A special collection, indeed

Wright State University is home to region’s rich history in the arts

Photos courtesy of University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives

By Jane Wildermuth, Head of University Libraries Special Collections And Archives

The Dayton region is renowned for its visual and performing arts. People from around the Miami Valley come to Dayton to take in a show, visit a museum, or listen to live music.

Wright State University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives (SCA) serves as the archival repository for many regional organizations and individuals involved in the arts. These collaborations allow us to preserve the rich history of Dayton’s visual and performing arts and give researchers and scholars access to materials such as photographs, recordings, costume designs, and business records.

One such collection is the Dayton Ballet. Did you know that one of the first dance studios to combine modern dance and ballet was founded in Dayton? In 1927, Josephine and Hermene Schwarz established the Schwarz School of Dance, which became the Dayton Ballet.

By the 1940s, the Schwarz School opened its doors to African Americans, including Jeraldyne Blunden, who later founded the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company (DCDC) in 1968. DCDC remains rooted in the African American experience and is the 10th-largest modern dance company in the nation. The DCDC collection can be found in SCA as well.

The region’s oldest and longest-standing cultural institution is the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, which celebrates its 90th year in 2023. In June 1933, violinist Paul Katz began the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra. He gathered 26 professional area musicians to perform Dayton’s first symphonic concert. Katz served as the music director until 1975. The papers of Katz and the orchestra both have their home in SCA.

In terms of visual arts, a noteworthy collection is the work of award-winning photographer William Garlow. Garlow, who attended Wright State, won top awards for his work from such organizations as the National Press Photographers, Ohio News Photographers Association, Associated Press, and Freedom Foundation. Garlow served as a photographer for the Dayton Journal Herald and Dayton Daily News beginning in 1964 and covered the news of the region for over 40 years.

These are only a few of the collections held by Wright State Special Collections and Archives documenting the visual and performing arts of the region. We welcome you to visit SCA in person or go to wright.libraryhost.com/repositories/2/classifications/4 to view an inventory of all our arts collections.

For more information on the collections in the University Libraries Special Collections and Archives, visit libraries.wright.edu/special.

This article was originally published in the fall 2023 issue of the Wright State Magazine. Read more stories at wright.edu/magazine.

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