Archdeacon: Boxing and art — a marriage of passions on a gym wall in downtown Dayton – Dayton Daily News

Sometimes he heard him before he saw him.
The guy regularly walked around downtown Dayton and as he neared the intersection of E. Fifth Street at St. Clair and Patterson Blvd., he’d begin his loud chant:
Up on the scissors scaffold, paint brush in hand – sometimes hot, sweaty and paint-splattered, always managing a smile of recognition – Jackson Stanard would turn the lone chant into a chorus as he joined in:

Other times, Stanard – a 20-year-old University of Dayton student, member of the Flyers new boxing club, and a pop culture artist from the nearby K12 Gallery & TEJAS, founded by his mother, well-known Dayton artist Jerri Stanard – would be working on the large, eye-catching mural painted across three outer walls of Drake’s Downtown Gym when he’d hear a woman bellow out in her version of the low, guttural South Philly Italian Stallion tongue of Rocky Balboa:
“Yo, Adrian!”
For the past couple of months, Jackson, Gae Helton, the production artist of the project, and others, including the student artists of the transformative HAALO program, have witnessed the power of outdoor art and how it can change a space and develop a sense of pride in disparate people who stop and look and often turn their smiles into shared conversation.
The talk this time centers around that colorful mural – some two months in the making – that Stanard refers to as “Rocky and Creed.”
It’s the side-by-side likenesses – originally drawn by Stanard – of Rocky Balboa in his Stallion trunks and Apollo Creed in his stars and stripes. Behind them are ring ropes and an American flag.
Fierce opponents turned friends through the first four Rocky movies, they were bonded by bruises, eventual respect, love and then grief.
The mural includes a pair of inspirational sayings plucked from the films:
“I succeed because I keep going.”
“Every champion was once a contender who refused to give up.”
John Drake, who owns and runs the gym in the city-owned building, said the mural was “outstanding.”
“It really dresses up the building with two pretty iconic figures,” he said. “I’d be surprised if anybody didn’t know them. You’d almost have to have lived under a rock…or, maybe, be real young.
“Rocky and Apollo Creed, that’s as American as it gets. And as hokey as some of the movies would get, I can’t turn them off when they come on.”
Stanard said part of mural’s allure is that it really “represents America. It’s very patriotic.”
Jerri noted the mural’s “positive messages. We all need that right now.”

The mural will be officially unveiled – along with another done by the group on the Think TV building around the corner – at a special reception beneath the gym artwork Saturday from 3 to 4 p.m.
A few hours later Drake will put on a nine-bout charity show – Knocktoberfest – beneath the mural. It will include eight, three-round exhibitions by local people with other jobs who box on the side.
The main event will feature the lead-handed heavyweight Warren Roberd, who is a Xenia firefighter and a former MMA fighter, against Cory Duke of Piqua. The first bout is at 7:30. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door and $50 for ringside seats.
While the mural salutes boxing, it also celebrates so much more.
It’s another example of the K12 Gallery’s contribution to the Miami Valley.
The multi-colored, 39,000 square foot gallery and art school at Jefferson and Patterson serves as a gateway to the city for more than just its location.
It has everything from after-school art programs for students and artist in resident programs to adult classes and community outreach programs. It provides an art program in the youth prison here and it runs art classes in several urban Catholic schools in the Dayton area, including Chaminade Julienne High.
Each year K-12 is involved with some 40,000 students, Jerri said.
The most important group – as far as the murals go – is the HAALO program for teenage artists sent over by the Montgomery County Juvenile courts for some 25 years.
HAALO (Helping Adolescents Achieve Long-term Objectives) provides youthful offenders with a positive alternative for giving back to the community.
“It’s really a rewarding experience for them,” Jackson said. “They’re usually good kids who just found themselves in a bad situation and made some wrong choices because of it.
“But these projects involve them in something that’s positive. They realize they’ve become part of a team.”
And like with any team that develops a sense of camaraderie and commitment, responsibility, discipline and often a real pride in the end product.
Over the years, Jerri estimated HAALO artists had done over 20 murals in Dayton, including a beautiful 148-foot work – with a great blue heron taking flight, swans, a kingfisher and other outdoor creatures in a sunrise and sunset spectrum — on the south side of the Printpoint Building (150 S. Patterson) overlooking the Arby’s parking lot.
Jerri once described it as: “A breath of nature smack dab in the middle of this cement. It refreshes your spirit.”
Last year K-12 and the courts also hosted a reception to celebrate the year’s work. Among the speakers were several of the HAALO artists who spoke off the cuff about what the projects had done for them.
That memory still moves Jerri:
“They just touched your heart.”
‘Giving the little guy a chance’
Some 29 year ago – before she had wed Terry Stanard – she was Jerri Luckowski, a Dayton Public Schools art teacher who had been at Belle Haven and Edison Elementary schools.
Although she’d grown up in Beavercreek, she had moved to downtown Dayton and during her summer breaks from school, she painted urban landscapes, among other things.
At the end of summer in 1993, she was exhibiting some of her work in an abandoned space on E. Fifth Street in the Oregon District and a crowd of 150 people showed up.
Across the street, the late Dayton Daily News veteran, Jim Nichols, who had a special affinity for downtown and the various characters he met there – was in the Trolley Stop tavern and noticed the commotion.
Tom Tornatore, who owned the space housing the exhibit, invited him to come over and look.
“Jim walked in and asked ‘What are you doing?’” Jerri remembered with a smile. “I told him and he asked what I was going to do when I took the exhibit down.
“I thought a second and said, ‘Maybe open an art gallery for kids. I’m an art teacher.’”
“And he said, ‘Great! I’ll be back Monday with a photographer and we’ll take your picture and I’ll do a whole write up in the GO section of the paper.’
“That was on a Saturday night, so I just had Sunday to think up the name of the school and what it would be.
“He showed up Monday and if you look at the photo in the paper, I’ve got my hands out. It was a gesture of ‘Whoa! Wait a minute! Wait a minute!’ He was projecting me into something I wasn’t ready for.
“But the story came out and he put how to contact me and well, K-12 was born right there.”

What started as a one-woman effort on a shoestring budget, has grown into quite a communal prize, with a board of directors and ever-expanding programs.
After Fifth Street, the school moved to an E. Third Street location in The Cannery and nine years ago relocated to the old S & V Office Furniture Building that once had been a horse carriage delivery service.
When I visited her and her son the other day, she talked about some of their artists and what art can do for a person:
“You know we all need a vacation and sometimes you can go on one and sometimes you can’t.
“But often when you are making art, when you’re creating something and intensely focusing on it – whether it’s learning a musical note, or being in a play or drawing a realistic picture – your focus is so pointed, it’s like a vacation for your brain. You’re able to go elsewhere.”
“And in relation to the HAALO program, the courts realize this as a positive display of energy for the kids, so they’ve wanted to keep it going.”
Later when she left the room, Jackson – who has an 18-year-old sister Serena, who’s at Sinclair and is an artist in her own right – talked about their mom:
“She’s very modest about her own work and how good she really is.
“Her priority has always been other people and giving the little guy a chance. Most of the time our gallery showcases kids’ work and some artists who don’t get a chance at a bigger gallery.”
While Jerri puts the spotlight on others, those in the know have shined it back on her from time to time.
In 2000, she won the Ohio Arts Council’s Emerging Leader Award and in 2008 she won the Pamela Houk Award from the Dayton Art Institute for her “tenacity to further art education.”
Two decades ago the Dayton Daily News recognized her as one of its Top Ten Women in Dayton for her K-12 Gallery, her numerous contributions to the city and her own awards.
And it was because of her that the mural now appears on the side of Drake’s Gym.
Years ago she did take boxing lessons there and more recently Jackson did, too. Since then, like everyone else downtown, she might drive past the club, but would take no notice of the nondescript outside walls.
This summer, the HAALO artists needed another site for a mural and as she drove past early one morning, she had a sudden creative vison.
A while back, Jackson had drawn images of Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa and they were on display at K-12.
“Sometimes when you are an artist you can visually impose something on a space and I suddenly saw Jackson’s pieces up on the wall of Drake’s gym. It was like a projector was showing it up there.”
At was 7 a.m. and she hurried to the gallery, grabbed Jackson’s two images and went in search of Drake.
“I loved the idea,” he said
Jerri then got permission from the City of Dayton and enlisted the help of Helton, who has done numerous murals around the city and could handle the actual transference of the images onto the towering walls.
‘I’m very proud of it’
A Carroll High grad whose only prep sport was bowling, Jackson initially was introduced to boxing at Drake’s and since has trained at the TITLE Boxing Club in Kettering.
The University of Dayton business major is now part of the fledgling UD boxing club that has become quite popular he said:
“We had 200 people sign up for it this year and 90 showed up for tryouts. They finally had to cut it down to 20 or so.”
He said they train at the Rec Center on campus and are planning a big boxing show on campus at the end of March. He said they hope to join some college league.
At present there are 40 college programs – including Miami University, Ohio State, the University of Cincinnati and Xavier – who are part of the National Collegiate Boxing Association, which falls under the auspices of USA Boxing.

Jackson mixed his love of the sport with his pop culture art when he decided to draw Creed a couple of years ago. “I always loved him,” he said. “Honestly, I liked him better than Rocky.”
Soon after he and his dad went to a Comic Con convention in Pittsburgh where they met Carl Weathers, the actor who portrayed Apollo Creed.
When Jackson gave him the piece, he said Weathers was “really excited about it.”.
That prompted him to do a companion Rocky Balboa piece and prints of the work are on display at the K-12 gallery.
The other afternoon Jackson visited the finished mural with his mom. The nearly two months of work entailed 26 different colors, each of which went on four to six layers thick.
Drake said the mural already has become a draw for people – families, downtown workers, people visiting the Convention Center, Levitt Pavilion and the Oregon District – who pose for photos in front of it.
“I never thought I’d see these characters I made be blown up to these proportions,” Jackson said. “I’m very proud of it. I feel like it’s a monument to empowerment in a way. Not because it’s my images, but for the kind of power and confidence the two characters represent. You can just feel it from them.”
“This was done with real love and attention. It’s 100 million little paint brushes, paint strokes, all filled in with personal attention to that entire space,” Jerri said before she and her son turned to go back to the gallery.
As they walked away you could almost envision Rocky – his face bloody, his eyes battered almost shut – lifting his newly won heavyweight title belt above his head as he called out to the ringside crowd and to them:
“Yo Adrian…We did it!…We did it!”

About the Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *