Coshocton--An Artists' Colony
During the first decade of the 20th century, Coshocton claimed to have more artists in residence than any other city in the US, barring New York City. It was in Coshocton that the advertising art industry was conceived and launched in 1887. Over the next 30 years advertising art upstarts proliferated like software companies did in the 90s. The activity of making art was a given, and it even put bread and butter on the table…served on red Coca-Cola trays, of course!
When he was young, West Lafayette native Rex Emler identified his community as a place where artists lived and worked. He was raised in the 1950s when artists were employed at the three remaining advertising art companies—The Beach Company, Novelty Advertising and American Art Works. Artists were also actively producing art on their own. Rex loved to draw, and after graduating from West Lafayette High School (which had no art program), he attended Kent State with the intent of becoming an art teacher. In spring of his senior year at Kent, Mr. McKinley offered him a teaching position in the City Schools, which Rex accepted over a likely offer in Canton.
Rex retired several years ago after 35 years of teaching in Coshocton’s elementary and middle schools. Art and history continue to be a driving force in his life as he directs his creative energies into lots of activities. His interest in history is fed by frequent trips to historical sites like Williamsburg and collecting antiques. Not surprising, his favorite treasures are advertising art pieces made in Coshocton. Rex has always loved Roscoe Village and spent one summer working in the pewter shop. When the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum revamped the Historic Ohio Gallery, Rex drew floor plans and suggested ideas that he had gleaned from visiting other museums.
Rex’s appreciation for history dovetails into his works of art. He currently has artwork in JHM’s exhibit, Past, Present, Perfect, and in an exhibit at the Tuscarawas County Center for the Arts in New Philadelphia. Using mixed media (acrylic paint, cut paper, colored pencils and ink), his works typically portray the Amish countryside or groupings of antiques. He also sees his two interests reinforcing each other when he creates displays for antiques, whether for a shadowbox or an antique store.
There are many folks like Rex in our county. We’re no Paris or New York, but the doing of art is occurring all around us. Pick up the newspaper and you find the works of writers and photographers. Consider the floral designs of Ed Kiefer, the many instrumental groups playing in churches on Sunday morning, or the beautiful gardens created by landscapers. Noticing the artistry and enjoying the results makes our hometown a pleasing place to live and a productive way to live. And like Rex, think how it inspires the young and draws them back here as adults. It’s worth dreaming about.