Jesse Kalisher


Remembering Jesse

Jesse was an artist, a force of innovation, and a dearly beloved friend. He touched so many peoples' lives with his creativity and spirit. Jesse was also a gifted storyteller, and so many have shared their own stories of how he impacted their lives. You can view some of these stories here. Please share your own stories at

Donations in honor of Jesse can be sent to:

Triangle Land Conservancy
All donations in memory of him will be used in a memorial project at Brumley Nature Preserve
NOTE: at the bottom of the donation page is a box that allows you to designate
the donation "In memory of Jesse Kalisher".
Donors can also mail checks made payable to Triangle Land Conservancy to:
Triangle Land Conservancy
Attn: Christine Wilson
514 S. Duke Street
Durham, NC 27701


For twelve years you mentored and coached me, loved and supported me, shoved me out of my comfort zone, and gave me my fair share of shoulder shakes. My heart is bursting with gratitude for every ounce of energy that you gave to growing me into who I am today, and above all else, I hope I made you proud. Your light may have gone out today, but you will never EVER not be here. Your soul and spirit will live on in my heart and the hearts of so many others on whom who have made a mark. We love you Jesse Kalisher. Always and forever.

- Sarah




I knew Jesse over the years. We didn’t know each other well, and I only saw him a handful of times over the past 5 years or so. But I am so saddened by this news. I immensely enjoyed being with him each time I found him nearby. He was so curious, so uplifting, so interesting. At the same time, he was unassuming, gentle, and kind. I just always enjoyed talking with him. He was very generous in how he described others, and he was so loving when he discussed his family.

My deep condolences to his family. I am so sorry and very saddened by this news.

- Barak




Jesse walked into my office at Triangle Yoga, fell in love with my Buddha collection and asked permission to take some photos. When I told him I had more at home he took photos of those as well...fridge magnets, necklaces, stuffed buddhas, miniature artifacts, all of it.  When I told him there was one on my car dashboard he went crazy with delight. Little did I know Jesse would turn his Buddha obsession into a wonderful book called  'If You find the Buddha’ (a 'Where’s Waldo' type of book).

Jesse left a lasting impression on all of us at Triangle Yoga...he was a beautiful spirit, and we will miss him.

- Tracy




I’ll miss sharing french fries with you. I’ll miss your wild shirts. I’ll miss walking into your office to share great news. I’ll miss explaining the virtues of Beyonce to you. I’ll miss you reminding me of things I forget. You helped show me the world—you made me get a passport! I’ll miss your laugh the most. My life changed the moment you entered it. I will always treasure your friendship and the opportunity to work with and learn from you.

- Jon




A few choice memories:

• Going up in a small plane with him while he was learning to be a pilot. It was very windy day and I had painful hands from holding on so tight, but his love for the air was infectious

• Seeing him and Helen announce one of the annual Kalisher Humanitarian Awards as a way to give back to the world. He broke up with emotion when telling the staff why it was so important to them

• Watching him tell stories on stage at Trade Shows and other events. The stories all had a silver thread of relevance to the show, but the audience, sitting completely enthralled and silent as he wound the story to its conclusion, was a sight to behold. 

• A few favorite words he used: Fantastic, Next Steps, and Peace. Peace, Jesse. 

- Brian




Jesse built our company on outlandish innovation, passion for fine art, and with humility and love. He helped create more than a half million pieces of art installed all over the world, and built a 100+ person collaborative, creative engine from scratch in North Carolina. Sarah and I have been so lucky to work with him and Helen for over a decade...

Everything he created was about and for other people. Everything he created, he created to share. This spirit defined him and defines our company. In Jesse’s words, “We are fortunate enough to create art together, nothing could be more important.” His spirit is imbued in every fiber of our company, and we will grow with him in our DNA every day.

Everything Jesse said or did, helped define an industry, inspired his colleagues, and worked to build the lives of those around him.But I am most thankful for what he stood for. He lived life for the journey, rather than any end.

- David




Jesse you were a force in my life unlike any other. You taught, lectured, pushed, questioned and inspired me. You expected much and repaid in kind. Thank you. Peace.

- Morgan




"Art is Love" and Jesse loved life. All things considered, that's a life well lived. I will miss laughing with him over all those business dinners! He made it seem like it wasn't work at all!

- Jeff




Over the years we would occasionally encounter each other at HD, or some industry show, share a drink or a cup of coffee. He was never intrusive about my business, but rather we would spend most of our time talking about our families, our mutual clients and our mutual love of the hospitality industry.

I’m fortunate in that a lot of people don’t get to meet, or spend time with their competition, much less grow fond of them, but I did with Jesse. I’ll miss him.

- Rob




By chance, I came across a piece Jesse and Helen did at the Hilton in Cleveland and reconnected with Jesse on July 10, 2017. I read all his blogs that week and saw Jesse’s amazing life through his beautiful photographs. Jesse was my “film star” in our Northwestern days and while 40 years had slipped by - I am grateful I found him again and that we connected before he left this journey for the next one. Peace.

- Alina




Jesse was unique and real, and I am very sorry to just hear of his passing. We met occasionally at Hospitality Shows, I was CEO of a Hospitality company, and we only chanced to speak a small number of times. But Jesse was so present and real that I remember those conversations about his family, his company, his art, and his vision very well. He had charisma without trying and was a remarkable person, and my sincere condolences to his family. The world was a much better place with Jesse in it. Blessings.

- Robert




Jesse, I will miss all those entertaining dinners we shared at Starwood, wondering which wild and exciting shirt you would be wearing. I will remember all the wonderful stories you told us about life, travel and experiences. You taught everyone the spirit of adventure, travel and unselfish giving. I am so grateful for having known you and wish the world had more Jesse Kalishers. Everyone whose life you have touched has very special memories and those memories will live on forever. Thank you Jesse!

- Fran




Jesse was a special guy. Could he be obstinate? Sure. Was he persuasive? Without a doubt! But, he is also the guy that taught me some amazing life lessons. I was able to thank him for some of those lessons while he was still here and for that I will always be grateful.

• Learn to listen. Stop trying to have all the answers and exercise patience so that you can “hear”.

• Persistence, persistence, persistence. Don’t give up b/c JK never did!

• If you want something, ASK for it and then WORK for it.

• Don’t ever think that you know who a person truly is. People will always surprise you just like icebergs and onions.

Thank you for teaching me these things, Jesse.

- Heather







Jesse was a globally recognized, award-winning artist and sought after public speaker. His work is in the permanent collections of museums including The Louvre, The Smithsonian, The George Eastman House, The de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco and many more.

Permanent Collections include:



he is asleep

Jesse has shared the surprising stories behind some of his favorite photographs over the years. His experiences are archived in his Story Behind the Picture blog.
Visit the blog




Over the past six years, Jesse’s photographs have been highlighted in his Photography Newsletter, telling you the story behind the picture. Please check out the archives of Jesse’s journey across the world.



One World

(Bramwell Publishing, 2014) - $44.99

Jesse Kalisher: One World

Release Date: June 1st, 2014.
To pre-order, please contact Emily Holland: or (919) 967-4300, xt.123

If You Find the Buddha

(Chronicle Books, 2005) - $16.95

if you find the Buddha

To buy a signed copy from us, contact Emily Holland: or (919) 967-4300, xt.123