For other home curators, however, staying out of public view is a way to avoid having to think about selling art. Rachel Cardenas Stallings, who co-runs Oakland’s Lago Projects
with her husband TJ Thomander, says that she sees curating as an extension of her own art practice—not a business—and doing it out of a domestic space allows her to keep it non-commercial.
“We really, really wanted to live with the art,” says Stallings. “If it wasn’t in our home, it would change how we view the process and the way we curate and the artists that we work with. Because we are a no-budget operation, we’re able to take higher risks.”
In the process of relocating to Oakland last year, Stallings and Thomander specifically sought out a mixed-use space for the purpose of showing work by historically underrepresented artists. At Lago, the front door opens into a gallery that looks typical, until you see the small kitchen and closet in the back. A staircase on one side leads up to a hidden loft where the couple’s bed is tucked into an alcove lined with books.
Branfman-Verissimo happened to have a solo show at Lago last fall, for which she filled the gallery with sculptures. Any time Stallings and Thomander wanted to leave the house, they had to maneuver around the installation. For the curator duo, this was a small price to pay for the experience of being so close to the art.
“When it was taken down—it sounds cheesy—but I started to tear up,” says Stallings. “It became part of our home, and when it left, it left this huge hole.”