David Kent has produced, directed, and curated more than 200 professional exhibitions, art shows, and theatrical productions, and written over 40 texts, catalogs, plays and films on a variety of subjects. He has served in artistic and management leadership positions in both the for profit and non-profit industries, works as a private secondary art market dealer, and has raised over 40 million dollars in private, corporate and foundation support for arts institutions and programming. He has been a small business owner and founder and partner in five entrepreneurial ventures since the 1984.
Kent studied for his M.F.A as a playwright and director at the Brandeis University Graduate School of Theatre and worked as a dramaturg with Sara Caldwell at the Boston Opera Company, Adrian Hall at Trinity Repertory Theatre in Providence, and the resident company of Boston’s Next Move Theatre. He became a V.P. of the National Dramaturgs and Literary Critics in the late 1980’s. During this same decade Kent established Folio Film Productions and wrote and toured the first NEA funded project created and performed by Disabled Artists.
Kent also spent a significant part of the 1980’s living and working in Los Angeles as a contract screen-writer for MGM/UA, after an article he wrote for Esquire went viral. From 1989-2001 he was the Producing Artistic Director of the Merrimack Repertory Theatre, a LORT D professional company in Lowell, Ma.
While at Merrimack, Kent directed and produced 14 world-premiere and 11 regional premieres of new work. Kent created a nurturing home for actors, writers, designers and directors and expanded the small theatre’s audience, income and donor base by over 300%. The Merrimack experience had a profound impact on Kent as an artist, business director and community advocate as he learned to simultaneously steward both artistic passion and the cultural forces behind economic revitalization.
In 2000, Kent founded Kent Gallery, a contemporary and international gallery in Key West, where he represented over 130 museum level, mid-career and emerging artists in all mediums. Over the next nine years the gallery became known for its rapid advancement of many artists and the innovative business and marketing models it used to target and build a deep base of collectors.
Kent’s focus as a gallery director and curator was creating access for new audiences and artistic voices. His belief in an art that “speaks to our times and to the place of its origination” drives the dialogue Kent creates around exhibitions and art making. In 2004 he created the annual juried Human Form Show and the Center of Attention, a non-profit incubator and residence for artists working “with a larger narrative of place.” In 2005 he began a four year documentary project The Profile Series, filming fourteen conversations on art and creativity with artists in a deliberate search for an “original source”.
"I am a creative and entrepreneurial catalyst that develops an artist’s original and embryonic concept(s) into a business.
My approach depends on expanding an artist's frame of reference into cross-functional strategies, which widens the understanding of an artist and their work, raises their visibility, and creates opportunities for targeted markets to engage, support and buy what the artist is putting out into the world.” - David Kent
Kent’s training in theatre had much influence on Kent Gallery's success in generating interaction and engagement with clients and laying the foundation for artist-driven initiatives and collaborations. Of key importance for all Kent’s exhibitions and business practices is the staging of the experience, from the design of the installation and message to the conceptualization of the catalog, the related programming, the focused and actionable blue-print, and the “performances” of the artworks themselves.
The bottom-up process of artistic creation, the artist's focus on particular tools and materials, the satisfying use of certain textures and shorthand, the evolution of narrative, and the larger, mission-driven purpose provide Kent with what he calls “remarkable roadmaps for marketing, targeting, planning, and tactics.”
Geographic location is itself an important factor in the development of Kent’s ideas, which respond to both time and place. He likes to focus on stories and narrative journeys from what he calls “previously undisclosed locations and communities” and has a record of critical firsts doing just this.
In the early-1990’s, Kent conceived and created the Lowell Trilogy of plays, innovative play-making and community wide collaborations that brought the area’s history and concerns to the stage. The first of the three plays, an adaptation of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, was set in turn of the century Lowell and explored the area’s historical conflict between industrialization and preservation. The Merrimack production was featured and as trend-setting by American Theatre Magazine, and credited as spearheading a new “green” and ecologically positioned wave of collaborative theatre works beginning to happen across the continent.
Next in the Lowell Trilogy, Kent worked for two years with Haing Ngor, the academy winning actor of the Killing Fields, on a stage adaptation of his memoirs recounting Ngor’s survival of the Khmer Rouge Holocaust. At the time, Lowell had one of the nation’s largest populations of Cambodian survivors. With playwright Jon Lipsky, Kent directed and produced Lipsky’s brilliant A Cambodian Odyssey in collaboration with members of Lowell Cambodian community, and professional Cambodian musicians, dancers, designers and performers brought into residence from across the global landscape. The production later moved and was featured at the Humana Festival in Louisville.
In 1995 Kent obtained the rights from Jack Kerouac’s heirs to work with Lipsky again on the adaptation of Kerouac’s novel Maggie Cassidy. Maggie’s Riff, by Lipsky explored the Franco-American roots of the many migrants who inhabited the Merrimack Valley and the productions jazz-infused adaptation of Kerouac’s book received international acclaim, touring numerous Fringe festivals around the globe for years.
Kent served on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory from 1987-1994 teaching theatre, writing, and cross-cultural aesthetics. He has been an invited lecturer and part-time instructor at UConn, Penn State, and Brandeis, and created and taught original curricular in the arts and the business of art at both the Florida Keys and Middlesex Community Colleges.
Today, in addition to Artist in the Room, Looking is Free, and Legacy Art Collections, Kent writes, teaches, and spends time researching and testing more topics and concepts related to Art as Application.