In Memoriam | Visual Arts

Dolores Chase: 1936 – 2023

A young Dolores Chase

A gallerist who helped build Salt Lake City’s thriving art scene, Dolores Chase died on April 18, 2023. As her obituary states, Chase was “passionate about poetry, the visual arts, roses, the ocean, and politics.”

Chase, who grew up in Berkeley, spent three years in Europe before completing a master’s degree in art history at Eastern Michigan University. She taught art history at BYU and completed a masters in art administration at the University of Utah.

She began her gallery business in 1984, working by appointment out of her condominium at Wasatch Towers (1283 E. South Temple). In 1986 she opened her first physical space on Pierpont Ave, the long row of two-story brick warehouses that served as an arts hub for Salt Lake City in the 1980s and ’90s. “I thought I wanted to manage a ballet company or a symphony orchestra, but decided that an art consulting and representing career was much more to my liking after a year of travel and talking to art dealers,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune  (19 Oct 1986, p. 95).

Chase represented (and in some cases launched) many well-known Utah artists, including  Wulf Barsch, Lee Deffebach, Edie Roberson, Brian Kershisnik, Ron Richmond,Ted Wassmer, Pilar Pobil, Neil Hadlock, Hagen Haltern, Nel Ivancich, Layne Meacham, Linda Etherington, James Christensen and Bruce Smith. Her tastes were eclectic and works of fantasy or figuration regularly hung alongside riots of color and form.

The Dolores Chase Gallery at 2nd West as it appeared in the pages of The Salt Lake Tribune, 1990.

In early 1990 she moved the gallery to a new space at 260 South 200 West, just south of what was then the block’s dominant landmark, Sweet Candy Co.. Designed by Magda Jakovcev-Ulrich, the gallery featured long diagonal walls that split the space into multiple side galleries, including the “Petite Gallery,” “Peek Through Gallery,” “Central Gallery,” and “Print and Photography Gallery.” She called the move “pioneering the westward extension of Pierpont Avenue,” and it was true that for many years the place served as a nucleus for Salt Lake City’s Gallery Stroll.

With Phillips Gallery, David Ericson Fine Art and others, Chase was one of the founding members of  the Utah Art Dealers Association, a for-profit gallery association organized to compete against what they saw as the unfair practices of the nonprofit Salt Lake Art Center. UADA morphed into the Salt Lake Gallery Association, which eventually sponsored Gallery Stroll.

Chase’s “westward expansion of Pierpont” included the creation of LeftBank Artists Co-op in 1992.  Since she told The Salt Lake Tribune that year that she had only made a profit one out of the past six years (the gallery, she said, took about $38,000 to run and sales were about $80,000 – half of which went to the artists), a new venture might have seemed incautious. One can imagine, however, the scores of young artists coming into the gallery every year, hoping to be represented. The new space, which required artists to pay dues of $135/year and sit the gallery three days a month, provided emerging artists an opportunity to show their work and gain control over their careers.

LeftBank was located in a former garage next to Dolores Chase Gallery, and their proximity to Pierpont and the state’s visual arts and museum offices in the Rio Grande building, meant for a time that one could actually stroll during Gallery Stroll.

Dolores Chase with husband Richard H. Haacke

Running a gallery has never been easy in Salt Lake City. “Sometimes I think people take the city’s art galleries for granted,” she told  Frank McEntire, then arts writer for The Tribune, in 1994. “They think we’ll always be here. They don’t see the hard work and money it takes to keep the lights on and the doors open”  (09 Oct 1994, p. 55). For close to two decades, however, Chase kept her doors open and was instrumental in keeping Salt Lake City’s art community thriving, supporting numerous artists. 

Chase began to minimize her gallery schedule in 1999, a time when she shared her space with David Ericson, who was in between gallery spaces. She closed her gallery in the summer of 2002, after a final show featuring the work of Edie Roberson, David Dornan, Brian Kershisnik and Layne Meacham. (Grossly overestimating our fledgling organization’s capacities, she contacted Artists of Utah shortly after, wondering if we couldn’t help store Meacham’s enormous paintings.) LeftBank “held on by its fingernails,” as Kent Rigby described it in a 15 Bytes article lamenting the continual disappearance of galleries in Utah, and soon transformed into the nonprofit New Visions, which closed two years later.  

Per Chase’s request there will be no public funeral, but donations to arts organization in her memory may be appropriate.


Categories: In Memoriam | Visual Arts

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2 replies »

  1. So sad to hear of her passing! She’s an inspiration to me. So grateful for her contributions to Utah art.

  2. I was sorry to hear of her passing! She was an unforgettable and untiring advocate for artists and their work. We were blessed to meet her and appreciated each visit in her gallery.

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