photo: Tanya Rosen-Jones
Deborah Banyas (B.A. Baldwin-Wallace College) T.P. Speer (B.F.A., M.A. Northern Illinois University, M.F.A. Ohio State University) have managed to live their dream of independence and have thrived as self-employed artists since 1980.
In 1979 T.P. resigned his position as a tenured assistant professor at a liberal arts college in order to devote full-time to studio work. The next several years he plied his trade as a graphic artist (printmaker, painter and illustrator) while Deborah, upon her graduation from college, dabbled in a number of fields including printmaking, photography and quilt making. During the 1980's, the couple began travelling throughout the rural South, Southwest and Mexico tracking down folk artists and collecting their work. Their passion for the material began to rub off on their own artwork. Deborah began a series of sewn/stuffed/painted figures that proved to be popular with collectors. The addition of polymer clay, wood and metals to the mix increased both the variety and popularity of the work to the extent that T.P. joined her to collaborate in the business. Though both artists have conceptual input into each piece, Deborah concentrates on the sewn/stuffed wall pieces while T.P. works mostly on the wood/clay/metal works and vessels in addition to his graphic work.
Located on 20 acres hugging the East Fork of the Vermilion River and surrounded by the 500 acre Firelands Reserve, Riverdog is a lush and diverse environment consisting of woodland, meadow and wetland.
The property was first settled as a mid-ninteenth century farmstead and was used as a summer camp in the mid-twentieth century. After a few ownership changes, artists Deborah Banyas and T.P. Speer purchased the property (1998) and have converted the old camp building into studio/gallery space. Riverdog was awarded a Lorain County Beautiful Award for 2010.
In 2009 Riverdog Retreat opened featuring four short-term rental units which have become popular with visiting Oberlin College parents and folks looking for a weekend getaway. For information on staying at Riverdog, please visit: riverdogretreat.com.
In 2013 the historic barn renovation was completed and has been re-purposed as an unusual music venue. The Music at Riverdog stage is located inside the barn along with cabaret tables and chairs but concert goers may also sit under canopies outside the barn or around a fire pit, Periodic concerts featuring prominent "roots" musicians are held throughout the year with cold weather shows moving into the gallery. For information on the Riverdog Music Series, visit: riverdogmusic.weebly.com