Celebrate YS banner festival, YSAC permanent collection
- Published: February 25, 2018
This weekend villagers are invited to celebrate two events beloved to the local arts community — the Yellow Springs Banner Festival, an annual event for more than two decades that ended in 2012, and the return of the Yellow Springs Arts Council, or YSAC, permanent collection to the John Bryan Community Center.
“It took place during the gray winter months and brought color and beauty to our village heart, our downtown,” YSAC Gallery Coordinator Nancy Mellon wrote in an email this week of the banner festival. “This was a very special festival, it brought people together in such a joyful and creative way. To me it seems like an old-fashioned quilting bee, people getting together to create things and then sharing their creations as a gift with their neighbors.”
The event, part of the YSAC Permanent Collection Local Art History Series, takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, on the second floor of the Bryan Center. At 7 p.m., a panel talk on the festival will feature local artists Maxine Skuba, Beth Holyoke and Terri Schoch. A banner festival video by Susan Gartner will be shown, along with slides of the event by the late Irwin Inman. Live music will be performed by Mitch Coleman on keyboard.
“It was always a surprise,” Skuba said last week of the banner festival, which she launched in 1988. Skuba had been commissioned to create banners for the Dayton Airport, she said, and fell in love with the fabric she used, ripstop nylon.
“It was luminescent in the light,” she said. “When lit from behind, it looked like stained glass.”
Having created banners for the airport, she wanted to try out original designs, and thought of hanging banners downtown. But she couldn’t create enough banners herself, so Skuba put out a call for others to create their own banners. To help get things going, she purchased the material at wholesale prices and held workshops to teach people how to create the banners.
“The community responded,” she said last week. “There was lots of participation.”
Some who responded were local artists, but many were not. According to the event’s press release, the festival included banners created by groups of school children, churches, husband-and-wife teams, family teams, individuals and groups of friends. Banner images varied widely, including superheroes, human figures, animals, scenes from the natural world, Yellow Springs locations and flights of fantasy and imagination.
Each year, about 12 to 15 banners were created, then displayed downtown on light poles during the first months of winter. One year, there were so many entries that the festival took place in two parts, with one part in the spring.
While Mellon, who hadn’t yet moved to Yellow Springs, didn’t participate in the festival herself, she has heard from others about the festival’s appeal.
“I have heard it was lots of fun both to plan and create a banner, and also to join in to the social times when the makers of banners shared their work with each other,” Mellon wrote in an email.
Skuba led the project for the first several years, assisted by Beth Holyoke. Later, when Skuba moved out of town, Holyoke, Karen Swinger and Kathryn Merrill helped with the project, which finally ended in 2012.
One purpose of Friday’s event is to bring together festival participants, and to learn more about the event, Mellon said. And another, “secret” goal is to find someone who might want to take on the project again.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come downtown and be greeted by lovely banners up and down our streets, each one unique and made by a Yellow Springer?” she wrote.
A second focus of Friday’s event is a celebration of the return of the YSAC permanent collection to the Bryan Center. For many years, the collection was stored in the third floor of the center, and pieces of the collection were occasionally displayed, along with artwork from the Women’s Voices Out Loud March event.
“When I first came to Yellow Springs in 2012, one of the things I remember most was coming to the Bryan Center and enjoying the local art,” Village Council President Brian Housh, who also serves as Council liaison to the Arts and Culture Commission, said this week.
However, the next year the Bryan Center art sparked controversy. One piece featured an outsize gun that alarmed a Village employee, and another, a painting of a nude, also elicited discomfort.
At the time, Village staff leaders expressed concern that the free spirit of art sometimes conflicted with the daily, governmental needs of a municipal building, which also housed the local Mayor’s Court. Consequently, the collection was relocated to Antioch University Midwest.
But that location was never ideal, according to Housh, who helped to launch the Arts and Culture Commission several years ago. Especially troubling, the artwork was now located on the edge of Yellow Springs rather than downtown, in the center of the village.
“It was not as easy for citizens to get out there to see the art,” Housh said.
His own goal, according to Housh, was to bring the collection back to Bryan Center. And last year, when the Arts Council became aware that AU Midwest was considering selling the building, the group approached Village officials about the collection returning to the Bryan Center.
“We were ecstatic” when they agreed, Housh said.
As part of the Jan. 19 event, the Arts Council will display 17 pieces of art donated to the YSAC this year. Pieces were donated by Alice Robrish, Beth Holyoke, Dianne Collinson, the family of Marianne Britton, Rajan Kose, Jim Rose, Evelyn LaMers, Migiwa Orimo, Sondy Kai, David Battle, Christine Klinger, Deborah Chlebek, Gerry Fogarty, Ann Bain, Kathryn Pitstick, Sam Martineau and Gregory Frank.