Decorative Arts Society of Cincinnati Offers Unusual Tours and Lectures

October 26th, 2019  |  Published in October 2019

Decorative Arts Society of Cincinnati has a long tradition in town.   In 1981 Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Kreines joined a few like-minded friends who enjoyed learning more about decorative arts.  The Kreineses loved folk art and Americana.

An intimate group eventually morphed into the Decorative Arts Society of Cincinnati.  In 1983, it became a 501©(3) organization which features nationally recognized scholars and regional trips to study and appreciate the decorative arts.

Dr. and Mrs. Kreines attended forums in DuPont’s Winterthur Museum and Colonial Williamsburg, both headquarters for decorative arts.  Through these meetings, they met leaders in the antiques world.

They brought in speakers such as Leigh Keno of Antique Roadshow; Israel Sack, antique dealer from New York; Sumpter Priddy III, antique dealer and former curator, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia; and Donald Fennimore, a Winterthur curator.

A lecture on September 8 featured “Tiffany’s Dragons:  The Viking Revival in American Art” by Dr. Graham Boettcher, director, Birmingham Museum of Art, and attracted many attendees.

Dr. and Mrs.  Kreines also initiated the Annual Kreines Lecture for Decorative Arts and Design, which offers speakers who deliver cutting edge and nontraditional design topics in March.  Since 1996, each lecture has a theme every year.  The Kreineses, the Decorative Arts Society and the Cincinnati Art Museum jointly sponsor the lecture.

In March 2020, the lecturer will be Beth Lipman, a glass artist. She currently has a piece at the CAM in the Dutch gallery.

Dr. and Mrs. Kreines were integral members in the planning and construction of the Cincinnati Wing.  Dr. Kreines served on the board of the Cincinnati Art Museum from 1997 to 2006.  He became a trustee emeritus in 2010.

Barbara remains active with the group, although not on the board.  Dr. Kreines died in 2017.

Kreines said, “It was a great part of our lives.  All four of our children are interested in decorative arts.  I try to teach the grandkids every chance I get.”

The trips and lectures offer a wide range of speakers and tours.

A recent tour included a half day visit to six historical, nineteenth century Catholic churches in Cincinnati and Covington. Another one featured a day trip to Newark, Ohio on October 13.  Upcoming in 2019 – 2020 are a lecture about the restoration of Mount Vernon by curator Adam Erby, (November 3) and a lecture about architecture and design at The Redwood Library and Athenaeum, the nation’s first library, by Dr. Benedict Leca, its executive director and former curator of European Art at the Cincinnati Art Museum (February 9).

The group is bringing back Dr. Janine Skerry, senior curator of ceramics in metals at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, on May 15, 2020 to talk about “Post Revolution – Evolution of Dining in America and Britain.”

Stewart S. Maxwell, vice president of programs, and Walter E. Langsam, architectural historian, added regional trips to such places as White Water Shaker Village in New Haven, Ohio; New Harmony, Indiana as well as Midway and Versailles, Kentucky.

The challenge is to bring in younger people who are the future of the organization.  Currently, there are approximately 130 members, mostly middle aged and older.

David Floering, M.D., retired pathologist, and his wife Jayne became active in DASC in 2000.  They had moved from Madeira to Middletown and purchased a house built in 1894, Queen Anne style.  Dr. Floering said, “The previous owner collected antiques which looked good in the old house. Jayne and I decided to recreate the look and started to collect and study early American decorative arts.”

A fire in the 1920’s resulted in a renovation to the Federal style.  They became interested in decorative arts.  As a result, they attended seminars in Winterthur, Williamsburg and antique shows such as the one in Lebanon.  They met a lot of people who became friends.

The Floerings joined as members and eventually both served terms as president.  They enjoyed the quality of the lectures and tours as well as the camaraderie of like-minded people.  Dr. Floering found it interesting to have these activities conveniently located in Cincinnati.

Dr. Floering, who later moved with his wife to Granville to be near their grandchildren, said, “I regret not being there (Cincinnati) to hear interesting lectures and take tours. DASC provides real value to anyone interested in the decorative arts,” Floering added.

“It’s not just 19th century furniture.  The group expands one’s knowledge.  Things you didn’t know about that you could appreciate,” Floering said.

Ed Loyd, current president, joined DASC in 2007.  He was interested in College Hill architecture.  “I became a member and enjoyed it a lot,” he said.  He found other members who had a passion for collecting and an avocation for history manifested through decorative arts.  The group led to a lot of friendships.  He, too, cited the camaraderie with a core group of people who collected decorative arts.

“You learn as much from the people as from the trips,” Loyd said.

He did not spend a lot of time in Kentucky although he grew up in Cincinnati.  With DASC, he visited Paris, Georgetown, Midway and Versailles, Kentucky. He enjoyed seeing some of the significant homes and leaning more about their broader influences.

Loyd said,, “We have dinners with the speakers the night before.  I found it fascinating to learn about what created this passion for collecting.  How do you create that significance of an object trying to make a statement?”

He cited Philip Zea, president, Historic Deerfield, as a national figure who spoke about “A Revolution in Craftsmanship, Fate, Fashion and Furniture in the War for Independence.”

Stewart S. Maxwell joined DASC twenty years ago.  In addition, he has served as vice president of programming for 15 years.  Interested in collecting decorative arts, Maxwell knew of the group and wanted to be part of it.

He attended an annual meeting chaired by former president Dr. Sigmund Sugarman and sat next to Dr. and Mrs. Kreines.  They were looking for board members.  Barb said, “You have to become vice president of programs.  You would be wonderful at it.”

Maxwell commented on the significance of DASC.  “It is a group locally advocating in our lives in many areas such as porcelain, pottery, rugs, furniture, architecture and design,” he said.

He brings in leading experts in the field.  He said, “We are recognized nationally for DASC.”  Not every city has such a group.  Some members now come from Lexington, Louisville and Columbus.

Maxwell cited Homer Layne, New York designer, as a significant speaker, who spoke about “Charles James:  Beyond Fashion” on November 8, 2015.

Another unique aspect to the group are the tours.  Recently, DASC took a trip to White Water Shaker Village near New Haven, Ohio.  Nobody knew about it.  Maxwell said, “It’s in the middle of nowhere.”  So, he found it gratifying to provide that kind of experience to the members.

To enhance the tour, Maxwell brought in a catered Shaker meal and Shaker dancers from Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.  “Nobody had ever thought to do that before,” he said.

Maxwell is working on the 2020 – 2021 season with the 2019 – 2020 schedule well under way.

He noted that the organization is open to all people.  “A number of our members collect; some don’t.  Some are interested in learning more about decorative arts,” he said.  Initially, the group was tight knit and focused on American furniture.  But, Maxwell wanted to broaden the horizons of DASC and encompass a number of aspects of art.

According to Amy Dehan, curator of decorative arts at the CAM, “Members of the Decorative Arts Society have been generous in contributing above and beyond their annual dues in order to make a gift to the Art Museum.”

“ In past years, their donations have enabled the museum to commission a period and style-appropriate reproduction handle of an 18th-century Paul de Lamerie Coffee Jug, acquire a Ball Clock designed in 1947 by George Nelson, secure a pair of Arts and Crafts Candlesticks by Cincinnati artist Robert Sturm, and most recently, conserve an 1820’s Cincinnati chimneypiece or mantel.  Donations made in 2019 will support the forthcoming exhibition, Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance, 1850–1970 which runs from March 13, 2020 through June 2, 2020,” Dehan said.

–Laura Hobson

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