The Blue House Gallery and Studios began in 2014 when Nicholaus Arnold and Ashley Jonas teamed up with Blue House owner, Diana Cordero to create an arts center in Northwest Dayton. Diana’s love for the neighborhood inspired her to acquire and transform the large blue house located near the corner of Seibenthaler and Catalpa; which was a vacant property in the area. Nicholaus and Ashley had just relocated to the area after graduate school at Syracuse University and The University of Colorado Boulder where they each received their MFA’s respectively. These three worked together renovating and rebuilding many areas of the house; resulting in the creation of a livable residence and a viable creative space.
Today, The Blue House is a site of multiple artist studios, an exhibition space and soon to be artist residency. The Blue House regularly brings in artists and creators to collaborate and create in our space with the goal of betterment through the arts
Dayton Artists United had the opportunity to chat with Nick about The Blue House, being an artist, and Dayton.
DAU-Talk to me about The Blue House, what’s your mission?
NA–I guess I’d have to say our primary goal is to make difficult art easy to access. We like to show the concept and the process.
DAU–Difficult art? Say more about that..
NA–What makes a work art is not necessarily something that makes it easy to understand. The perception of art is that it’s a painting. A thing that hangs on the wall and you look at it. Art is more than that, its tactile, it breathes, its conceptual. For example, a recent Blue House exhibition “Worries Bash” featured virus-shaped talking pinatas that were filled with peoples worries. The artists taught computers how to worry, and people’s recorded worries played in a constant murmur until one of the pinatas was jostled or tapped, then a single worry would come into focus and then resubmerge. That is experiential art. You hear it. You see it. You think about it. Those virus shapes are imprinted on the viewer as tangible worry. Very different from a painting.
DAU–How do you find your exhibitions?
NA– We seek artists around the country to find things that aren’t happening here. Like a show by a performance artist and printmaking professor that was created from Trix cereal. Or the show in Minnesota that was a growing garden with Ikea furniture. We also collaborate and take referrals from other organizations, like The Neon Heater in Findlay.
DAU–You talk about bringing in work that isn’t happening here. Talk to me about the Dayton arts community.
NA–Dayton is my hometown. I was born here, went to high school in Dayton Public Schools. Attended Sinclair and Wright State. I left to go to graduate school, met my partner and came back to Dayton, we thought temporarily. But we found a great community here. Everyone looks out for each other. What’s interesting and challenging about working in a small tight knit community is keeping the work experimental. In the gallery and in my work I ask myself, “how do I avoid repetition.”
DAU–I want to talk about your work, but I want to back up a second and talk about The Blue House a bit more. How far out are you planning and how many shows a year?
NA–We started out with 11 shows a year. Too many. We realized that some parts of the year are just harder to draw people in. January–too cold? Early January is not a good time for attendance. Summer is harder too. Looking at the flow of people, we reduced to six shows a year, 2 or 3 shows in the spring and 2-3 in the fall. We’ve got 2020 all planned out, except for some things in November.
DAU–Does that include the residencies?
NA–We’ve got 2 artists scheduled for the next year. The residency is usually for a week, culminating in an exhibition, but we’re looking to have artists talks at local institutions too. The residency has changed over the years since we started. It’s an open call, and we look at who wants to come and what we’re planning. Aaron Foster the printmaking professor found us via the website.
DAU-Let’s go back to you and your work. You are a photographer?
NA–I trained as a printmaker, sculptor and photographer. The Blue House has its own print studio, and I teach photography. Lately I have been exploring Dayton as an astronaut.
DAU–Can you say more about that?
NA– Initially, it started because my partner, Ashley, was away at a residency in Kansas. I was home alone, and started feeling isolated. I started thinking about isolation and how astronauts must have felt. I created a rocket and a spacesuit. I mounted an exhibition for a Third Sunday at Front St. My experience there moved me from thinking about isolation to disbelief and on to absurdist. At that exhibition, people came up to me and shook my hand and thanked me for my service.
I feel bad, I’ve been on this project a long time. I usually have an ending point in mind, but this started as the exploration of an idea, and it’s gone through phases and mediums. From isolation to seeing Dayton as an alien. Its absurdist now, but it isn’t over, I haven’t reached the ending point.
DAU–Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.