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A Short History of the Sideshow

It started simple enough with a vision and desire to throw an artshow that was free for the organizers, the participants and the guests. An event that would bring people together as a community to celebrate local art and artists. This was the idea Laurana Wong had in early 2006. This is how she described the Sideshow:

"The Sideshow hopes to expose the burgeoning underground art scene and interconnect it with the more established art community. We will bring attention to Downtown Dayton through a grand-scaled and highly public display of the art that is so ripe in this town. The event will be free of charge and open to as wide of a population as we can reach. The guests will be at least as diverse as the involved. June 24th will be a night to mingle as a city and witness creation through connection."

These are goals we strive for with every Sideshow. So in the spring of 2006 a space for the show was secured - 520 E. Third St, the Eastern-most storefront in the Cannery. Before the show could begin, the space had to be made usable: A 30' dumpster's worth of material was removed from the space, the floor was mopped and swept time and again to tame the dust and dirt that had built up over the decades, lights were hung, a stage was built, and walls installed to hang art on - all this and a million other things that have faded from memory. All this work was carried out by the artists and volunteers that shared Laurana's vision. It was hard work, but a funny thing happened as the work went on - people became friends and even more enthusiastic about the event. Finally, June 24th arrived and nothing left to do but put on and enjoy the show. It was hot that night, and the air conditioning didn't really work that well - but no one seemed to mind. In all, there were more than sixty artists and performers, and countless guests that made the first Sideshow a huge success.

Because of that first Sideshow an interesting thing happened - many of the participants had so much fun they wanted to figure out how to capture that energy year around. Following many meetings in the fall and winter of 2006, The Dayton Circus Creative Collective came into being in early 2007. The goal of the organization was simple and broad:

"The Circus is dedicated to building a nourishing environment that will encourage community interaction, artistic collaboration, and the empowerment of the individual. We offer a place to create, perform, and share freely in the experience of living."

The Sideshow has become the yearly embodiment of this goal and the yearly celebration of the wonderful art in the Dayton community.

Sideshow Two was held August 14th and 15th, 2007 at 520 E. Third St. at the Cannery. This show set several precedents that became standard in all future Sideshow. First, Laurana stepped aside and and a new person was chosen to lead the next Sideshow. Sideshow Two was led by Heather Lea Reid, a wonderful Dayton painter. Passion and desire to put on a good show are the main requirements for leading the Sideshow - all the other skills are learned through on the job training. The second precedent set was the Sideshow became a two day event - so much fun was had the first year that it was decided one night was not enough. Finally, the Sideshow aligned itself with Urban Nights, Dayton's twice yearly celebration of all things art downtown.

Click here to see photos from Sideshows One and Two.

By 2008, The Sideshow had drawn so much attention to the cool space at the Cannery that other groups were starting to use it for events and it wasn't available. A new location had to be found, and it was right across Third St. at The Merc. To date, this is probably the most unique setting we have ever used. The Merc started life as a DP&L power building built in the early 1920's. Much of the plant was still in place - but we used the main room, which was a cavernous concrete structure with a huge hole in the roof. The paint was peeling, and parts of the concrete falling down, there was no electric service, and water came in everytime it rained - certainly not the environment you'd expect to find an artshow. The Sideshow Three was the first Sideshow held in conjunction with the Spring Urban Nights, held each May. Sideshow Three was led by Tiffany Shaw.

Click here to see photos from Sideshow Three.

Sideshow Four was held in May 2009 in the old Unicorn Bar location at the corner of Third St, and Jefferson Ave. Led by Maggie Ottoson, this year's Sideshow was a more intimate affair due to how the building was laid out, but that just added to the interaction in the space. Where else could you meet Mayor Rhine McLin and mingle with belly dancers. Famed Dayton performance artist Jack Bowman gave his last performance at this event.

Click here to see photos from Sideshow Four.

Sideshow Five was held in May 2010 in the Armory at the corner of 6th and Patterson, in the Oregon district. Led by local photographer, Kidtee Hello, this year's Sideshow presented some unique challenges, the biggest of which it was on the third floor of a building. Due to this location, we were limited for fire safety to only allowing 80 people into the venue at a time. What was the audience think? It didn't stop the crowd from coming at all, we were plesantly suprised as people were willing to wait in line outside just to view the art inside. This really spoke to us, that the Sideshow has become a unique event that people are willing to line up to see. The location was also really interesting with open rafters and a variety of sight lines making for interesting views.

Click here to see photos of Sideshow Five.
Click here to see photos of Sideshow Five before and after the event.

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