Behind InHarmony: Dean Wellman

Dean Wellman

It’s tough being an artist. One must master a wide range of technical skills, hone creative thinking and position oneself effectively to create new work. This requires self-discipline, imagination and, often, a friendly demeanor – it’s tough. One such master-of-all-things-impossible is Dean Wellman who overcomes these challenges by continually experimenting with new media and by supporting fellow artists which have led to the realization and success of many great solo and collaborative works. 

Wellman is a multimedia artist, musician, filmographer and new Dubuque Area Arts Collective Vice President. He is perhaps most known in Dubuque for his videography work. You may find him setting up his equipment at high school sporting events or at music venues around town. Wellman has focused his career not only on creating his own work, but on collaborating with other artists and supporting the communities with which he has been a part of.

Wellman began his artistic career as a graphic design student at the Art Institute of Colorado.

“I moved to Colorado and found myself in construction, back-breaking construction work,” Welman said,  “not that I didn’t enjoy that, but I felt like I would like to pursue something else for a life-long career.”

Wellman spent his time in school working with different media. Now he considers himself a multimedia artist and feels that his ability to regularly transition to different art forms keeps his work interesting. Wellman attributes this ability to his time in school.

“That was one thing the Art Institute did for me,” Wellman said, “It didn’t necessarily make me a better artist, but it forced me to try a lot of different media. I almost got hooked on that as much as I did on creating art.” 

Wellman also began experimenting with film after selling off a hotel he owned in Muscatine, IA in 2003. He had considered working with film for some time and thought that this would be the perfect point in his life to attend film school. After careful consideration, he instead decided to use his money from the hotel to purchase film equipment and teach himself. 

“When I first started doing it, I was doing a lot of things that weren’t making much sense; they weren’t really telling a whole lot of stories. They were experimental pieces just to see what I could do,” Wellman said,  “I would try every button on the digital editing program just to see what it would do. I’ve got this collage of really meaningless… maybe not meaningless – they’re experiments.”

He says these experiments helped him with his technical skills and his ability to convey stories. Since he began working with film, Wellman has recorded numerous musical shows and sporting events. He has worked on two major films. One is a feature documentary called Tall Corn Euforia that documents the Camp Euforia music festival in Lone Tree, IA. The second film, The Spirit of Crazy Horse, is part of a rock opera based on the life of Black Hawk. The two films have been exhibited in the Dubuque Julien Film Festival, and Wellman is working on another documentary on the DAAC’s Project 1 Music Series to submit to the film festival next year. 

From 2003 to 2012, Wellman honed his videography skills by recording live music at different events up and down the Mississippi River. Initially, he volunteered most of his work, but eventually, he was able to form a professional relationship with Mediacom. Wellman continues to work with Mediacom to showcase local musical talents that broadcast on channel MC22. He feels that he’s lucky to work with Mediacom.

“I have a boss and an executive producer out there who understands how important music is to a community,” Wellman said, “We just feel that as vibrant as the community is that there was a need for us to offer alternative music and programming to the community.” 

Wellman’s work with Mediacom eventually translated into the In Harmony series that showcases local and regional musical talent. Wellman initially filmed and recorded the first season of In Harmony solo. He quickly became familiar with the DAAC’s music programs and saw potential for collaborating with DAAC members, Rick Eagle, Bob Bucko and Matt Hohmann. Wellman was able to use the DAAC’s music program as a source for collaborating with and filming musicians. The second season of In Harmony was filmed and recorded by Wellman and Hohmann. Wellman disclosed that the first few collaborations were a little rocky, but he feels that they have hit their stride.

“They keep getting better and better” Wellman said, “Rick and the crew were willing to take a chance on me, and I was willing to take chance on them. We were a little iffy when we got in, but once again, we gambled.”

Wellman continues to collaborate with the DAAC by filming artist interviews and various other projects. Recently, Wellman and the DAAC finished shooting the Project 1 Music SeriesProject 1 was a DAAC program that led a group of teenagers in forming a band.

“We brought them into a space where they could collaborate and play music together and explore music under guidance from the mentors. It wasn’t necessarily music lessons,” Wellman said,  “We really encouraged kids to meet and greet one another, figure out what styles of music they liked and then collaborate in a final project.” 

Wellman and student filmmaker, Ethan Vander Broeck,  filmed and recorded the practice sessions and final performance. When describing the Project 1 Music Series, Wellman was noticeably proud of the young adults’ success. 

“I’m finding a lot of satisfaction in going out and recording and videotaping other musicians so I still get my fill of music,” Wellman said.

Wellman has recently accepted the position of Vice President of the DAAC. How that happened he says he’s not sure, but his experience and his contributions to the DAAC’s programs and mission have been distinct qualifications for the job. The position is a tough one; it’s a volunteer position that requires time and dedication. Nonetheless, Wellman is enthusiastic about joining the DAAC team.

“Those people tend to love art and music for the sake of art and music,” Wellman said,  “There’s no side agenda or anything to it, so I felt compelled to keep working with them.”

Find Wellman’s films through his YouTube page “Highway 11 Films.”

About The Author:

Jackie Banigan
Jackie Banigan

Jackie Banigan has a BA in Art History and a certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Iowa. She has interned in education and outreach at the Dubuque Museum of Art and the Figge Art Museum. She has a penchant for supporting local artists and developing community art programs. Banigan is a volunteer at the Dubuque Area Arts Collective.

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