In an article from Black Enterprise Wealth For Life, Cool Jobs: ‘Artrepreneur’ Uses Web to Expose World to Artists of Color, June 19, 2012, Demetria Irwin wrote in her post, “Najee Dorsey self-proclaimed artrepreneur and mixed media artist”. The business of art and being the artist — hmmm.
Lets see … a cross between an artist and an ‘artrepeneur’ — thats a fine line to walk. You’d have to choose between mental stability needed for the business side, and creative chaos needed to create art. You’d have to engage both sides of the brain, simultaneously, as you maneuver numbers and colors … or is it colors and numbers? Is this state of affairs mentally exhausting? Or is it exhilarating? Who is Najee Dorsey and how did he come to walk this line?
Lets start at the beginning.
Najee, the artist, said that he sold his first piece of art to his momma and then promptly went out and bought candy. I told Najee that selling your artwork to your momma counts but it doesn’t count in the real world. Seriously, how did you get started in the art scene? What was the first piece you sold and to whom?
Najee Dorsey, being from Arkansas, confesses to being a self-taught artist but in 1991, he did attend Memphis College of Art (which later became known, after he prematurely left, as Memphis Academy of Art). 1992-1993 is the year Najee sold his first piece of art, entitled, “Guidance In The Time of Ignorance”. Interestingly, it was an airbrush piece that went to his, now mentor and friend, Najjar Abdul-Musawwir.
He opened (with the help of his wife Seteria) a gallery / used-book store / coffee-shop in Blytheville, Arkansas summer of 2000. Najee used the space as a platform to launch his art career. But for some reason, in 2004, Najee felt compelled to run for City Council in Blytheville and lost. This turn of events was good for everybody. In 2005, Najee decided to focus on art (full-time). The result of this focus – his art is now featured in the “Visions of our 44th collection” at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, the African American Museum in Dallas and the Marietta Museum of Art in Florida. This was the beginning of Najee, the emerging artist.
And then there is … Najee, the ‘Artrepeneur’
Moving to Atlanta, Georgia, Najee realized success. The natural artist in him emerged. Four and half years later he understood how many doors were closed to the African-American arts community. Najee wanted to create an avenue of greater exposure for artist of color. Najee and his wife Seteria, also an artist, are collectors and patrons of the arts too. They have amassed a collection of over 200 pieces of art by various artists including but not limited to, Louis Delsarte, Faith Ringgold, Woodrow Nash, George Hunt, Najjar Abdul-Musawwir, Mason Archie, Mr. Imagination and little known but a favorite, Desande R. — all accomplished African American Contemporary Artists.
Najee, the Artrepeneur, saw a future for this under-valued, under-served arts market that had the potential of future appreciation. Being both artist and collector, Najee was in a favorable position to effect a solution. Canvassing his fellow collectors he realized they wanted to be exposed to the world of the black artist but lacked guidance. What was needed was a centralized place to profile the artist, see their work and collect future masters during their infancy stage. This lead to the creation of Black Art in America (BAIA) in 2010, the now leading global social network & resource for African-American visual artists, collectors, industry leaders, and arts enthusiasts. As of this writing, BAIA, has a reach of 500,000 people and is growing. With this success has come conflict — conflict, pleasure and pain. The pain is good, but it’s pain nonetheless. Think in terms of muscle burn — the pain you feel when you push your muscles beyond what they normally do. You feel the burn and that’s good. Najee is now in his muscle burn period. Blackartinamerica.com exists and is growing. People are joining hour by hour. The phone is ringing off the hook with people, possibilities and opportunities. This is good for Najee, the ‘Artrepeneur’.
Then there is … Najee Dorsey, the Artist.
You are leaving the emergence stage of your art career. Your style and technique have been defined and your art has taken on its own identity. Your work was even chosen to be featured in the all-black version of “Steel Magnolias”. Collectors are seeking you out and all you want to do is get back into the studio and create more work. The conflict comes from working both sides of the brains, left and right — simultaneously. The conflict is also in time and desire. You have the desire, but not enough time to meet the desire. You have to grow Black Art In America. You have to continue developing you, the artist. For Najee this is a pleasurable dilemma!
I asked Najee Dorsey, artist and artrepeneur, what was a typical day like for him? “Well”, he said, “I used to start my day with a cup of coffee, but now that I have moved up a notch in life, I start my day with a fresh perked cup of coffee”. I check Black Art In America and Facebook. Next, I make sure I check in with my team, sneak in a round of golf and then it’s off to the studio.
As we were finishing this profile and before Najee could perk his afternoon cup of coffee, he got a call from the Reese Witherspoon people. They asked to use some of his paintings in their new film, “The Devils Knot”. They were filming in Catersville, GA. So much for pain (to be continued) …
At the Columbus Museum from August 21, 2014 to January 4, 2015 you can see the Artwork of Najee Dorsey during his exhibition entitled “Leaving Mississippi – Reflections on Heroes and Folklore.”