local artist John Sailes who was experimenting with DayGlo back in 2011. He had a show at Doubting Thomas, a gallery on the West Side, which is how he met the director of that gallery, Dr. Theresa Boyd. Sailes had put on what he described as a really small installation of DayGlo work in a blacklit room, a prototype of the current show. Dr. Boyd enjoyed the innovative way that the paint manipulated light and asked Sailes to curate a larger show by inviting artists to participate in the show and distributing paint. After a few years, Sailes found that he wanted to make the show more sustainable by passing off the idea and responsibilities to an organization, rather than keeping the obligations confined to one individual.
Thus, Sailes and another artist, Joanie Deveney, approached Waterloo with the possibility of Waterloo taking over the show. Today, DayGlo art has an element of playfulness and of craft and, when displayed under the unusual blacklight ambience, feels experimental and fresh. Thus the exhibit is a great way to draw in people who would not normally go out of their way to see fine art in a traditional setting, who find the white walls and bright lights of a contemporary gallery to be intimidating or boring. Both children and adults love the magical environment created by the paint that, as Callahan put it, “makes visible something that isn’t normally visible to the eye.” It is exciting to be able to see in a whole new way.
While the DayGlo aspect absorbs families and new demographics, the artists involved face significant challenges. Specifically, Sailes, a painter, pointed out that the paint makes colors appear differently; some colors “come forward at a faster rate than others and others regress [backward].” It can be tough for an artist new to the medium to adapt to how the colors project. Additionally, artists face the challenge of knowing their work will be displayed under blacklight at the DayGlo exhibition, but art purchased for a home will likely be displayed in daylight. Of course, though the pigments can be challenging, clever artists make the medium into an opportunity. Mike Lombardy, a printer, mentioned explicitly that his work tends to be monochromatic, so working with the color scheme of DayGlo paint, in all its “psychedelic” glory was a point of exploration and artistic freedom for him. The annual exhibition allows artists, especially multidisciplinary artists like Lombardy who use the paint as ink, dye, etc., to develop and refine their use of the medium from year to year. The people who come to the exhibition get to see a different side of local artists.
Finally, an aspect of Daylgo that really excites the participants and the organizers is the paint’s connection to Cleveland. Sailes, a native Clevelander, enjoys using a “locally-based product that is…known around the world and developed and produced in [his] city which…is important to us who live here.” Lombardy similarly sees using the product as a way to advocate for the city; that the paint helps more people understand Cleveland’s often overlooked history and resources. As Sailes said, DayGlo is a company with a hugely well-known and internationally used product. The company began back in the 1930s when two brothers, Bob and Joe Switzer were experimenting with producing colors that seemed brighter than normal. The colors were used as special effects and to promote movies early on. During World War II, the colors took on a new purpose: DayGlo developed fluorescent fabric panels bright enough to signal airplanes from the ground. Also, out on water, buoys covered in the paint marked areas of water with debris, mines, and explosives. After the war, the company continued to find innovative uses for the colors, branching out of advertising and safety. Now, in a Warhol-esque turn of events, it is exciting to see artists use the industrial pigment in their practice.
The show, a huge success judging by how packed and excited the crowd was at the opening, pays off to everyone involved. DayGlo Color Corp. gets to support the local arts and see the creative ways their product is used. The artists get the chance to work with a new, puzzling but ultimately magical and stimulating material which, by its very production, supports Cleveland and a historical Cleveland company. Of course, visitors get a new magical experience, enjoying a newly illuminated perspective on industrial paint, color, and Cleveland.
DayGloSho 6 is up through March 30 and the gallery is open every Wednesday, 12:00 PM – 7:00 PM and Saturday 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM or by contacting Amy Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waterloo Arts Callahan
Morgan Wood is an undergraduate student at Case Western Reserve University and a former summer intern at Waterloo Arts.