Visiting Liberian Artist Leaves Lasting Impression At Front Street Gallery
The young artist Patrick Gono of Monrovia, Liberia is in Dayton as an artist-in-residence. Gono’s visit is the result of a collaboration between the Dayton Society of Artists, the Dayton Sister-City Committee and the Front Street Building Co in Dayton.
Amanda Grieve is the Gallery Director at the Dayton Society of Artists and it was at the Front Street gallery that we spoke to her about Gono's visit. She tells us that the sister-city relationship with Monrovia had been dormant for a number of years and Gono's visit was a way to revitalize it.
"There's art in every culture so it was easy to make that connection and that bridge," she says. "We're so excited to have [Gono] here at Front Street. Front Street has been great - they've donated a space for him to work in a studio and the wall space for him to do the mural on, and it's completely his brainchild."
Grieve says Gono's mural was the result of his visit to Sunwatch Indian Village in Dayton. She says the artist was so moved by his experience there that he wanted to incorporate some of the native cultures from both Monrovia and the U.S. in the painting.
The main mission of the Dayton Society of Artists and the Front Street gallery is to connect, support, and educate artists in the community, according to Grieve. She says both Front Street and another gallery on High Street, in the historic St. Anne's district, feature numerous exhibitions and opportunities for artists in the area. The director says, at present, the society has about 160 members.
For his part, Gono shares in that mission and describes himself as a "bridge" between the cities of Dayton and Monrovia.
"By saying that I am the bridge between the two cities, it means I am somebody who is supposed to pave the way, not just for me today but to show the way to all the artists in Liberia," he says. "To tell them that our art [has] better purposes, it should not only be making a living, and also to encourage the sister city of Dayton here that there is something in Monrovia, there is a need to reconnect. And that's what I mean 'I'm the bridge' because I want to represent them both and I want to stand up for everybody."
The mural Gono is painting on the Front Street building is features bold, bright colors and depicts the faces of two women, one a Native American - inspired by his Sun Watch Village visit - and the other, a Monrovian woman. Reaching high alongside the building, Gono says there is a significance in the fact that the mural is positioned to mirror the morning sunrise, and 'a new beginning' is at least part of the message it's meant to convey.
Gono says he's had a wonderful time in Dayton and says he will take his experience back to Monrovia and work to promote positive changes for a city that is facing a lot of challenges. It is, perhaps, a characteristic shared by both sister-cities, but like Dayton, Gono says Monrovia is a place of possibilities, where people are trying to make a difference.