Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Cincinnati artist Debbie Brod returned to Portsmouth this month to participate again in Artist in Residency program with nine Scioto County high schools.
Pegi Wilkes, of the Southern Ohio Museum and Cirque d’Arte Studio, said the Artist in Residency program is funded largely by the South Central Ohio Educational Services Center (ESC) in New Boston with assistance by the Ohio Arts Council. Through the program, a professional artist in Ohio travels to communities across the state working with students to create art.
Brod has been participating in the Artist in Residency program since 1994, and said she has been to Portsmouth many times. She returned to Portsmouth early last week and will remain in Scioto County through the end of next week.
“I love the river. I live in Cincinnati, but it’s not accessible. You have to drive down. I love being able to be right next to the river and seeing the sun set. I love nature. The other thing is, people here seem to have a really good sense of humor. It’s more relaxed than in Cincinnati,” Brod said.
While here, Brod is working with a core group of students at New Boston high school every day in DeNelle Bennett’s art class, and a rotation of peripheral classes from eight area high schools working one-day each at the museum.
“They (peripheral groups) come in for one day. They get to tour the museum and go see the Cirque studio, then they work with the artist all afternoon to make the artwork. What we’re doing is making a permanent installation that will go in the Cirque,” said Sharee Price of the ESC.
Wilkes said the Cirque studio, located at 412 Chillicothe St., in Portsmouth, has panels around the main floor where students practice their tumbling and acrobatics.
“They were like stick-figure cartoons, and so many of my students — 65 percent — are high school or college-age students. So they walk in and see this, and their automatic mindset is, ‘Oh, this is for little kids.’ So this is going to bring a whole maturity and another whole artisticness blending the visual arts with the performing arts,” Wilkes said.
Brod said what she loves most about creating art is that she never really knows what it will be when she’s finished.
“I don’t mean to sound naive, but it’s kind of an exploration process,” she said. “We’re combining cirque imagery with renaissance and making it something suitable for that space. That’s a vast space. I’ve done a lot of installations and that’s the biggest space I’ve ever worked in.”
On Tuesday, Brod was working with students from Clay High School at the museum.
“It’s a unique opportunity for our students to collaborate with a working artist and actually producing pieces of artwork that will be hung in a business. It lets our students see what happens in the real world, and how you create a piece of artwork for a business. It kind of gets them out of that classroom setting so they’re able to see what goes on outside the classroom,” said Tiffany Moore, art teacher at Clay High School.
Price said there will be a public opening celebration, free at the Cirque d’Arte theater on Chillicothe Street, at 6 p.m. on Nov. 15.
“We hope that the community will come in and see this. It will be up forever, hopefully,” Wilkes said. “And we’re going to have some cirque demonstrations going on at the same time so you can kind of see the fluidity of both the visual arts and the performing arts together.”
Ryan Scott Ottney may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTwriter.