Diane Allen is a renowned creative entrepreneur, jeweller, innovator, philanthropist and true Renaissance woman. Involved in a wide array of artistic endeavours, Diane opened her first fine jewellery store, 23rd Street Jewelers in Santa Monica in 1981. While she has supported numerous charities throughout her career, including serving on the Boards of the VIA Art Fund and the DesertX biennial, Diane has also targeted healthcare and medical management as the leading causes of her fundraising and support efforts over the past decade.
As the Executive Vice-Chair of PHASE ONE’s Board of Directors, Diane has helped raise over 20 million dollars for the organisation dedicated to funding first round of clinical cancer trials and has enlisted a network of over 3,000 donors to date. Additionally, Diane is very passionate about implementing solutions for the national opioid addition crisis as it enters epidemic levels. She has founded multiple methadone clinics, which currently accept over 700 visitors daily.
Diane loves making a difference in the world and when she has time in between harmonising her creative, philanthropic and executive purists, she can play a mean game of tennis.
Can you give us a little back story on how you are where you are today as an entrepreneur and founder of 23rd Street Jewelers in Santa Monica and Manhattan Beach?
Going all the way back to art school in San Francisco is a good starting point. Within my first year as an art student, I realised how difficult it would be to monetise my life painting and drawing. Although I felt I had a good eye and some talent it would be years before I could produce an income, and simultaneously my parents had hit a financial rough spot. I became highly motivated to earn money but stay in a very creative mode. It was suggested by a psychic who spoke at my college that I would be in a three-dimensional art form, among other fascinating things she seemed to know.
Within two years I was working in a small jewellery store in Westwood, where within three weeks I had that “aha” moment that I was working in my three-dimensional art form! I have stayed with it ever since, learning all factions from wholesale to manufacturing and designing. I followed this period of education by opening 23rd Street Jewelers.
As an entrepreneur, I also have developed a portfolio of property in Los Angeles, and I have recently moved into the harm reduction care centre business where I’m currently serving over one thousand opiate addicts daily in Denver Colorado. This is an endeavour obviously not related to the arts but has been a very rewarding entrepreneurial experience.
You are due to be closing Santa Monica’s 23rd Street Jewelers store during Summer 19’ after 28 years, what made you arrive at that ultimate decision to close the chapter?
After a highly rewarding career and experience, I am closing this chapter of my life. The entrepreneurial bug combined with my art collecting and art advising has led me in a new direction.
As an art collector, curator and advisor, where did your initial passion for art begin?
As a child my parents both painted in their leisure time, I also struggled with traditional school education but found I excelled in the arts. I began collecting art in my 20’s and only recently realised I could curate and advise with my years of experience behind me.
You joined the board of PHASE ONE back in 2013, can you tell us more about the work you do and how you are supporting early cancer research?
Because my husband died very quickly from pancreatic cancer I was overwhelmed by the desire to do something. Now I am the co-chair of the Phase One board, and our focus is raising funds for Phase One clinical trials.
We have funded many clinical trials with Children’s Hospital, City of Hope, and UCLA among others, to help find a cure in the search to treat and eradicate all cancer. As the co-chair of Phase One, I also am the chairperson for my annual event ‘Art Versus Cancer.’ This event was designed as a way to bring more people to Phase One and is an art-centric event. Our event date for this year is November 13th and will be held again at Various Small Fires on Highland.
Congratulations on both helping to raise more than 20 million USD, along with supporting over 30 ground breaking cancer clinical trials and treatments, what has been the most favoured reward of your role at PHASE ONE so far?
I am most proud of Phase One, I personally funded a pancreatic cancer Phase One clinical trial with Dr Richard Tuli at Cedar Sinai. This is a rare instance where our Phase One clinical trial is moving to phase two, which means the results were more than noteworthy.
How about any hardship, difficult times or barriers faced whilst growing professionally?
While I was steadily building 23rd Street Jewelers we successfully grew through three earthquakes, two stock market crashes, nine eleven, the gulf war, robberies, so yes I experienced many difficult times and barriers.
How are you working towards your own personal development?
Shortly after my husband died, I took the time to reflect on what I wanted for myself after a long happy marriage and a successful 28 years in the jewellery business. I gave myself the freedom to explore who I was, what I loved, and took a fresh look at myself and the world. Travelling a lot has also expanded my life’s point of view and put me in front of amazing art and museums all over the world.
One hard lesson in life you have learned so far?
After my husband passed six years ago I awoke to the realisation that I could recreate my life and be whoever and whatever I wanted to be. Adopting the attitude that I was 25 again emotionally allowed me to experience with fresh eyes and fresh feelings everything the world and life has to offer. Many new creative directions, many new creative friends, and a new vision of what my life would look like.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
Be Your Own means living life on your own terms. Find what makes you happy, learn what makes you tick, and enjoy.
What have you got planned throughout the rest of 2019?
Many art events and travel all the way through the end of the year are planned, from Burning Man in late August, Berlin in October, and Miami Basel early December are just a few of the events on my schedule. All of this while I am building my new platform Diane Allen Presents.