Mary Ann Doran, owner of M.A. Doran Gallery in Brookside
Gallery owner Mary Ann Doran has long been one of the most respected names in the Tulsa art world, but it was only recently that I was fortunate enough to meet her in person. After speaking with her at the M.A. Doran Gallery, I understand why TulsaPeople readers chose her as their favorite gallery owner in the 2012 A-List.
Doran graduated from the University at Buffalo with a liberal arts degree and moved to Tulsa from Boston in 1976 with her now ex-husband.
In October 1979, Doran opened her gallery at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.
“All my friends were artists and needed help promoting their work,” she says.
Her first exhibition included work by local photographers and American West photographer Ansel Adams.
“We had a great response,” she says. “A funny story is that I called Adams’ studio for permission to print or create a poster using his photograph, and he answered the phone himself. I invited him to the show, but he couldn’t make it.”
Next, she started doing 10 shows a year featuring local artists such as Kreg Kallenberger, a glass sculptor and oil painter, and photorealist Otto Duecker, who are now shown nationally as well as at Philbrook Museum of Art.
Doran originally wanted to be a literature teacher, but she changed her mind in 1981 while attending a class at The University of Tulsa taught by Germaine Greer, who founded the journal Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and had just published a book about women painters called “The Obstacle Course.”
“That was the turning point,” Doran says. “ ... I realized I was much more excited about working with artists and making an art show happen.”
In 1988, M.A. Doran Gallery moved to Brookside to take advantage of the area’s traffic and visibility.
“We have a strong following for contemporary realism and abstract work,” Doran says.
Doran’s business partner, Sheila Golden, started out part time at the PAC location and committed to the gallery full time when it moved to Brookside.
Golden says that in a smaller city like Tulsa, introducing new artists to the scene is vital because the gallery relies on building collections for people and repeat business, whereas in cities like Santa Fe, more people buy art on impulse.
The gallery has always focused on finding quality art with a diverse range of subjects and styles.
“Mary Ann found 95 percent of new talent, and the past couple of years, Katie Orth, gallery director, and I have helped to find new people,” Golden says.
That means reviewing hundreds of artists’ submissions a year, many of which arrive via e-mail.
“The Internet has changed the way we do business,” Doran says. “It’s great, but people still want to come see the work.”
As a result, Doran often befriends collectors.
“It’s embarrassing when I know collectors by the art they’ve purchased before I remember their name,” she says.
How does Doran balance the art world with a social life?
“I try to keep a balance, but I tend to work a lot,” she says.
Doran’s hobbies include photography, yoga and scuba diving. She is also passionate about giving back to the community, supporting Family and Children’s Services’ Women in Recovery program and Tulsa International Airport’s cultural advisory committee.
One of the difficulties gallery owners face is educating people about art and keeping them interested. One way Doran addresses this issue is by hosting gallery tours for Tulsa area students to foster their interest in art, she says.
Doran also juries entries for the Simon and Rita Levit Prizes for Excellence in the Arts, recognizing students in Tulsa Public Schools.