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Meet Dominique Clayton of Dominique Gallery in West Adams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dominique Clayton.

Dominique, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It started ten years ago when I met my husband. He’s an artist and as I fell in love with him, I saw myself falling in love with what it means to live among art. I had worked in the film and performing arts industry for years and grew up in a very creative household, but there was something quite different about seeing and living with someone tirelessly trying to create. I started helping my husband organize his studio practice and realized I was actually good at it and enjoyed it. I soon realized that I could probably do this for other people the seeds were then planted for visual arts management.

I will say that I was already groomed for the job because my previous career in film and television production introduced me to a world of chaos at a young age. I was well versed in managing difficult people, last minute changes, conflicting creative direction, and all the other nuances of production life. From working at major motion picture studios and film festivals to reading scripts and assisting directors and producers like Lee Daniels, I literally did it all. Then I transitioned into working in live performing arts which had similar challenges and rewards all the while priming me for expert artist management.

The idea of becoming a gallerist is a mix of wanting independence but also not having options and also trying provide opportunities for others. When I changed careers and tried to break into the “art world” I was shocked at how limited my options where despite having so many transferable skills and connections. So after my attempts to find work in the biz failed, the only choice I had was to create my own job, which is how Dominique Gallery was born.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It was been full of bumps and bruises the whole way through. My husband and I have moved around quite a bit and had three babies back to back. So time and stability has not been on our side. However, I do believe in the old saying “where there’s a will there’s a way”. When I found the place that eventually became the gallery, I had just found out I was pregnant with our third child. My other two children were 1 and 3 years old at the time. It was utter chaos. I still can’t believe I was crazy enough to think that I could work, take care of toddlers, and build a start-up art business at the time, but somehow I did. My husband of course is the glue that holds us all together so I give him the credit for that but the biggest struggle was the support, the financing, and the confidence. Emerging Black artists and Black galleries weren’t widely known in LA 5 years ago so trying to explain to people what I was trying to do was difficult.

My family didn’t really get it. And although I had spent years living in New York where I was part of a thriving arts community, I didn’t have the same community when I returned home to LA. I was a wife and mom with two babies and another on the way. The first version of my gallery had a different name and different concept and was not successful at all. I was eight months pregnant when it opened, and after that first show and having the baby I didn’t go back in for months. I was depressed and unsure of my next move, but little by little, I started to pull it together, build my community and started venturing back out. When my baby was a couple of months old, I enrolled in a master’s degree program, gained some valuable insights, and went back to the drawing board.

Please tell us about Dominique Gallery.
Dominique Gallery is a gallery, studio, and advisory focusing on emerging artists of color and women.

The gallery is located in a storefront and online is shifting to more artist and curator led initiatives to highlight a wider range of talent.

The studio component is a new offering we plan to roll out soon through partner funding to support artists who need affordable space. This will be in the form of rotating studio residencies that artists can apply for.

The advisory is another branch of the gallery that provides art advisory and consulting services to collectors and organizations looking to build collections or work with artists for special programs.

I’m most proud of the fact that I am a Black woman, mother of three daughters who started this business from scratch out of necessity. It’s not perfect, but it serves as an example to my children and to others out there that you can turn your vision into something real. What sets me apart from others is how I operate. I don’t have a huge roster of artists. I don’t have traditional business hours or a traditional program. I do what feels right and what feels manageable. I do what feels right for the artists as well. Young artists of color need nurturing in a way that other galleries may not be able to provide so I want to be that for them. Sometimes it isn’t always about money. It’s about trust and understanding and being seen and heard.

I have other jobs and other roles I serve in and I eventually want to incorporate other team members into this business so they can get their feet wet running a business and working with artists just like I wanted to years ago.

What were you like growing up?
I was a sassy, smart, and bossy. I was the baby in my family, so essentially spoiled and pampered but very much loved. I had a wild imagination and I would play with my dolls for hours making up the most elaborate stories and alternative worlds.

I was also very much into reading and writing and watching movies. I watched lots of old films which is probably why I got into film making and writing before transitioning into art.

I also went to Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood, and I’m still very close to all my friends from there to this day. Needless to say, we were part of the wild bunch. Very fun-loving, creative, stylish, charismatic, sensitive, dramatic, and dark sense of humor.

I loved vintage clothing, old Hollywood glam, Diana Ross obsession (still obsessed, lol), analog photoshoots, unnatural hair and nail colors (before they were popular), and I also hated pants (except bell bottoms). I guess you could say I was an alternative/bohemian/vintage/nerdy/artsy/girlie Black chick still pretty much am.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Texas Isaiah (for personal headshot photo)

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