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Arts & Culture

Superheroes Land at the Dayton Art Institute

fan four 2003.jpg
courtesy of the Dayton Art Institute

The Dayton Art Institute's superhero summer kicks off today with the opening of You Are My Superhero. This special exhibition explores the tradition of comic book superheros and how contemporary artists are putting their own spin on popular characters.

The exhibition is made up of original art and memorabilia on loan from local comic book shops, private collectors and the artists themselves. Dayton Art Institute associate director Jane Black says she's grateful for the positive and quick response she got when the museum started planning the exhibition.

"Usually it takes a long time of vetting these relationships in order to have the generosity come our way the way it did for this show. It was amazing to just call people up and say would you help out and they did. They really are our superheroes," says Black.

It typically takes a museum curator two to three years to put together a special exhibition, but the Dayton Art Institute staff worked at super speed starting in December to prepare You Are My Superhero for this weekend's opening.

The exhibition is designed for audience members with varying levels of comic book knowledge. It begins in comics' Golden Age - lasting from roughly the late 1930s until the early 50s - and moves forward to the modern era. There's a tribute to the on-going work of Dayton cartoonist Mike Peters, a series of panels showcasing the process of creating a comic book page by local artist Jason Young and a display of knit superhero costumes by Michigan's Mark Newport.

"He really became very interested in how we look at strength and protection and masculinity and he found that superhero imagery allowed him to talk about that," says Jane Black.

Black sees superheroes as a chance to connect with a new audience for the museum's permanent collection. In that the spirit, the Dayton Art Institute has crafted a gallery guide that links pieces in You Are My Superhero with the heroes and imagery in some of older pieces throughout the museum.

"So for me, that's really truly educational. That's really truly outreach. It's very inclusive and welcoming, and that's really what we hope people will find that maybe they're here because they love superheroes. But that doesn't mean they couldn't come back and find something else they love just as much," says Black.

You Are My Superhero is on display at the Dayton Art Institute until September 23rd.