A trip to Africa in 1976 set Lloyd Gite on the road to owning an art gallery. At the time, Gite had just finished his undergrad studies in journalism and was about to start a grad program, so becoming an art gallery owner wasn't part of Gite's plan.
"I went to Africa and I immediately fell in love with what I saw," Gite says. "I started to bring back art for myself. Friends saw what I was bringing back and they liked it and asked me to bring paintings for them. Over the years the paintings sold so well, that started paying for my trips.
"I knew about a year before I left the television that I was probably eventually going to get fired. They had brought in new management. My last day of my job, I got on a plane to Africa and never looked back." He opened the Gite Gallery soon afterward.
The Gite Gallery is different from other galleries in town on two fronts: focus and setting. "We're the only gallery in the city of Houston that sells exclusively art from Africa. There are some galleries that sell African-American art or African artifact and statues, but none that sell [contemporary] African paintings."
Also, the gallery isn't an open space with artwork hanging on white walls; it's rather like a well appointed home. "I bought a house that was built in 1943 and I put furniture in each room. Each room has a different color. So the art isn't on display like in a museum; it's exactly like it would be in your home."
What He Does: "I'm the principal buyer for the gallery. Everything we sell, I've bought. We mostly deal with art from [sub-Saharan art]. I'm not a curator; that's more of a museum term."
Why He Likes It: "I love the traveling, that's number one. I love working with artists to take them in new directions. And every time that I go to Africa I find new artists. That's always wonderful. I just found a wonderful woman artist on my last trip. There aren't many women artists in Africa; it's definitely a man's world there so finding her was a thrill.
"I love helping people who don't know anything about art to find something they like. I have some clients who throw up their hands and say, 'Can you just come to my house and tell me what to put up?' And I do. I've helped clients with some design work. Not just to pick out the art but decide on the placement of the furniture, the colors for the wall. I'm having the time of my life!"
What Inspires Him: "I respond to color. I think most people do. A lot of work that's coming out of Africa is very vibrant and colorful. When I'm looking at art, sometimes something goes off inside me. It's just 'pow!' There's no way to explain that. Sometimes a painting just speaks to you. I have a great eye and I've learned to trust myself about my opinion.
"Also, I know that a lot of the artists that I work with don't have a lot of money. My selling their paintings is huge for them in terms of income."
If Not This, Then What: "I've had my two dream jobs. I've been a television reporter and now I'm an art gallery owner. I can't think of anything else that I'd want to be. I don't underestimate that this is exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. "
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If Not Here, Then Where: "I think I'd like to live in Atlanta or maybe in Florida. Both of those have great art scenes. I wouldn't want to go to New York. It's too expensive to live there if you want to live comfortably."
What's Next: "I'm looking at some possible sites for a second gallery in Dallas. And I've started going on more trips to Africa recently. I want to expand my stable of artists, find some new artists, work with the ones I have. I want to continue to design. I want to help people find African art, to see that's it's more than masks or cloth or statues.There's one thing about being an art gallery owner, there's always lots to do."
More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Henry Yau, The Children's Museum of Houston's publicity and promotions guru Angeli Pidcock, fantasy writer and mentor Jennifer Mathieu, author Scott Chitwood, writer Anat Ronen, urban artist Amber Galloway Gallego, rockstar and sign language interpreter Michael Weems, playwright Lane Montoya, artist Jordan Simpson, SLAM poet Joey & Jaime, designers Suzi Taylor, photographer Ashton Miyako, dressmaker T. Smith, artistLindsay Finnen, photographer Kaitlyn Stanley, tattoo artist Eleazar Galindo Navarro, video game maker Kate de Para, textile and clothing designer Shawn Swanner, video game painter Andy Gonzales, painter Chris Foreman, comic book sketcher Theresa DiMenno, photographer Jessica E. Jones, opera singer Atseko Factor, actor John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer