Jade Gallery A Real Gem

'I want to have the nicest place in town to enjoy the newest releases from all over the world.'

DATE: May 28, 1998
PUBLICATION: Dayton Daily News (OH)
PAGE: Z2-1

The Jade Gallery sits like a gem in the heart of Centerville, a bit of worldly flair in an unassuming building on Far Hills Avenue.
Owner Kee Hee Lee, 45, has worked hard to gather a unique collection of works by world-class artists. While the sounds of opera filter gently through the elegant gallery, browsers are treated to original works, serigraphs and prints by professional artists with wide-ranging styles. The longtime Centerville resident, who prefers to be known as Kee Hee, opened the gallery in November 1996. While searching for an office where she could run her art import business, she came across 7266 Far Hills Ave. and began remodeling the building into a gallery.
`I've always wanted to own a gallery,' Kee Hee said. `The reason I spent so much money and time remodeling is because I wanted to have the nicest place in town to enjoy the newest releases from all over the world.'
Soon, her fledgling art import business took a back seat to the gallery while she scoured national art shows for the latest works from renowned artists.
Kee Hee attends about eight shows a year in cities such as Atlanta, Chicago and New York and returns with pieces from artists such as Theo Tabiasse, whom she calls the next Picasso, and Yuri Gorbachev a nephew of the former leader of the Soviet Union.
Kee Hee, who is a professional artist specializing in Chinese brush painting, displays her paintings in her gallery and at national art shows. In March, she exhibited her work at the Art Expo in New York and sold seven pieces.
When people see her work and inquire about her background, they inevitably seem shocked that she lives in Ohio. But Kee Hee said her roots are in this community where she has lived for 23 years since leaving her native Korea.
`We love Centerville. We will probably never move. We have good people in Ohio. I will probably be buried here,' she said.
After four months in the gallery business, this professional artist and mother of three decided to add an art school to her growing list of activities, thus Kee Hee's School of Fine Art was born. The school, located in an airy room adjoining the gallery, has grown to about 70 students, ranging in age from 5 to 65. Instruction is available from a staff of five professional artists and teachers in a variety of media.
Kee Hee said the gallery's business is taking off as customers are becoming more aware of what the Jade Gallery is about. The gallery will be represented by about 80 pieces of art in this summer's Homearama in Butler Twp.
`Business is getting better every day,' she said. `People didn't know us here. Now, people are getting to know us.'
Kee Hee's boundless energy bubbles as she shuffles the responsibilities of her work, her art and her family.
`My primary goal is to take of my children,' she said.
Kee Hee and her husband, restaurateur Tay Wu, have three children, Lisa Wu, 23, Christina Wu, 12, and Christopher Wu, 8. Christina, a student at Magsig Middle School, is a singer and Christopher, a student at Weller Elementary, enjoys art. Lisa is a graduate of the special education program in Centerville, and now works outside the home.
Kee Hee said having a special needs child has enabled her to see the gift in each individual, something she tries to promote in her art school.
`With Lisa, God gave me new eyes to see,' she said.
That is why she takes time out of every day to step into the art school to encourage each fledgling artist with either a pat on the back or a compliment on a brush stroke.
`Jade is not jade unless you polish it and some students may have a particular talent. But how can you be talented if you don't help them to develop?' she asked.
It is a philosophy Kee Hee hopes is the blending of the best of both Eastern and Western teaching techniques: the discipline from the East and the individual attention from the West.
She also incorporates her integrated philosophy in her painting.
`My work is inspired by balancing harmony between nature and people,' she said.
The Jade Gallery is open Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Copyright, 1998, Cox Ohio Publishing. All rights reserved.

Illustration: COLOR PHOTO: Kee Hee Lee at her Jade Gallery on South Main Street in Centerville. The gallery has works from artists such as Theo Tabiasse, whom Kee Hee calls the next Picasso, and Yuri Gorbachev, a nephew of the former leader of the Soviet Union.