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During its first decade in existence, The Dayton Art Institute outgrew its original home, a mansion located on Monument Avenue in downtown Dayton. Mrs. Julia Shaw Carnell, a prominent community leader, pledged to construct a new museum if the community would then endow and pay for its operations. Mrs. Carnell’s generosity of nearly $2 million created the landmark building that still houses the museum. Completed in 1930, the building was modeled after the Villa d’Este near Rome and the Villa Farnese at Caprarola in Italy, both examples of sixteenth century Italian Renaissance architecture. The museum facility was designed by prominent museum architect Edward B. Green of Buffalo. Today, The Dayton Art Institute's architecturally and historically significant facility is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sitting atop a hill on the edge of the Great Miami River, overlooking downtown Dayton, the striking building of nearly 60,000 square feet soon became known as “Dayton’s Living Room.” People from all walks of life came to the Art Institute to visit the permanent collections and special exhibitions, to attend a variety of classes, or to stroll in the gardens on a Sunday afternoon.

In September 1994, the museum announced its largest ever capital campaign, with a goal of $22 million to fund a major renovation and expansion of the museum’s infrastructure; increase and improve our educational and outreach programs; and fund an endowment for the new facility. In December 1996, the museum reached $23.5 million in capital contributions. With the completion of the nearly two-year capital project, an even greater emphasis was placed on outreach toward under-served audiences, including our community’s African-American and Appalachian populations. The Dayton Art Institute reopened in June 1997 with more than 35,000 square feet of additional exhibition space and completely renovated permanent collection galleries.

Click here to view Past Exhibitions at The Dayton Art Institute.

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