A Union Hill home proves the perfect place to live and work for a private art dealer
By contributing writer
Like many transplants, Rachael Blackburn Cozad moved to Kansas City for a job. In 2001, she relocated from Los Angeles so she could take on the role of executive director at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.
And like quite a few others, she became smitten with her new hometown. After all, this was also where she met her husband, Kanon Cozad. They decided to stay even after she resigned her museum position to launch her own business as a private art dealer and consultant.
“We just love Kansas City,” Rachael explains. “The art world is global, so it really doesn’t matter where you live—but I am very fortunate that my position at the Kemper helped me make contacts locally.”
When she decided to make the leap, Rachael already had the perfect gallery space in mind. It offered areas that could accommodate large works of art, plus amazing natural light. And the commute wasn’t bad either. So she established her new business, Rachael Cozad Fine Art, in the airy Union Hill home she and Kanon had bought the previous year.
Although the house was still fairly new to the couple, the neighborhood wasn’t: They’d lived in a townhouse two doors down for several years.
“I’d always felt like this house should be mine,” Rachael says.
It’s easy to see why it caught her eye. The impressive Federal-style house, with its red brick exterior, arched doorway and copper drainpipes, looks as though it has always been a part of the historic 1850s neighborhood—even though it was only built in the late 1980s.
Inside, the design marries charming, traditional details, including paneled doors, crown moldings and fanlights, with the larger windows and more spacious rooms of a contemporary house.
The interior design, which Rachael credits largely to Kanon, is likewise a blend of styles and periods in which Asian and European antiques mingle beautifully with midcentury modern and contemporary furnishings.
“We didn’t want our home to be too connected to any particular period,” Kanon says. “What we appreciate in furniture is just good design. I think that good design is what gives a timeless modernism to the Asian pieces.”
And of course, all of this is the backdrop to the Cozads’ stunning collection of art—works they plan to keep as well as some that may only be staying for a brief time before Rachael places them with another collector.
In the dining room, a striking red Murano glass chandelier provides a counterpoint to the clean lines and neutral palette of the contemporary dining table and chairs it hangs above. The room is also home to one of Rachael’s favorite pieces, Bone Ombre, a sculpture by Colorado artist Del Harrow. The work is so beloved by her that when it was on loan to a gallery, she placed a photograph of it on the empty table as a reminder. Adjacent, the antique Chinese chest with brass embellishments, which serves as a sideboard, sits beneath a large-scale photo of soldiers surveying the land below Uday Hussein’s Iraqi home. (The same shot, Pool at Uday’s Palace by Irish photographer Richard Mosse, was also featured in the recent American Soldier exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins.)
Photography accounts for much of the Cozads’ collection. The couple owns several pieces by Kansas City-based photographer Mike Sinclair. His shot of the interior of the Golden Ox, the iconic West Bottoms steakhouse that closed earlier this year, hangs in the contemporary kitchen. Sinclair’s photograph of a group of people eagerly awaiting their turn on a ride at Worlds of Fun (seen in the master bedroom) was one of the first pieces the couple bought together.
“It’s not always that a piece strikes both of us in the same way, but that was one of them,” Rachael says. “The other was the polar bear photo.”
The piece she is referring to, an almost-to-scale portrait by Jill Greenberg, commands attention in the living room, where a pair of calfskin Le Corbusier chairs and a sleek, Italian-designed chaise longue, are joined by a pair of midcentury modern armchairs that belonged to Rachael’s grandfather. She had them reupholstered in a lively chartreuse-colored fabric. Taking pride of place above the sectional sofa is a painting by Rachael’s father, artist Ed Blackburn.
Rachael says that one of the things she loves most about the house is that she finally has spaces large enough to display her father’s paintings. (Another piece—created by Rachael’s parents, Ed and Linda Blackburn, who collaborated under the moniker Ray Madison—hangs in Kanon’s office.) Of course, she also is thankful that her home has proved such an excellent place to base her business too.
“Art is personal,” Rachael says, explaining that she feels that working out of her home gives her the opportunity to really connect with her clientele. “I also think it helps to be able to see the work in a residence instead of a white cube,” she adds, referring to typically minimalist galleries.
But best of all? “I get to live surrounded by art,” she beams.