We had the good fortune of connecting with Dariya Bryant and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dariya, why did you pursue a creative career?
I’ve always had a hunger to be creative and share it with the world. Growing up in Ukraine and Russia, I remember putting on “concerts” for my family at age 4 and emceeing for myself, “And now…performing for you live…!”) My mother noticed this spark, entering me into various televised talent competitions, the first of which I won at age 5. I had fan mail, trophies, everything—funny thing is as a child, I didn’t even comprehend I had won until years later. She made sure we always had heaps of art supplies around the house, and I would draw, paint, sew and crochet to my heart’s delight. When we immigrated, I remember a whole new world of opportunities before me—I could be anything I wanted to, not just a salesclerk or a bookkeeper (the most common jobs women hold in Russia). So when it came time to elect my major, I chose studio arts. I remember people asking me, “Art Degree? What are you going to do with THAT?!” There were a lot of doubting voices, but luckily, I had one great role model—my mother, who from the very beginning told me, “Do what you are passionate about!” She herself has an incredible story: a self-made entrepreneur, born in a small village in Ukraine in a family of little means, who forged a highly successful and, at the time, unprecedented path for herself in the wellness and beauty industry. Her ambition and strength were key in instilling in me this same determination to go after my dreams and create a successful career in the arts despite many obstacles, rather than the easier and more conventional paths available to me. The reason I chose to be in a creative field was because I simply couldn’t do anything else and stay true to myself—I feel like I was put on this earth to help people appreciate art, and it is the most rewarding thing to know I’m a part of that journey for my clients, while also helping artists share their talents with the world.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I hope that my story inspires the young generation of women immigrants and all creative souls to know that anything is possible. If a girl born in the middle of nowhere, Ukraine, can go after one of the most coveted careers in the arts and succeed, anything is possible. With perseverance, patience, ambition, flexibility and hard work you can create a path for yourself. Creating a space for myself in the art world was a challenge—there were many detours, pay cuts, temp jobs, gigs, over 300 rejection letters (I counted at one point), tears, tough personalities and difficult conversations before I got on solid footing. What kept me going was having the love and support of my family and community and having a sense of purpose for myself with a hunger to fulfill that purpose.
Some of the biggest lessons I’ve learned were that when it comes to dreams, you have to play the long game. Your dream will not magically be given to you off the bat. You have to start out small and gradually build on, each day, week, year noting your progress. You must be flexible—give things a chance to develop, because you never know when an opportunity might lead you into an incredible direction. All the jobs we do and people we meet, in one way or another, prepare us for our ultimate life’s purpose. You won’t see it at the time, but later on it does become evident. People are everything—surround yourself with those who genuinely believe in you, ready to help and those you have the most fun with, and don’t forget to give the same back. Most importantly, be kind to yourself—you’ve got this!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Denver is truly a cultural mecca—the level of world-class art and fashion exhibitions, foodie joints, outdoor activities and Western flair is simply spectacular! When friends visit, I usually start by giving them a behind-the-scenes tour of the gallery I am the Director of, K Contemporary, in Lower Downtown, where we have three levels of unique exhibiting experiences: 1st level being the contemporary white-cube exhibition space, 2nd level being a more casual salon-style space centered around having stimulating conversations about art and culture and showcasing experiential projects by artists; and the bottom level—art and wine cellar, a sort of invitational experience where one can see the heart of the gallery and find one’s own hidden art treasures, while sipping wine in a more intimate setting. Next on the itinerary, lunch at Dos Santos—their margaritas and tuna tostadas are simply divine! Round the afternoon off with visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and popping into the handful of wonderful galleries off Wazee Street; topping off the walkabout with a little shopping spree at the Dairy Block. Dinner at Tavernetta in Union Station—I cannot say enough great things about their lamb ragu; and dance the night away at the Grizzly Rose for a little Western dance! Make a day of seeing the Denver Art Museum which always has fabulous art and fashion exhibits up, and at night see a play or a musical at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. The rest of the week, I would spend outdoors visiting places like Garden of the Gods, hiking in Aspen & Vail and finishing the trip off by getting a soak on at the Glenwood Springs Resort.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I love this question! It can be tough for people, and women especially, to own our own successes; we are programmed to be humble, work hard, keep our head down and often we forget to be kind to ourselves and recognize the efforts it took for us to achieve something. So I’d like to take a pause here and remind all of us, that it’s ok to take up space and be proud of the work we achieve. And certainly, as humans, we live in a society where everything is interconnected—those whom we choose to surround us, make us stronger, and we do the same in return for others. The shape of my success has been possible with the love and encouragement from many, many people along the way—dear friends cheering on and lifting me up; artists, museum and industry colleagues and bosses, who mentored and coached me along the way. Perhaps the most important shout-out goes to my family: my mother, Nataliya, who risked it all to give us a better life here in the States and encouraged me early on to be true to my passion for the arts; my younger sister, Sofiya, whose kindness, support and bold risk-taking as an expressive arts therapist and coach I continuously admire; my step-father, Mark, who has always loved and supported me as his own; and my loving husband, John, who stands by me through thick and thin, believes in me, encourages and supports me in my passion for helping the world through art. It is impossible to list every single person because I am incredibly grateful. To physically express this gratitude, one practice that I’ve made a conscious decision to adopt is “to pass it forward” to other emerging professionals, artists and creatives who are trying to make it in the arts. Each week, I try to meet with, help or send a note to someone who needs insight, advice or help on topics within my purview of art-world expertise. I never take for granted the chances I’ve been given and am always happy to share the wealth of knowledge (just reach out via Instagram or LinkedIn).
Jordan Spencer Douglas W. Kacena