Frank Talks

Nicole Castaldo & Morgan McAllister – co-founders of LoBo Gallery

Nicole Castaldo & Morgan McAllister - co-founders of LoBo Gallery
Nicole Castaldo & Morgan McAllister - co-founders of LoBo Gallery

Nicole Castaldo is the co-founder of LoBo Gallery. She holds a Masters in Modern and Contemporary Art, Criticism and Theory from SUNY Purchase. Her thesis analyzed feminist performance art from the 1970s and today, and explored how artists from this period addressed issues of violence against women, as well as the relationship between performance and protest.  In 2016 Nicole completed the Comprehensive Appraisals Studies Program and received her certificate in Appraisals Studies from the Appraisal Institute of America. Over the last few years, Nicole has curated extensively — Cellophane at M. David & Co. featuring the work of Judy Pfaff, Len Bellinger, Michael David, Daniel John Gadd, Daniel Giordano, Lonnie Holley, Morgan McAllister, Kelin Perry and Heather Rubinstein as well as Fractured Memory at Ground Floor Gallery in Brooklyn are curatorial highlights. Nicole is a frequent contributor to Gallery Gurls and the Art Dealers Association of America’s blog Inside Stories. 

Morgan McAllister recently relocated from Brooklyn, NY to Naples, FL. She is an artist and co-founder of LoBo Gallery. McAllister’s work explores themes such as attachment, identity, motherhood, Divinity and oneness. She received her BFA in Painting from SUNY Purchase and her MFA in Painting from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her work has been exhibited at M. David & Co., Brooklyn, NY; AD&D Museum, Santa Barbara, CA; Eastside International, Los Angeles, CA; The Glass Box Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; Gone Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; George, Bushwick, NY; Mighty Tieton Warehouse, Tieton, WA; PICA TADADA, Portland, Oregon; HUD Gallery, Ventura, CA; The American Can Factory, Brooklyn, NY; Firehouse Plaza Art Gallery, Garden City, NY; and Associated Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. 

LoBo Gallery occupies home spaces with the intention of creating an intimate dialogue between artists from all disciplines of art and stages of their careers. Responding to the unique architecture and nature of each home, allows LoBo to curate site specific and interdisciplinary projects.

What was your first job in the Arts?

Morgan: Undergraduate Assistant Professor at UCSB 

Nicole: The appraisal department of the Art Dealers Association of America.

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?

Morgan: Confidence. Teaching helped me to discover my own voice as an artist and held me accountable in terms of being engaged in the present art world. 

Nicole: To work with people I genuinely admire and like. To this day I’m still very close to many of my former colleagues and we have since collaborated on different projects and keep in touch on a personal level.

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

Morgan: The way I process the world and myself has always been through the act of making. There was no moment where I realized my professional field would be in the arts but rather it was a fluid natural progression. 

Nicole: When I was in high school. I chose the school I went to specifically for their art teacher, Len Bellinger. He had a brilliant way of teaching and each assignment was reflective of a greater art movement. One that was most memorable was when learning about Pop Art we had to make massive sculptures of everyday objects, which later covered our school courtyard.

What do you do now?

Morgan: The roles I balance and “do” on a daily basis include yogi, woman, mother, partner, maker, and curator. I recently had an exhibition of my new work, Higher Love with Susan Carr, which opened at Florida Mining Gallery in Jacksonville, FL in February. I also gave birth to my second child earlier this year! LoBo’s most recent virtual exhibition, Cribs just closed. I’m still teaching yoga in Naples, FL where I currently live and work. 

Nicole: I took a break from a traditional full-time job and currently hold several positions. In addition to co-curating shows for LoBo Gallery, I’m the newly appointed social media manager for M. David & Co. I also work for a photography collector/advisor, Alice Sachs Zimet, on managing her private collection and business.

Where are you from? 

Morgan: Born and raised in NY. I’ve spent most of my adult life traveling and living in other states and countries.

Nicole: I’m from Gravesend, Brooklyn, but currently live in Manhattan.

What is the arts community like there? 

Nicole: Gravesend doesn’t have an arts community that I’m aware of, but luckily Manhattan and other neighborhoods in Brooklyn were close enough, exposing me to an an array of art from the tremendous number of artists, galleries and museums located here.  

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?

Morgan: Absolutely, in the same way it shaped who I am as a person. The materials, shapes, textures, colors, scale, etc. of my work is hinged on the dwellings I’ve occupied- quite literally- as most of my making has ties to the idea of home.

Nicole: Coming from New York I’m grateful museums, concerts and theater were introduced to me at an early age. But that is secondary to the immensely supportive role my parents and teachers had in my pursuit of a career in the arts.

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

Morgan: Stay close to what matters.

Nicole: Be open, it may not be a seamless route to your ideal job or position, and an unlikely or even unrelated job can open up so many opportunities. 

What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?

Morgan: My greatest accomplishment is always what is happening now. Currently, being able to hold space simultaneously for making a new body of work Higher Love for Florida Mining, continuing to curate and grow LoBo with Nicole, and generating yoga classes while balancing pregnancy and while raising a son, while being a good human and partner: The ability to balance all these things together is my greatest accomplishment. 

Nicole: Growing LoBo from nothing. Despite having no physical space or publicly giving out the addresses to our shows we have a steadily growing following. We’ve been extraordinarily grateful to have our dream exhibitions come to life.

What has been a challenge for you?

Morgan: Balance and setting boundaries between my “roles”. Motherhood has reshaped the way I relate to and function within time. I’m constantly working on my ability to communicate what I need from myself, son, partner, and practices. 

What is something you do every day at the office (or your current home office)? 

Morgan: Nicole and I talk on the phone almost every day and just engage organically in conversations about ideas, projects, art, life, business. We constantly share artists, content, and inspiration with each other. This keeps the space of LoBo fresh and authentic and how many of our shows emerge.

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?

Nicole: I worked at a gallery during an exhibition that was installation based, part of my daily duties was to spray perfume in each section to maintain the environment.

What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?

Nicole: I think a good employee is detail oriented. Regardless of level of experience attention to detail ensures each project is done correctly. A good boss is understanding. You want to feel comfortable asking questions and speaking up.

What do you think makes a person hirable? 

Nicole: It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many applications I’ve seen that do not follow specified instructions or have typos. That small attention to detail helps to set you apart from many applicants right off the bat.

What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview?

Nicole: Be authentic. It’s easier to connect with people when you’re speaking from a genuine place and it keeps you calm because your responses and questions are natural. Also, remember to send a thank you note after the interview.

Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world? *

Morgan: You are the expert of your life and lived experiences so as long as you’re being authentic, there is no one that can offer more than you. Have or discover confidence in that. Also, stay open to your practice changing in ways you can’t control or expect. Do what you say, say what you mean. Don’t let others set boundaries for you.

Nicole: Talk to people in the field. There are so many different facets to the art world that you could be unaware of and actually want to explore. The more people you talk to the better you’ll be able to figure out where you want to end up and what matters to you.

What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?

Nicole: COVID has of course limited my gallery hopping, but I was struck by Susan Carr’s solo exhibition ‘In My Room’ at LABspace.

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?

Nicole: Agnes Martin; Sam Gilliam; Eva Hesse; Francesca Woodman; and Amy Sillman.

What artwork is in your home office?

Morgan: My aesthetic is super minimal. I don’t typically hang work on my walls or have many objects in my space. However, I do have a small emotional collection of artwork from friends and hold space for those in little moments throughout my home.

Nicole: My collection is also small and personal made up of friends and artists I’ve worked with. Morgan McAllister, Daniel John Gadd, Natalie Baxter, Eric Holzman, Ben Pritchard, Denise Sfraga, Len Bellinger, Maria Britton, Stephanie Manzi, Beverly Ripple, Kevin John Doherty and Melissa Dadourian.

What is your greatest WFH challenge? Or a WFH luxury you don’t want to lose ever again?

Morgan: The overlap of everyone and everything. My studio and home are one. There is no space between my practice as an artist, mother, yogi, etc. 

Nicole: Biggest challenge is not playing with my dog Scrappy. He’s a 1-year-old Chiweenie and wants all my love and attention constantly.

How do you think art can play a fundamental role in the world’s recovery?

Morgan: The voice of one artist, writer, musician, maker gives sanctuary and space to many. The shelter and safety accessible through making and viewing art lends itself to collective recovery. 

How has your current job adapted to the new virtual landscape? What do you think can be done better

Nicole: It has, our last LoBo show was virtual and we tried to make it more interactive than just putting work up on our website. We asked each of the artists to film a video of themselves interacting in their home and with their work. We loved seeing how different each of the 7 artists approached that aspect and how personal it felt.

What is your go to snack in quarantine? And your go to soundtrack?

Morgan: Listening a lot to Amyra, Matthew E. White, Kate Bush, Mirabai Ceiba, White Tiger by Izzy Bizu, Glass Animals, Paramjeet Singh & Kaur, Pretty Little Fears by 6LACK, Zach Deputy, Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

Nicole: Coconut outshine pops and iced coffee (working from home has made it essential throughout the day).

Since we are all at home and exploring more galleries and museums online, perhaps some for the first time, when the quarantine is lifted, what is your first art filled destination?

Morgan:  Honestly, Florida Mining for my closing reception. 

Nicole: I’m actually most excited to do studio visits again!

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