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Martin W. Schwartz
Damon and Douglass Freed work together in their studio in downtown Sedalia.
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Courtesy of Doug Freed
Midday Reflections by Doug Freed reveals the artist’s shift to more naturalistic work. The large oil-on-canvas painting evokes the serene setting of a quiet Missouri river.
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Courtesy of Damon Freed
Damon's Untitled #21 is an oil on canvas painting in the Fauvist style.
It’s not uncommon for a father and his son to create a family business that passes from one generation to the next. For Sedalia artists Douglass and Damon Freed, the family business is creating beauty.
The patriarch of this father and son team says he first felt his calling in elementary school. Doug Freed grew up in the small town of Ulysses, Kansas. When he started fourth grade in a brand-new school, he says he noticed the brand-new walls were covered by brand-new bulletin boards.
“Those bulletin boards terrified all the teachers,” says Doug. “They were about twelve feet by four feet, and none of the teachers wanted anything to do with them.”
Doug accepted the assignment of designing a Halloween-themed bulletin board using construction paper, glue, and thumbtacks. His artwork was such a hit that teachers immediately tapped him to design a Thanksgiving display. And Christmas. “I was able to select a group of other student artists and together we pretty much did all the bulletin boards from fourth through eighth grade,” Doug says. “At that point in time, everybody knew I was an artist, so I have never really looked at doing anything other than that.”
Doug followed high school with a Bachelor and Master of Fine Arts, both from Fort Hayes State University in Hays, Kansas. After graduation, he found his way to Sedalia, where he was destined to head up the art department at yet another new school: State Fair Community College. The college was so new, in fact, that Doug says when he first went out to tour the building, it was nothing more than a concrete slab.
Like Father, Like Son
Doug’s son Damon started his career in his father’s studio, where he says he and a cadre of friends used to spend their time creating. “That was my best education,” Damon says. After high school, Damon went to State Fair Community College before moving on to New York’s School of Visual Arts.
Upon returning to Sedalia, Damon followed in his father's footsteps, teaching at State Fair Community College and the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. His work has been exhibited throughout the state, most recently at Park University in Parkville and at Sager Braudis Gallery in Columbia.
Damon says that at the beginning of his career, he had to consciously work to separate his style from his father’s. Whereas Doug creates rich, chromatic landscape vistas, Damon says his use of color and mark making is out of the Fauvist tradition. “I use color and mark making in an expressive way,” he says. “The color is not decided upon from observation, but from an intuitive emotional standpoint.” The more introspective of the two, Damon is also a writer who recently completed an as yet unpublished book of poetry inspired by his paintings.
A New Museum
Around the time that Doug Freed’s career was just getting started, he met Harold F. Daum, who would become a lifelong friend and collaborator on one of the state’s premiere art museums.
As director of the art department at State Fair Community College, Doug was also curator of the college’s Goddard Gallery, which Doug helped establish in 1995. Utilizing Doug’s eye for art, Harold had begun amassing a large collection of valuable contemporary art.
“He came into my studio one day and said, ‘I think I’d like to give my collection to the college,’ ” Doug says.
Doug pointed out that Harold’s collection was far too valuable to be hung in the public spaces of the college. “I told him we were going to have to build a museum,” Doug says. “He gave me leeway to go out in the community and try to generate enough revenue to do something.”
After raising $800,000 in contributions, Doug says Harold was convinced there was enough support to proceed with the construction of a museum on the community college campus. In 2002, the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art opened, and Doug served as its director for the next eight years.
In all that time of educating, creating, and directing a museum and raising a family, Doug continued to paint, earning a following through shows in galleries in Kansas City, Tulsa, Miami, St. Louis, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York City.
“In 1980 to 1995, my career was over the top,” Doug says. “My work was being purchased by collectors from all over the world. I had paintings in the only three-story gallery in Soho. It was a nice life, living on New York dollars in Sedalia, Missouri.”
Recession and the Internet triggered a paradigm shift in the art world, forcing some galleries to close their doors and the remaining ones to shift their focus to blue-chip artists whose paintings sell for $50,000 or more. The changes have forced Doug to make some adjustments to his art. “I have started making less expensive smaller paintings so a larger number of people can afford my work,” he says.
Doug says his painting style has also shifted slightly from abstract to more naturalistic. “My work went in a different direction around 1995,” he says. “I started seeing references to landscapes in there. Basically, I became a landscape painter.”
From those early bulletin boards to his current paintings, Doug says his goal has always been to create a bridge between what he sees and what he feels. “I mean, all my paintings are intuitive from my imagination,” he says.
You can view or purchase Doug’s paintings at DougFreed.com. Both Damon and Doug are currently showing at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art in Kansas City and at Bruno David Gallery in Saint Louis, two of the leading contemporary art galleries in the state of Missouri.