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Heaven Gallery: An Interview with David Dobie by Heejin Jinny Koo

Heaven Gallery turns 11 group show, July 22 (image credit: Heejin Jinny Koo)

Note: The following is an interview by guest writer Heejin Jinny Koo for Sixty Inches From Center.

Heaven Gallery has recently celebrated its 11th birthday on Friday, July 22nd. The gallery was filled with sculptures, drawings, paintings and photographs and, constant musical performances added to the mood of celebration. This is a typical scene at Heaven Gallery. It is well known for a wide range of showcases; art exhibitions, film screenings, fashion shows and more. David Dobie is the man responsible for bringing and combining different art genres into this simple white wall and hardwood floor space for 11 years. I sat down with David to talk about the history of Heaven Gallery and its future goals.

Jinny Koo: How did Heaven Gallery get started?

David Dobie: I rented the loft over there at Flat Iron Building in 1997. That’s kind of an artist community, lots of studio and galleries. I was living there and so, it was shame to have this big loft and not use it , not do something in there. Every month, they had open studios. Hundreds of thousands people were coming through and issuing past through our door. So, with my roommate at that time, we decided to start showing art to our friends. Also, we were having parties. After a while, I decided to move here because they were raising rent over there. I have a great landlord who owns a furniture shop downstairs. He supports the arts. He pretty much let us do whatever we do within reason.

That’s how I started doing that. I kind of fell into it. There wasn’t a plan. I started doing it before I knew how to do it. I was learning as I go.

David Dobie. (image credit: Joselito Tagarao)

JK: What draws people into Heaven Gallery?

DD: I think people are attracted by its open white wall and hardwood floors. People are always struck by that, They are like ‘Wow… it’s such a great place’.’ We also try to be open and be inviting to people. We don’t turn people away. Art events are always donations. If someone doesn’t have money or doesn’t want to pay, we let them in. We don’t give them a hard time.

It’s a great neighborhood. We can just open our door and put a sign up and get an audience. Plus we are open to showing artists, students to get their foot in the door. Get them started.

JK: How do you choose which artists to show?

DD: Without going into details, lot of artists come to us. We have an open submission policy. People can propose a show or group show. We have lots of outside curators. People have a group of artists and are ready to go. Sometimes, we find a curator and ask them to do a show.

JK: Art exhibitions aren’t the only showcases going on here. There are music performances, fashion shows and film screenings…

DD: Yes. When I moved out of Flat Iron Building, I wanted to find a place that I can do an art show with music. I wanted to create a multi-disciplinary art space. The video component came in when I partnered with Doug Lussenhop and he is a filmmaker. He started programming video and film screening. And that kind of put us on the map right away. We got lots of press on that. We started doing other film festivals like independent exposures. We started adding other program. People will come to us and propose things. We have the space, the facility with chairs to do other types of performance, fashion show etc.

wd at Logan and Alvaro's opening, 2008. (image credit: Oscar Arriola)

JK: How often do you have art exhibitions?

DD: At first, we were doing two art shows a month. We are overwhelmed with submissions.. And so, we would squeeze in an art show in between, one show after the others. Now, we are planning to do an art show every month. We started doing a jazz series every Saturday called Protest. We started that five years ago. So, on top of an art show every month, at least one or two other shows are happening.

JK: Are there particular events you rememember?

DD: Yes, there are some that occasionally have a show which makes it all worthwhile. Lots of the Protest, Saturday series, I feel that way about. Last couple of art shows, with Curator Easton Miller, Prelapse.

JK: I’m interested in talking about you for a while. Did you have an art background?

DD: Nope. I don’t have any formal training. I didn’t go to an art school and I’m not an artist myself. I got a degree in Engineering and English literature. I’m just a fan of the art.

JK: What do you do outside the gallery?

DD: Even though, it seems like we do a lot of shows here, I still have a full time job. I still have time to have social life and take care of my dog.

Prelapse (image courtesy of Heaven Gallery)

JK: We do have lot of help. Lot of volunteers and artists do shows here and put great work in. Not only to the show but into the space. One of the artists wanted a track lighting so the artist installed it.

For me, the gallery is kind of a part time hobby. We have been doing it for 11 years but we are still figuring it out. I am still learning.

JK: What are the future goals for the gallery?

DD: One of the goals is to make it self-sufficient. We have recently hired a grant writer to help us in that area. We do live here, there’s a bedroom still. It used to be four people living here, but gradually moving people out. Turning bedrooms into studio spaces. We have studio in the back where Alma does fashion designs. Have a sewing studio back there. And this room, we just turned it into an office.

We would like to eventually run the gallery as a business.

JK: What are the advices for artists at this economy downturn?

DD: It is definitely good idea to have a definite plan. Figure out exactly before you start anything. I’m not saying that you cannot just dive right into a career. Because it’s basically what I’ve done all my life and I got this far. But, if you really want to be successful at anything, you need to be very specific and say, “I want to be an artist and make a living at it and I want that to be a career.”

Learn more about Heaven Gallery by visiting them online at

Note: This is an interview by guest writer Heejin Jinny Koo for Sixty Inches From Center. Learn more about Heejin Jinny Koo by visiting her website at

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