ArtsForce Asks: David Dee, owner of David Dee Fine Arts

March 24 2021

By Bennett Blake

Hello College of Fine Arts! A couple weeks ago I had the chance to speak with David Dee about how young people can set themselves up for successful and sustainable career in the arts. David owns David Dee Fine Arts, a local gallery specializing in American Western painting, and he was previously the Director of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (UMFA).

One insight from my conversation with David was the importance of specialization, especially in art. It is natural to be curious about all aspects of your field, but David explained, “One is well served to focus on an area that you feel passion about and develop expertise.”

David’s specialization in Japanese Woodblock prints he described as “incredibly meaningful” and was also his entrance to the UMFA as an Assistant Curator of Japanese Art.

The idea of setting yourself up for success long-term was a highlight of our conversation. Having lofty career goals is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not the only way to build a fulfilling career. Becoming the Director of the UMFA and owning a gallery was not what David had in mind when he started as an Assistant Curator, it was a role he grew into.

He told me that “most people’s leadership abilities emerge during the course of doing their work.”

Put this into practice in your work life by cultivating your passion and becoming comfortable with being a leader in an area you might be an expert in. The skills that you develop you will then be able to take to future opportunities.

COIVD-19 has been devastating for the arts, so one topic I made sure to touch on was how I could do my part to help my local art community. A lot of college students like me might not have a lot of disposable-income or the space to start an art collection. This shouldn’t be a barrier for people like us to become more involved. Museums and other non-profit arts organizations depend heavily on foot-traffic for funding so by just showing up you are doing your part!

In addition to showing up, David pointed out to me that his and many other local galleries offer works on paper or prints that are much more accessible to a student. Being around art is an enriching experience whether you are building your career around it, collecting it, or just enjoying it.

To summarize this article here are some core takeaways from my conversation with David:

  • Specialize on a specific niche of your field that you are really passionate about
  • Search for leadership opportunities and realize that by gaining experience you will naturally be more prepared for future opportunities
  • One of the best and easiest ways to support your local art community is by showing up

Join us for the second of two Arts Watch events on March 26 from 2-3P on @uofufinearts’s Instagram! RSVP here.