By Elizabeth Schmitt
For the Troy Daily News
MIAMI COUNTY — They are artists whose roots began in Troy are now living locally or across the country. Regardless of where the call home today, former Troy students’ artwork has found its way back to Troy to be exhibited along side each other’s — despite difference in styles and mediums.
The Troy-Hayner Cultural Center will host an art exhibit, stARTed in Troy: Artwork from Troy High School Alumni, a collection of works provided by graduates that now have careers in the fine arts, which will be showcased from Jan. 6 through Feb. 12.
The exhibit — featuring 17 graduates — kicks off today from 5-6:45 p.m. with an opening reception, where not only will their artwork be on display, but some of the artists will be in attendance to offer insight into their works.
Seth Van Kirk — THS class of 199 — now lives in New York and mostly draws and paints. He graduated from Wright State University, and has been recognized for his work in Dayton many times, as shown on his website.
“I was honored to have my work exhibited next to other Troy natives in the notably preserved Hayner-Cultural Center,” Van Kirk said. “Troy is my birthplace and regardless of where I am in the world, it will always be my hometown.”
“It’s very difficult to find your voice during your insecure adolescence. In Troy, I was fortunate enough to attend a school system where the school board, board of education and local community apprehended the significance of an arts education in all disciplines,” VanKirk said. “Troy High School offered an excellent and diverse art program that encouraged patience, diligence, sincerity, courage, thoughtfulness, reason and self-acceptance.”
The concept for this exhibit was discussed in an exhibit committee meeting, and with push from artists and art enthusiasts on the committee, the exhibit became a reality, said Leona Sargent, an exhibit coordinator for the Hayner Center. The exhibit is meant to be a testament to the talent of those artist who’s works will be displayed, but also a celebration on the the support Troy has provided to these artists during some of the most crucial formative years, according to organizers.
“The purpose of stARTed in Troy: Artwork from Troy High School Alumni is to focus on Troy High School’s long tradition of producing outstanding art professionals by showcasing the art of these 17 professionals,” Sargent said.
Many local artists, like Gabbie Braun, class of 2006, will be featured. Braun graduated from Miami University and is now an art teacher at Forest and Kyle elementary schools — a career she was inspired to pursue by her favorite high school art teacher, Mrs. Benfer, she said.
“For the past six years, I have been struggling to balance the roles of art educator and artist. This year, I have finally devoted time to my artistic self and have been creating paintings, prints, and drawings in my studio,” said Braun, who chose to participate in the exhibit as a challenge to spend more time on her art.
Another artist who will be featured with more diverse and a lesser known art medium is Colleen McCulla, who is currently in graduate school at Columbia College Chicago in the Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts program. McCulla has a YouTube series called “Paper cuts with Colleen.”
“My work explores concepts through often humorous yet subversive tone. The hybridization of human, machine, and nature is of great interest to me,” McCulla said in her bio for the exhibit.
McCulla is best known for her collages, and posts a new collage everyday and has been doing so since 2012 on her Instagram, @colleenmcculla.
One of the most accomplished artists who will be featured in the exhibit is Tim Bowers, class of ‘75. Bowers is a children’s book illustrator, and his works include “Dream Big, Little Pig” by Kristi Yamaguchi and “Dinosaur Pet” by Neil Sedaka. Both have been on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Three of Bowers’ acrylic paintings will be included in the Hayner exhibit, which will highlight the art he creates in addition to illustrations that have also earned him recognition across the nation, his bio says.
The exhibit will also include works of blown glass by Brent Cole, class of ‘89, who is now a professor at Ball State University in Indiana.
The works of two graduates who have passed also will be included in the exhibit, thanks to the help of Judy Deeter from the Troy Historical Society.
A 1967 graduate, Michael McConnell, died in October 2012. For the Hayner exhibit, Deeter placed three small drawings McConnell had done for the Helen of Troy Restaurant menu. His daughter gave the historical society the drawings after his death.
Following his graduation from Troy High School, he attended Ohio University where he received both a bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Fine Arts.
He was a well-known sculptor and educator. He was with the University of New Hampshire for 36 years; a member of the university’s Department of Art and Art History from 1975 until his death in 2012. He served three terms as the department chairman.
Photographs from Harold M. Barton, from the class of 1908, also will be on display.
Following his graduation from Troy High School in 1908, Harold Barton began working in his father’s photography studio, Barton Studio in Troy. After the death of his father in 1924, Harold took over the business. Barton captured images of everyday life in Troy for nearly a quarter of a century — photographs of schools, churches, and business groups, sports teams, and events such as the Great 1913 Flood in Troy. He died unexpectedly in 1933. The studio stayed in business into the 1940s through the efforts of his sister, Hortense, and brother, Roger. Three photographs taken in the late 1920s are included in this exhibit.
Troy-Hayner Cultural Center is located at 301 W. Main St., Troy. Hours of operation are 7-9 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1-5 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, visit www.troyhayner.org or call (937) 339-0457.