We had the good fortune of connecting with Lindsay Preston Zappas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lindsay, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Work life balance: how has your balance changed over time? How do you think about the balance?
Work-life balance almost becomes laughable when you start your own business. Like, it’s just not a thing for a while. The boundaries become very porous, and I’ve realized over the six years of running Carla that unclear boundaries around work can be really bad on my mental health. So, I try to keep regular hours and work loosely around a 9-5 schedule with weekends off as much as possible. This goal has actually become much easier to attain in the pandemic with less art openings or gallery hopping on evenings and weekends (although I definitely miss seeing our community on a regular basis).
Keeping boundaries around work allow me to spend time cooking with my husband, playing board games, gardening, running with my dog, etc — all of the things that really make life life. It sounds a bit obvious to say all of this, but when you are the one who is keeping your business going, and things aren’t getting done otherwise, it really starts to take over. I am really lucky to be at a place now where I can start to bring people on to work with me, and we’ve assembled a really great team (small but very mighty!) that support the vision and workflow, and are all brilliant and dedicated to what we do — their contributions to the magazine have allowed me to start to find balance around the work and life, which has been such a gift.
I have also really worked towards trying to be much more accepting of myself and my capacities, and what I can reasonably accomplish in any given work day, knowing that I can come back to it tomorrow and keep plugging away. Learning to leave work in the office is a skill that’s always work in progress for me.
I’m also an artist, and my studio time often gets trumped by more pressing deadlines with the magazine. My goal this year is to really be diligent about advocating for regular studio time, even if it’s just one or two afternoons each week.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Carla is an LA-based contemporary art publication that is both critical and approachable. The magazine publishes a quarterly print magazine, and also has online reviews (that we call Snap Reviews), and a podcast (The Carla Podcast).
I started the magazine shortly after moving to Los Angeles post-graduate school, and it is very much an artist-run, independent endeavor. I had been involved in several artist-run initiatives (a couple of artist collectives that produced shows and events, an online art blog) and was also putting up art shows in my live-work space with my roommates at the time. So I had been engaged in a DIY ethos for quite some time.
People often ask me how I started the magazine, and I really just dove in, taking one step at a time. I started by looking around at other publications and began to formalize a vision for what I wanted Carla to be that was unique. Then I started to slowly rally the troops. I reached out to local writers and had meetings with them one by one—at bars, coffee shops, or on hikes—to essentially pitch my vision for the publication and see if they would be interested in contributing. Then i just kept solving one problem at a time: distribution, printing, ad sales, design… I just kept stepping. I think so much success has to do with consistency. You just have to keep going.
As an artist, starting a criticism magazine, I had a desire to see art writing by other artists, not just the more established critics. It’s also highly important to marry criticism and community, two things that I think historically are at odds with each other within critical writing. So in a way, the magazine is a proposition that reframes the role of art criticism and how it operates. I am much more interested in a version of art criticism that is lateral and communal versus one that is top-down and perpetuates unequal hierarchies. (I think a lot about the crit room: being in art school and discussing an artwork collectively, rather than having one person telling you if it’s good or bad).
The magazine is also free, which is another really important factor in encouraging accessibility—Carla is distributed in about 100 galleries in Los Angeles which allowed us to build an organic readership fairly quickly. If you go to art spaces in the city, you will likely discover the magazine. We have recently been working on a number of community and accessibility initiatives like Carla en Español (our Spanish-language version of the magazine) and Carla Audio Books which are audio versions of our quarterly. We recently co-hosted a book club with Feminist Center for Creative Work that focused on conversations at the intersection of social justice and equity in the arts.
We wouldn’t be here without the support of the Los Angeles art community who embraced the magazine and continues to read and support what we do. Being an integral part of that ecosystem is really important to me and something that feels like an honor to be able to participate in.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh boy! This is a fun question. I’m imagining that an artist friend comes to visit and we have boundless energy to actually do all of this!
Saturday, we would go for an early morning hike in Griffith Park or on the trails behind the Brand Library. Then we would grab breakfast at Courage Bagels or Los Anaya (best huevos rancheros!). Next, we would go on a little gallery hop around town. Maybe we’d go to some Hollywood spots: Nonaka-Hill, Various Small Fires, Shulamit Nazarian, Matthew Brown, and stop for a little coffee and cookie break at Sycamore Kitchen on La Brea before going across town to an art museum: MOCA or the ICA LA. Dinner perhaps at Woon, a great Chinese spot I recently went to in Filipinotown (ube crunch ice cream for dessert for sure!). That night we might camp at Leo Carillo in Malibu so that we could wake up and head straight to the beach.
After a long morning at the beach, driving back into the city, we would stop at Country Kitchen for a breakfast burrito and then pop by the Mar Vista Farmers Market on the way home to pick up everything we need to make a lovely dinner at home on our back deck. I’m thinking grilled fish, grilled veggies, and a tomato and mint salad, topped off with a nice bottle of wine from Bar and Garden (a Culver City wine shop specializing in natural wines).
The week would probably progress accordingly with a good mix of food, art, and nature (basically my three favorite things).
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
So many people and experiences have sort of culminated into where I am now, and how Carla has taken shape. I actually studied graphic design in undergrad, and although I went on to pursue art, I think that graphic sensibility comes through constantly in the magazine, and also how I think about my work as an artist.
Shoutout to any artist-run-anything that has come before me and paved the way for experimental projects that can be wholly unique in how they operate and exist in the world. This type of experimentation definitely charted a pathway for what I’m doing.
Ever grateful to my husband, John. We grew up together in this art world, and he held down the ship while I got my magazine off the ground. Support from family, friends, my dog Cosmo, cold emails from Carla readers thanking me for what we do… all of it is so important to maintaining energy and focus to keep pushing forward and growing.
And of course, I alone am not Carla. Shoutout to our amazing team of editors, designers, translators, and social media gurus. Y’all keep this train moving! So much of the magazine’s voice is due to our writers, who trust me with their words and innovative thinking. The magazine is as much theirs as it is mine.
Other: The Carla podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify, etc.