Many of us are creatures of comfort, content to take the path of least resistance. Then, there are individuals such as Patti Dibski, who live outside of their comfort zone and welcome the unfamiliar without hesitation.
In the early 1990s, Dibski lived and worked in Shizuoka, Japan, where she taught English to executives at Yazaki Corporation, a Japanese manufacturing conglomerate. She spent three years completely immersed in a foreign culture and language before returning to Canada to get her MBA at the University of Calgary.
Before she turned 30, Dibski became the national account manager for the Canadian National Railway in sales and marketing. Yet, despite this high-ranking position, Dibski resigned from CN in 2004 in order to follow the dream of owning her own business. Making yet another dramatic career switch, she bought Gibson Fine Art, a small art consulting company that handles the sale, lease and rental of original art, mostly to corporate clients.
“It was the absolute perfect fit,” Dibski says. “I’ve always loved art and been passionate about it.” But, she adds, “I’m not artistic at all.”
Aside from the odd art history class in university, Dibski lacked a formal arts background. But that didn’t stop her.
“I could have been fearful of becoming something I wasn’t,” she says. “But I embraced that fear and told myself, ‘I know I can learn this — I love art. Because I love it, I will spend the time learning what I need to know.’”
She has since grown Gibson Fine Art into a business that supplies nearly 20 large corporate downtown offices with art, and also represents 40 artists — the majority being local artists — in a retail gallery she’s opening in the Design District later this month.
“I really believe that a thriving and vibrant art scene is crucial to the success of Calgary and to the well-being of us as Calgarians,” Dibski says.
To that end, Dibski is cultivating a long-term investment in local arts outside of her business. Last year, she was selected by members of city council to join the Calgary Arts Development Authority (CADA), a policy-governing entity funded by the City that aims to invest and raise the profile of arts in Calgary. Dibski is one of the youngest board members at CADA.
Dibski also helps the arts community in her role as vice-president for Art à la Carte, an organization that provides art to acute care cancer patients for their hospital rooms, and as a mentor to a fine arts graduate through the U of C’s Women’s Resource Centre.
So what does finding your purpose feel like? Dibski smiles and says, “It feels like I’m in the right place at the right time. I feel really aligned.”
Why she’s the top: In all facets of her life, she promotes the city’s art scene and inspires the next generation of art-makers and purveyors. She champions local arts and is elevating Calgary’s arts and culture profile as a gallery owner, board member with the Calgary Arts Development Authority and in her numerous volunteer roles.
The key to her success: “It’s about not being afraid. I don’t run from fear — I embrace it and see it as a challenge,” Dibski says.