All the Colors: DayGlo Teams up with Doubting Thomas for a Third Year of Psychedelic Goodness

The winter months tend to be slow in the art world, but that doesn't mean the calendar isn't dotted with exciting, unique events. Take, as just one example, the Tremont Art Walk, happening this Friday, Dec. 12, from 6 to 10 p.m. For the third consecutive year, Cleveland's own DayGlo Color Corporation is teaming up with Doubting Thomas Gallery and more than 50 local artists for DayGlo3. What's that? Start with 20 gallons of donated fluorescent paint and an entire gallery lit in ultraviolet (black) light.

As the organizers promise, it should "light up the night" on a dark, mid-December evening.

"I had developed a fascination with the properties of DayGlo colors and had begun to use them frequently in my work," explains DayGlo3 curator John Saile. "When I was asked by Dr. Theresa Boyd to do a show at Doubting Thomas, we conjured an idea that one of the rooms should be done in black light. The black light room was a successful way of showing the viewer how compelling and eye popping the properties of fluorescence would be when used as a fine art medium."

Soon after this initial effort, Saile and Boyd began discussing a full-scale, themed exhibition. Since the beginning, DayGlo Color Corporation has generously provided paint to each participating artist, all the better to get nutty with all the colors. They've also assisted with resources to make each incarnation of the show bigger and better.

"Thanks to DayGlo for their generous donation of 20 gallons of paint to the artists of Cleveland," says Boyd, who owns Doubting Thomas Gallery. "With this show, we'll be furthering the marriage of art and technology, combining the science of paint developed here in Cleveland with the creativity of local artists."

It's a perfect marriage of local product and local art, all strung out in a veritable rainbow, with a bit of knowledge dropped in for those who aren't aware of DayGlo's history.

"Early on, we sought the support of DayGlo Color Corporation to contribute an array of radiant florescent paints so that we might distribute the paints free to artists who wished to participate in the show," adds Saile. "DayGlo is native to Cleveland and has been an integral part of the city's industrial scene for many years. Throughout the world, we live with DayGlo colors in our daily lives, more often unaware that this fascinating invention originates from our hometown."

Last year's second annual DayGlo show featured an added "People's Choice" award, with visitors casting votes for their favorite work at the opening reception. Cleveland-based artist Rachel Strongoli won by a landslide. This year, Saile and Doubting Thomas have arranged for a panel of jurors to award prizes to selected works.

"Each year DayGlo entries grow with complexity and depth as artists develop a familiarity with the paint's properties and range of possibilities," adds Saile. "Both two- and three- dimensional works are presented. The results have been a fascinating display of the range of talent among Cleveland artists."

The DayGlo Color Corporation dates back to two brothers, Bob and Joe Switzer, who were experimenting with ways to make colors brighter. Quite by accident, they found the colors had a unique "glowing" effect under ultraviolet light. Early on, these new paints found their way into magic shows, stage shows and promotional posters for films.

By the 1940s, however, the Switzer brothers were working on colors that would "glow" in daylight for efforts during World War II. These new pigments were used to send signals from the ground to planes thousands of feet in the air, and aircraft carrier crews wore fluorescent uniforms lit by UV lamps to guide planes during nighttime landings. Also, buoys painted in DayGlo paints marked safe zones in the water after they'd been cleared of mines and floating explosives.

In the 1960s, the company officially changed its name from Switzer Bros. to DayGlo Color Corporation. Today, the term DayGlo is synonymous with fluorescent paint, and its headquarters are still at 4515 St. Clair Ave. near downtown Cleveland. The company has production facilities in Twinsburg as well as in Cudahy, Calif. and Houthalen, Belgium.

(Full disclosure: The author has participated in all three DayGlo shows).

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