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toma's story

.... Our home was filled with art and collectables, everything from Claris Cliff to Peter Voulkos ceramics.  Jim Dine, Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenberg paintings were on the walls and Art Deco lamps, Nouveau rugs, Eames furniture and MikeThe Seated Artist, an early Duane Hanson sculpture greeted us daily.  


Everything in our home had a story and a connection to an artist whom my parents often knew well. Artists were often in our home, playing piano and hanging out. Our family vacations were centered around museum visits and gallery shows.


My father’s mother (my grandmother) was a major supporter of the Kansas City Art Institute and impressed upon my father the importance of supporting artists.


My mother, an art teacher, also knew the importance art played in the role of one’s life. Together, they started collecting in the 70’s and were one of the founding members in the formation of the Contemporary Art Society that brought Christo to Kansas City for the Wrapped Walkways project in 1978. 


I guess you can say that honing my eye and appreciation for artists and their work was developed at a very early age. This was my “normal” and I assumed everyone lived this way. I didn’t realize we were the exception who had art on every wall, surface and floor until middle school when I noticed that most of my friends’ walls were blank, and to me that was strange.


My parents always encouraged my brother and I to collect, which we did and we started our own collections collecting postcards, at an early age, and the addiction of collecting grew. As a young girl, I was an aspiring artist too. I would make drawings and go door-to-door trying to sell them. I guess you could say that the “art dealer” in me has always been there.


I went on to study Jewelry Design and Art History at the Rhode Island School of Design and Virginia Commonwealth University where I was an intern at 1708 Gallery and ran the student gallery at VCU.


After college I was an Artist in Residence at the Appalachian Center for Crafts where I oversaw programing and exhibitions for two years. After years of begging my father to open an art gallery, it finally happened and we opened the Byron Cohen Gallery (his namesake) in 1994.


I returned to Kansas City often to help with installations and moved home permanently in 1997 to co-direct the gallery. Our gallery focused on museum quality national and international artists, mainly to show our clients that one can live with museum quality art in their home (which was unique for KC). During this time, my husband and I began collecting contemporary art, in depth.


After 18 years, we decided to take the gallery’s program online and close the physical gallery space. We were ready for a change, and I moved with my young children to Florence, Italy. We returned home a year later, due to my father’s illness to enjoy time together. After he passed, my phone started ringing with clients who asked for my help and advice on art purchases. 


Over the last 12 years, this grew into a robust art advising business which I really love and am grateful for. As a collector myself, advising and acquiring art for my clients, allows me to share the hunt, discovery and the purchase of a great work of art. I love sharing my passion with others. 

"I grew up in an art collecting family. Weekends were spent antiquing and visiting galleries ...

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