The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


The Ultimate Art Dealer: Nancy Whitenack

photo courtesy of Conduit Gallery
Conduit Gallery owner, Nancy Whitenack

Conduit Gallery owner, Nancy Whitenack (photo courtesy of Conduit Gallery)

Whitenack: A conduitto art

At a quarter past six p.m., curious collectors steadily began to venture into the spacious yet warm gallery for a chance to scope out the new works. The pounding rain and forceful winds urged the gallery’s visitors hastily indoors to a show new and first-time guests would enjoy. Bringing his squeaking Sperrys and umbrella shaking to a halt, a potential buyer whispers to his wife, “Ready to buy some art, Honey?”

Located in the Dallas Design District, the contemporary Conduit Gallery celebrated its third art opening of 2012 on March 31. “There’s always a great turnout at Conduit because the environment is not pretentious but casual and relaxed,” said Conduit Gallery’s event bartender, Ashley Moore. Conduit Gallery Director Nancy Whitenack emerges from her office once 6:30 rolls around-approximately at the time when collectors start engaging in the social part of the evening (in addition to the occasional purchase). Dressed in a powerful black ensemble, Whitenack stands out among the crowd. Using her geniality and radiant smile, Whitenack approaches a pair of amateur buyers as if they were family. Sipping on Chardonnay while meandering around the artwork, visitors get an elegant taste of the masterpiece of a gallery Nancy has crafted. It is no wonder that Conduit Gallery has survived successfully since 1984.

Whitenack: A conduitto education

As Whitenack strolls across her gallery dressed in her chic attire of Ray-Ban glasses and rustic bangles, her aura alludes that she was born for an art-dealing career. However, Whitenack established her career in art dealing with no formal training. Whitenack graduated from Baylor University with a bachelor of arts in education and worked as a Dallas Independent School District teacher for 13 years before embarking on her gallery project. Originally from Plainview, Texas, she had no background in art, but she began taking on arts-related projects outside of the classroom. For her first project, she and six others founded the Talented and Gifted Program for the Dallas Independent School District. The program emphasized the need for visual and performing arts in an academic curriculum. Whitenack argued, “I believe this is the way education should be taught.” The program trained teachers in peripheral schools to create better imaginative and expressive learning environments for students “Artists are problem solvers. They grow up to think creatively and are good hirers,” Whitenack passionately explained. “Artists of any kind adapt to all sorts of situations. There really is great value and purpose in an M.F.A.”    

Whitenack’s fervent respect for the arts led her to Conduit Gallery’s establishment. Realizing that she was “fried out” and needing to change the pace of her life, she and her ex-husband found a space in downtown Dallas’s Deep Ellum and launched the first Conduit Gallery in 1984. “I hadn’t worked in a gallery until I owned one,” Whitenack admitted. Starting out as an amateur, Whitenack initially worked with many interior designers. “It takes a while for collectors to jump in,” she said.

One persistent collector has been with Whitenack since Conduit’s break into the field. Nancy Rome has known Nancy Whitenack for more than 25 years due to her career in commercial interior design, but mostly because she is a contemporary art fanatic. “Nancy has amazing and wonderful curatorial skills,” said Rome. Of all the art Rome collects, 99 percent of it is modern and contemporary and from Whitenack’s emerging artists.

Whitenack: a conduitto the Dallas Design District

With support from Rome, Whitenack decided she once again needed transformation. “In 2001 things were rough. I needed a radical change, and now here I am in the Dallas Design District,” Whitenack said. Because of the move, she gained the spatial resources to present three artists concurrently. Whitenack noted, “Showing three artists creates a simpatico relationship for the works and gallery as a whole. Other galleries have followed my lead.”

Rome praises Conduit Gallery’s layout. “Every collector can see something resonate with three artists presented at a time.” The multiple exhibition rooms allow Whitenack to practice what she does best-curate and work with artists. “I give and take from an artist,” Whitenack said. “I put a lot of thought into it.”

Once Conduit Gallery was established in the Dallas Design District among its furniture stores and chic restaurants, Whitenack tackled yet another innovation. She became one of the founders of the Contemporary Art Dealers of Dallas. “Dallas had DADA (Dallas Art Dealers Association), but needed an organization pertaining only to contemporary galleries,” Whitenack said. She hosts various salons and round table discussions, which strengthens the credibility of Conduit Gallery and Whitenack as an art dealer.

Whitenack: a conduitto culture

As someone who started a business from scratch more than 28 years ago, Whitenack sets an example for any entrepreneur, including her son.

 Matthew Whitenack, 26, has followed his mother’s artistic path. He is currently living in New York, and in the process of creating an installation in his Brooklyn apartment. “I have been around art my entire life. I’m sure that the impulse to create artwork stems from my familiarity with it,” Matthew said.         

Whitenack’s artistic diligence has had a similar affect on her assistant at Conduit Gallery, Danette Dufihlo. Working for Whitenack at Condui
t for 10 well-spent years, Dufihlo said, “I am constantly learning with Nancy. Under her, we have remained consistent in the work we have shown.” Dufihlo was beside Nancy when the recession hit and Conduit became susceptible to the economy. “The gallery was so quiet. Not only were we seeing fewer collectors, but people weren’t coming in to simply visit,” Dufihlo said. Nonetheless, with any other profitable business, Conduit Gallery has retained a loyal clientele from longstanding relationships with artists. Whitenack strongly believes that Conduit is currently in a “hot” period that’s attracting recognizable enthusiasm. Her utmost intention for the gallery was to create an artistic institution that would be a “conduit” to society. Since 1984, her Gallery has infiltrated, as Whitenack proudly describes, “…extreme energy and arts into the community, as a gallery ought to.

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