Today we’d like to introduce you to Eric Dallimore.
Eric, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
At the outset of my career, I definitely would have defined myself as a visual artist, but now I float somewhere between being an Artistic Director/Community Activist + Visual Artist. This whole, magnificent endeavor started with an insatiable curiosity for exploring my concepts in creativity and how I uniquely see the world… I have a wildly active imagination that wanted to dream up new worlds, new forms, new concepts, bold ways of expressing those ideas, and the powerful messages that could lie within. When it came time to decide on a career path, I allowed that curiosity and drive to lead me to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the prestigious Louisiana State University School of Art & Design. Upon leaving University, I unexpectedly ended up moving to Colorado in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina ravaged my hometown of New Orleans. I quickly became involved in the vibrant, blossoming art community and somewhere along the line, I decided to make Denver my home. Six short years later, a major development changed my life forever.
In August 2011, I opened Leon Gallery with two dear friends (Lindsay McWilliams + Matthew Buford) as a way to help creative individuals express their most bold ideas. As I worked with and exhibited in traditional galleries and museums from 2005-2011, I noticed something that didn’t seem to make sense regarding art exhibitions and creativity. There were a lot of rules, regulations, sales considerations, hurdles and blockages to these remarkable creative individuals’ ideas. In response to this, I decided to open my gallery, a space that would be open and supportive of these incredible and wild ideas that artists were having. We opened Leon as a space that said yes to the difficult project, to putting in the extra effort and extra hours for an artist’s most dreamy ideas to come into existence.
Leon has gone through a few minor and major shifts, especially in Fall 2014 when my founding partners, Matt Buford and Lindsay McWilliams went on to pursue new interests. In the Spring of 2014, Eric Nord joined me as a co-owner. After operating as a for-profit commercial gallery for seven years, Eric Nord and I reimagined Leon as a non-profit arts center to better serve our artists and our community. By freeing the organization of the normal economic constraints of for-profit galleries, chiefly art sales, we are constructing a new model that provides a more flexible environment allowing the gallery to innovate and explore greater artistic risks. Under this new model, Eric Nord serves as our Executive Director and I serve as the Artistic Director. Our board currently includes an incredible team who are making major shifts possible Michael Dowling, Katie Kruger, Camille Shortridge, Noah Larsen, and Alyssa Mora. I am immensely grateful to them and to every ally, friend, supporter, and collaborator who has helped us along the way…far too many to mention.
For the last eight years, Leon has been a champion for not only emerging and mid-career artists, but also outliers, visionaries, philosophers, writers, critical thinkers, and space for counter-culture to exist in general. We pride ourselves in going beyond the white cube gallery space; Leon is a cultural center where creativity is nurtured, activism is encouraged, the community is celebrated, and critical thought is at our core. We believe that the artist is the most important person in the room, that outliers will change the world, that the art market must be challenged, that artists must challenge themselves, and that our audience deserves more from art institutions.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Of course, it hasn’t been a smooth road, what in life is? If things were smooth and easy, then how would we grow and become better at what we do? Art is amazing because it’s an unanswerable question, a constant debate, and an endless challenge. We as artists are philosophers who use physical means to convey the poetry of what we see and think. We represent our ideas through visual forms and we spend countless hours debating, doubting, confronting, and questioning ourselves, our representations, and our creations. The way my personality works, I would become very bored if I figured out some formula or had an easy ride to success. I love challenges and readily face them with dignity and poise, so I suppose I chose the right career to be in.
I’ve had a lot of struggles along the way, a few may be unique to who I am, but most of them would fall into the category of ‘welcome to the art world’. As both a gallery owner and a creative, sustaining a career in the arts can be incredibly difficult… Unfortunately, our society doesn’t value the important role that the arts play in creating a healthy and vibrant world. That won’t stop me, nothing has yet.
Something that I rarely share with anyone is the fact that my business partner and our executive director, Eric Nord, and I have been running Leon without a single paycheck for the last eight years. How many people would work as hard as we do at a business for this long and do so, not only for free, but in the first seven years often investing our own money to pay for rent, art exhibitions, and artist stipends? The truth is that I am currently working four part-time side hustles to be able to operate Leon. So, yeah, I am working about 80 hours a week in order to earn an income, since the gallery isn’t quite there yet. Things are looking up now though. As a non-profit, we are beginning to fulfill our mission to help the arts prosper through support from our collectors, applying for grants, and the generous donations from our community. This will still take a tremendous amount of effort, but it’s the kind of work that I enjoy and am ready to utilize to benefit the gallery, our artists, and our community.
Please tell us about your organization.
Leon is an innovative gallery that intentionally challenges limitations. We provide an environment for artistic exploration that is free from the market pressures and economic constraints of commercial galleries. We challenge our artists, our audience, and the art market.
Leon is both a non-profit gallery and creative space dedicated to mentoring emerging artists across multiple disciplines. We aim to nurture and promote each artist, assist them in the development of their practice, and connect them with greater and more ambitious career opportunities. We provide our local community with a welcoming environment in which they can explore and discover the artistry of creative individuals from Denver, and beyond.
As tastemakers, trailblazers, and trendsetters in the arts, Leon has enjoyed an impressive amount of success as one of the most celebrated galleries within the contemporary art scene in Denver. We envision a new model for the art gallery, one that will allow us to continue to benefit the artists we present as well as the community that we serve. By freeing the organization of the normal economic constraints of for-profit galleries, chiefly art sales, we are constructing a new model that provides a more flexible environment allowing the gallery to innovate and explore greater artistic risks.
What’s your favorite memory from childhood?
I had a very rich and amazing childhood, so it would be nearly impossible to say that I had a favorite memory. From climbing giant oak trees in City Park in New Orleans, to fishing in the Bogue Chitto, Atchafalaya, and Tchefuncte rivers (and of course the banks of Lake Ponchartrain), or putting on carnivals with my neighborhood friends for our neighbors and families, I got to enjoy a very free and happy childhood. I really couldn’t have asked for a better upbringing. Sure, we had our struggles, but in the end, my parents were always such a wonderful guiding force in this world. I also had the most amazing siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents to provide me with so much support and love. We were always really there for each other.
That being said, I suppose my bicycle was the one thing that really provided me with a sense of freedom and adventure. I used to speed through my neighborhood pretending that I was in the F-14 Tomcat from Top Gun, yellow Walkman blaring the soundtrack through my ears. With my brother Ian and my best friend Craighten Attaway by my side, we formed this little posse that would embolden each other to push the boundaries of how far we could go, how fast we could ride, and how big of a wheelie we could pop. Being on our bike was the most freeing experience, there weren’t rules to hold us back and we sneakily knew that once we went down the block, our parents would have no idea where we were, so we would begin to explore further and further away from home. There wasn’t anything we couldn’t do or anyplace in New Orleans we couldn’t go on those bikes. It was a total early 90’s childhood, bmx bikes, going to the arcade at the mall every day, swimming in our friend’s pools, playing baseball, renting Nintendo games and movies from Family Video, pitching a tent in our backyard every weekend and setting up the tiny black and white T.V. to play the latest games, all while eating god awful amounts of candy. The only way we were able to pull off such luxurious childhood extravagance was by creating a little lawn mowing company for ourselves and cutting our neighbors lawn for $20. We really did live like kings.
My friendship with Craighten meant the world to me. From the day we met, we were two inseparable forces all through our childhood. Craighten even left his amazing private school to go to a pretty ratty public school with me during junior high. Unfortunately, we lost Craighten in 2011 due to suicide. I’m not exactly sure why, but I know that life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina took a great toll on my friend. I have grieved for many years to have lost my dearest companion so tragically. Finally, in 2016 I was able to honor his memory, and our friendship through an installation I created at the McNichols Building with Arts & Venues Denver. The piece was titled Quantifiable Freedom and was constructed from those memories of our childhood on bikes together. It included a brick structure to represent the neighborhoods we grew up in around New Orleans with an upside down suspended fighter pilot helmet above to represent the classic scene of Goose and Maverick flipping off the Soviet MiG 28. Craighten and I were sort of outcasts and so we always banded together to say ‘screw em’ to the world around us that always told us to grow up, be cooler, and quit playing. Maybe that’s why Craighten decided to take his own life. Maybe he quit playing and finally decided to grow up and the stress of life overtook his joy. The final moment of the installation was a yellow Walkman with the Top Gun soundtrack inside, so that viewers could put on the headphones to listen to the sweet sounds of Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone”. This was a very important piece for me, one of the most personal works I have ever imagined. It wasn’t for anyone else, but it was my way, as an artist, to cope and honor such a tragedy. What’s interesting is that I have yet to speak with Craighten’s parents, Duane and Rick Attaway. I hope they know how dear to me their son was. I still don’t know what to say to Mrs. Duane and Mr. Rick, the pain is almost too unbearable to look them in the eye. Maybe I already said what I needed to with Quantifiable Freedom.
- Address: 1112 East 17th Avenue
Denver, CO 80218
- Website: www.leongallery.org
- Phone: 303-832-1599
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Credit for photo of Eric: Kody Kohlman – VOCA Films
Image Credit for photo of “Untited 6209” (wave sculpture): Eric Dallimore
Image Credit for photo of “This Land Over Time” (canopy structure): Kody Kohlman – VOCA Films
Image Credit for photo of “Baroque Selfies by Matt Harris” at Leon: Amanda Tipton