Sunday afternoon, some 100 people (perhaps many more — it was really crowded!) gathered at the downtown studio of artist Tom Bacher for a surprise party celebrating Dennis Harrington's 30-plus years of work in Cincinnati's visual arts community. Harrington currently is director of the non-profit Weston Art Gallery in the Aronoff Center for the Arts. He was hired there in 1995, when it was new, by Sally LoveLarkin and became director upon her retirement in 1998.
The attendees at "The Dennis Fest" — artists, arts supporters, art educators and others — arrived early at the seventh floor studio and tried to keep the noise level to a minimum as Kelly O'Donnell (the Weston Gallery's assistant director and event organizer) watched out a window for his arrival. Harrington arrived and was completely surprised. Toni LaBoiteaux (formerly Birckhead), who gave him his first full-time professional position in 1979 as exhibition preparator and assistant curator at her Fourth Street gallery, gave a welcoming speech, as did artist/art educator Stewart Goldman.
Among those present who have long been part of the Cincinnati visual-arts community were Alice Weston, Ruth Meyer and Owen Findsen. Some 60 artists who have shown at the Weston created pieces for The Dennis Fest — Harrington has presided over 158 exhibitions involving 824 artists, performers and curators. Their work lined the walls and was placed on tables in the studio, and partygoers looked intently. Bob Fry created a large, handsome Show Box to permanently store the work (Yvonne van Eijden organized the showing). The Dennis Fest had a caterer, plus guests were encouraged to bring dishes. As a result, tables in a rear room were lined with every kind of foodstuff imaginable. Beer and wine also guaranteed a festive atmosphere.