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Nina Johnson, amidst the recent Katie Stout exhibit, Sour Tasting Liquid; all photographs by Gesi Schilling

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A Day in the Life

Gallerist Nina Johnson

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Meet star curator Nina Johnson, who owns an eponymous contemporary art gallery in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood. Among the talented artists she spotlights and champions: Elsa Hansen, Shannon Cartier Lucy, Beatrice Wood and Katie Stout (whose work you see here). Like everyone else right now, she's experiencing a new normal; at the end of March, the Magic City ordered all residents to officially shelter in place. We wanted to know—as someone on the forefront of the creative arts, how has she been adjusting to quarantine life?

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First off, I’d like to say how fortunate I am in this situation,” she tells us. There are so many people who are fighting for their lives or those of their loved ones, their livelihoods and just how to get through the day. I am so grateful to have the support of an amazing husband and two wonderful kids, and be part of a creative community that is so generous and resourceful. My heart goes out to those being gravely affected, financially, physically and mentally.”

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Below, discover how she handles both her new day-to-day (lots of lotion; Tiger King) and the bustling art life to which she'll return.

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A Day in the Life: Post-Coronavirus

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What's your new morning like?
Our mornings tend to be a little lazier now that we’re all at home. The kids get up and are excited to have another day at home with their family so they’re usually rushing downstairs to play. My husband always wakes up before me and I eventually get downstairs for some breakfast.

Your morning beauty routine?
It’s down to just moisturizer these days!

Go-to breakfast?
Everyone in our house tends to eat something different for breakfast, but we’ve been getting the most delicious eggs from Little River Cooperative (our local farm). I like them hard-boiled, with a pinch of salt! And feeling connected to our happy place in Maine via 44 North Coffee, brewed in a Chemex and then served over ice.

How do you get dressed for the day?
I’m really leaning into this whole "stay at home" fashion, lol. I'm thankful that it’s warm in Miami. We’ve been spending so much time in the garden that I’m just in shorts and a tank top.

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“Culture can be as vital as groceries. We must continue to find and show there is beauty in this world, despite all the darkness.”

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What's a typical day at work like?
The gallery has transitioned to work in one-person shifts. My days at home are meant to be "days off," but I usually spend a few hours in the morning catching up on email and reaching out to artists and clients to see how they’re doing, check in on plans in progress and update them on our latest. Once that’s done, I hang out with the family and then check back from my phone, usually while the kids play in the pool or the garden. On days when I come into the gallery, it feels lonely to be here by myself, but we’ve been doing weekly “Instagram live” visits with our artists—so far we’ve done an exhibition walk-through with Katie Stout, a “studio visit” with Shannon Cartier Lucy, and a show walk-through with Elsa Hansen Oldham on the occasion of her upcoming exhibition, Trinity.

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When you need an afternoon pick-me-up…
I make a smoothie, jump in the pool with the kids and leave my phone upstairs! The constant barrage of information is a bit too much these days. It’s important to stay informed, but it’s also overwhelming.

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Favorite nighttime eats?
Really into the chocolate chip cookies these days.

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Nighttime beauty routine?
Just a bit of moisturizer and Lano coconutter hand lotion to save my hands from all that 20-second washing.

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Bedtime rituals…
We’ve been watching Tiger King with what seems like the rest of America. It’s totally addictive and has been keeping us up later than I would like to admit!

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What gets you motivated to start it all over the next day…
Two little children jumping in my bed and the sense that culture can be as vital as groceries. We must continue to find and show there is beauty in this world, despite all the darkness.

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A Day in the Life: Pre-Coronavirus

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What are your mornings like?
Hug my kids, brush my teeth, get my contact lenses on (I’m blind without them) and hop downstairs for some breakfast, then look at my phone. This is the way I like it to go; for some reason, if the first thing I do is pick up my phone, the rest of my day is thrown. I always like to get a few emails in around breakfast time because many of our clients are in Europe so I can use this time to connect with them before it’s too late in their day.

Your morning beauty routine?
I’m pretty minimal as I tend not to wear much make-up, just a little Luzern serum and some sunblock.

Go-to breakfast?
Sausage and an everything bagel with cream cheese and a really cold black iced coffee!

How do you get dressed for the day?
I love to try to squeeze in a workout into my morning, so often I’m choosing my clothes for the day based on what I can quickly stuff into my gym bag. I tend to be a t-shirt and high-waisted-jeans kind of gal for most days. Though I love a good excuse to go all out on a more formal outfit, it’s just not the reality of life with two little boys and a business to run.

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“It can be so easy to spend a whole day just putting out fires, responding to upcoming questions/emails/tasks that we forget to think in the long term.”

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What's a typical day at work like?
A typically day at the gallery involves a lot of email, social media and connecting to people, both artists and clients. My favorite times at work are when we’re installing a show with the artist in town, which I did most recently with Katie Stout! Katie and I are dear friends and have worked together since the earliest days of her career. Whenever she’s in town, it’s a treat for me! Seeing the exhibitions come together is truly the best part of my job. The only thing second to that is sharing in the experience of one of our collectors falling in love with a piece and seeing it through their eyes for the first time. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot to connect to our out-of-town audiences, including with more sculptural-/object-based exhibitions like Katie’s—connecting via Facetime allows us to give a better sense of scale and tactility than we can often get from an image. I also try to always spend a good portion of my day on strategic thinking and future plans for the gallery and the artists we work with. It can be so easy to spend a whole day just putting out fires, responding to upcoming questions/emails/tasks that we forget to think in the long term. I also have a great team, and while we’re small—there are three of us here, full-time—I find it important to take some time to connect as a team.

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When you need an afternoon pick-me-up…
*blush* Order donuts! Food delivery services have really done a number on my health habits.

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Favorite nighttime eats?
Taco night! We have a wonderful nanny who helps us with the boys and generally keep the house up, as well as cooking. When left to our own devices, my husband and I tend to eat like teenage boys: burgers, pasta and way too much pizza!

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Nighttime beauty routine?
A quick wash and a moisturizer!

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Bedtime rituals…
I always read before bed and, thanks to a book club I joined that no longer exclusively comprises art-related non-fiction, I’ve read some fiction that really surprised me in terms of how attached I become to the stories. Some of my favorites from the past year were March, The Girls, and The Changeling.

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What gets you motivated to start it all over the next day…
I am so grateful for my life—every day and even in difficult moments, I remind myself of that. Loving what you do, the people you’re surrounded by and your family is the greatest motivator.

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