Alice and Martin Provensen’s “The Glorious Flight” (illustration by Alice and Martin Provensen)

‘Ohio: The Start of it All’ in Lancaster

A fun exhibition examining our state’s interesting and entertaining “firsts” comes to the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio

Ohio’s firsts as a state are plentiful, but an exhibition hosted at Lancaster’s Decorative Arts Center of Ohio from Sept. 24 through Dec. 31 illustrates the ones you don’t know about, from the first streetlight to the first speeding ticket. The collaboration with the Mazza Museum at the University of Findlay uses art from picture books to illustrate 60 Ohio firsts. 

“I wanted to find facts that are so unusual and intriguing that people feel compelled to tell somebody as soon as they leave the exhibit,” says Dan Chudzinski, curator of the exhibition and curator and deputy director at the Mazza Museum, home to the world’s largest collection of original art from picture books. 

Fun Facts: The first ever Script Ohio was performed by the University of Michigan marching band as a goodwill gesture during an Oct. 15, 1932, game at Ohio State University. To illustrate that fact, Chudzinski uses an image of kids marching through a neighborhood playing instruments. The work was a preliminary cover for the 1990 book My Shadow. Another fact presented with the illustration highlights Ohio State’s marching band innovations. “They basically created what we know as the modern marching band,” Chudzinski says.

Perfect Pairings: The pairing of facts and picture-book artwork makes “Ohio: The Start of it All” a delight. To illustrate the first speeding ticket, which was given to Harry Myers in Akron in 1904 for going 12 miles per hour, Chudzinski chose an illustration from Barney Bipple’s Magic Dandelions. The book features a drawing of a kid behind the wheel of a classic car being pulled over by the police. 

Home to History: “Ohio: The Start of it All” debuted at the Riffe Gallery in Columbus in 2016, and Chudzinski says the city of Lancaster’s rich history makes the community a great fit to host the exhibition. “I was impressed by the downtown, the historic homes and the fact that the museum is in one of those homes,” he says. “Then, as I was walking up the steps of the Decorative Arts Center, I saw that the house right next to it was the home that [Gen.] William Tecumseh Sherman was born and raised in.”

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