Dayton’s Living Room

The Dayton Art Institute shares the world of art with both locals and visitors

Atop a hill on the edge of the Great Miami River, overlooking downtown Dayton, Ohio, you’ll find one of the region’s premier fine arts museums.

Founded in 1919, the Dayton Art Institute is known for its impressive collections of art, world-class traveling exhibitions and educational programming that includes a selection of offerings for diverse audiences.

The beautiful museum building was designed by renowned museum architect Edward B. Green, inspired by the favorite place of Julia Shaw Patterson Carnell, a benefactor who pledged $2 million in 1928 to construct a new home for the museum. Her favorite place was Italy, and the design took inspiration from two Italian Renaissance palazzos: the Villa d’Este near Rome and the Villa Farnese in Caprarola.

The Asian Galley

The new Dayton Art Institute opened to the public on a snowy day on Jan. 7, 1930. Museum guests were greeted with spacious galleries, a glorious Great Hall, two open-air cloisters, approximately 200 objects in the collection, musical programs, classes, social events and even a collection of birds and animals. Carnell had given the community a gift she would refer to as “Dayton’s Living Room.”

Today, the building, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, still houses the Dayton Art Institute. The museum’s collection, which spans 5,000 years of art history, including African, American, Ancient Americas, antiquities, Asian, contemporary, European, glass, photography, textiles and works on paper, has grown to more than 27,000 objects. Notable pieces in its collection include “Purple Leaves” by Georgia O’Keefe, “Water Lilies” by Claude Monet and “American Indian Series (Russell Means) by Andy Warhol.