Twenty-five years after leaving USD as a student, Lee
continues to enrich the university’s art community by sharing her
experiences with its art students.
“We’d take senior students to her studio every fall and visit
about how she made it as an artist in South Dakota but selling
internationally,” said Knedler. “Getting to visit her studio was a
celebration for our students.”
One of Lee’s strengths is the advice she can give to students
starting their careers, according to Knedler. “She gives them
tidbits of information they don’t always get from faculty. She
talks to them about getting the right kind of contract, or about
pricing pieces—-skills they have to learn if they want to make it
as an artist.”
“What I tell students is that you have to be ready for
rejection, not just success,” Lee emphasized. “I apply for lots
of shows. I’m not afraid of getting rejected; that’s life. You can’t
get in 100 percent of the time. You cannot beat yourself up for
rejection, or you will never grow.”
Lee enjoys the exchange of ideas that flows from hosting the
young artists as well. “I love fresh ideas,” she said. “I like to know
what young people are thinking, to get feedback from them and
show them we can make a living off art.”
“Our students always came away [from Lee’s studio] inspired
to be artists,” Knedler said. “Here at USD, we teach our students
to be artists first. Here they are, learning from faculty who are
artists but also who have secondary work as teachers. With
Mi Young, they got to hear from a producing artist who gets
to be an artist all day. Sometimes when students aren’t around
professional artists, they lose the idea that it’s possible to be one.
It’s great for students to see there are very successful professional
artists out there.”
“I promote myself; I don’t just sit in a studio,” Lee said.
“Back when I got my start, promoting yourself as an artist was a
no-no. But I didn’t agree with that; if that’s the way you approach
it, your work will be in storage. Lots of artists make that mistake
but you have to forge ahead. You have to push yourself and show
people that you can do it.”
Lee and Julian currently split their residencies between
Pflugerville, Texas, just northwest of Austin, and Pompano
Beach, Fla. Lee was an adjunct professor in the Department of
Art at USD until 2012, when she sold her Sioux Falls home and
moved south. The memories of a visit to Austin during her college
years had always lingered with Lee, and so the couple decided to
relocate to that area once their children were grown.
Their daughter, Christi, graduated from the University
of Pennsylvania and now works in the medical field in New
Orleans, La. Their son, Alexander, attended USD for two years
before transferring to a university in Colorado, where he recently
graduated and is a snow board instructor at a resort. Julian,
meanwhile, is a professional photographer and videographer.
Today, Lee’s award-winning artwork continues to gain
prominence throughout the United States and abroad with a
growing list of public and corporate collectors such as Price
Waterhouse, Pillsbury, Sprint and the Miami Heat displaying
her art. On USD’s campus, her pieces beautify the lobby of the
Belbas Center as well as the atrium of the Beacom School of
Business, a project Lee was commissioned to create. Her piece
was unveiled in 2009 at the dedication of Beacom’s newly-
She’s accumulated a plethora of show honors and has been
invited to jury numerous art shows, and in 2009, was bestowed
with a USD Alumni Achievement Award.
Lee continues to show her work at international art fairs,
including the upcoming prestigious SCOPE International
Contemporary Art Show in Miami Beach, Fla., the largest and
most global art fair in the world, and ArtPalmBeach, considered
one of the most influential contemporary art fairs on Florida’s
Gold Coast by both critics and art enthusiasts.
For Lee, the fervency of creating art, traveling and promoting
that comprises her life is just what she had her heart set on when
she left her familiar homeland to embark on a journey with
endings quite unknown.
“I became a painter to show my emotion to the world.
Painting can touch the heart,” she said. “It can speak all different
“I’m very lucky to be able to do what I love.”
See more of Lee’s artwork at
Left, Lee rides in the Dakota Days parade in 2009, when she was bestowed with the USD Alumni Achievement Award;
right, the piece Lee was commissioned to create for the newly constructed Beacom School of Business.