While there's plenty of art to see in town this summer, what better time to check out what's happening in the rest of the region? Cincinnatians are fortunate to live within two hours of several major art museums with world-class permanent collections. These regional gems have some fascinating special exhibitions on tap for the season. In addition, regional art centers and galleries provide venues for both historical and contemporary art. So, take a day trip or two this summer and experience what these fine institutions have to offer.
Want to be amazed by the hierarchy suggested by a bunch of men in ties lined up behind a boardroom table? The Columbus Museum of Art (www.columbusmuseum.org) features Paul Shambroom: Picturing Power through Sept. 15. Shambroom's intriguing large-scale photographs examine local and global manifestations of power in places often left unseen, such as factories, offices and meeting rooms.
Still not tired of quilts after the wonderful recent shows in Cincinnati? The Columbus Museum of Art also presents Material Matters: Quiltmaking in the 21st Century from June 20-Aug. 31.
Through the display of meticulously made contemporary quilts and video stations featuring artist interviews and demonstrations, the show measures the impact that the studio quilting movement has made on the fine art world. "Strong, innovative expressions from artists around the globe are assembled in this broad and in-depth exhibition of meticulously made works," exhibition co-curator Linda Fowler says.
If you just can't get enough fabric arts, round out your Columbus visit by stopping in at the Ohio Historical Center (www.ohiohistory.org/places/ohc) for Quilting Stories from June 1-Oct. 12. The show includes 19th- and 20th-century Ohio quilts that tell stories about family, heroes, celebrations and politics. All are from the Ohio Historical Society's extensive collection that spans 200 years of Ohio quilting.
Ever seen or heard a violin made out of a cowboy boot, a banjo constructed from the seat of a bicycle or a cello assembled with a pitchfork? These are just a few of the unique hybrid musical instruments featured in Ken Butler: Hybrid Visions, May 31-Aug. 10 at the Dayton Art Institute (www.daytonartinstitute.org). Butler, an accomplished musician who will also perform at the museum on June 22 at 2 p.m., has been fashioning instruments out of mundane items like flashlights, brooms and clocks since 1978. If you are fascinated by experimental music, this is for you — somewhere between design, sculpture, performance and collage, Butler's instruments sound simultaneously ancient and futuristic.
The Dayton Visual Arts Center (www.daytonvisualarts.org) regularly showcases work by contemporary regional artists. This summer it presents David Leach: Looking Both Ways, June 9-July 3. Leach, professor emeritus at Wright State University, concentrates on what he calls the "personal landscape" that surrounds his home and studio in his prints, drawings and paintings. The exhibition is a retrospective of sorts, featuring new work and surveying 25 years of Leach's career.
Do you love a parade? On Procession, through Aug. 10 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (www.imamuseum.org), explores parades as themes and staged events in contemporary art. Videos, sculpture, costumes, banners, parade ephemera and installations — such as the boisterous giant balloon mobile by art collective Friends with You that fills the huge lobby of the museum — investigate ideas of ritual, propaganda and civic celebration within the context of history, identity and public display.
Since we're talking road trips here, I can't fail to mention the Indianapolis Museum of Art's On the Road Again with Jack Kerouac and Robert Frank, June 26-Sept. 21. Novelist Kerouac's original typescript for his 1957 Beat Generation classic On the Road, inspired by his journey across the United States, anchors the exhibition, and Frank's groundbreaking photographs published in 1958 as The Americans accompany the manuscript. The complete set of 83 photographs documented Frank's own two-year cross-county pilgrimage to capture the essence of America.
Death and the afterlife are the themes of To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum, July 13-Sept. 7. Indianapolis is the first city to host this traveling exhibition, which includes some of the greatest Egyptian masterworks from the Brooklyn Museum's world-renowned collection. The closest thing to a blockbuster show in the region this summer, To Live Forever explores how Egyptians attempted to achieve eternal life through mummification, funeral processions, rituals and tomb art.
Just four years old, the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (www.indymoca.org) offers changing exhibitions. This summer, a collection of seven video works ranging from the satirical to the serious explores identity in Is You Is or Is You Ain't? through July 5. The museum is only open Thursdays through Saturdays, so be sure to note its limited hours if you plan to visit.
Louisville's 21C Museum (www.21cmuseum.org), another relative newcomer to the region's contemporary art scene, actively collects work by significant living artists. In addition to permanently displaying commissioned installations both indoors and out, the museum mounts solo and group shows every six months. Its current exhibition Tangled Up In You: Connecting, Coexisting, and Conceiving Identity, on view through June, includes work by contemporary heavy hitters like Louise Bourgeois, Will Ryman, Cornelia Parker and Bill Viola.
Contemporary art also takes center stage at The Speed Museum (www.speedmuseum.org) with Austrian artist Werner Reiterer's exhibition Raw Loop through June 29. Reiterer's cynical drawings, enigmatic objects and surreal installations unsettle expectations and question perception through viewer interaction.
Unfortunately, the Speed's next show won't go up until fall. Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art 1660-1893 from the Yale University Art Gallery opens Sept. 7 and promises almost 200 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, furniture and decorative arts from Yale University's renowned collection. Most of the works, by American superstars including Charles Willson Peale, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church, Thomas Eakins and Winslow Homer (you'll even see silver crafted by Paul Revere) have never traveled beyond Yale for an exhibition. So don't spend all your money on gas this summer — this show alone will be worth another day trip in autumn.