These husbands just opened a new LGBTQ art gallery in San Francisco

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Steffan and Brandon, owners of the LGBTQ art gallery Schlomer Haus Gallery in San Francisco
Steffan Schlarb and Brandon Romer, owners of Schlomer Haus Gallery in San Francisco (Photo: Supplied)

Looking for queer art in San Francisco? Last week saw the opening of a brand new LGBTQ art gallery in the Castro neighborhood of the city.

Schlomer Haus Gallery is located at 2128 Market Street. The men behind it are Castro residents and husbands, Steffan Schlarb and Brandon Romer. ‘Schlomer’ comes from a mash-up of their last names.

Modern meet-cute

“We met in November 2007,” Romer tells GayCities. “We had the same Muni stop in the Cole Valley neighborhood. I then noticed Steffan online a few months later, wrote to him, and asked if he wanted to get a churro sometime. We moved to the Castro neighborhood in 2011, and married in 2017 at City Hall in San Francisco.”

Schlarb is an award-winning creative director. He’s led teams of designers in creating innovative digital products for clients such as Google, Salesforce, and Open Table. He is also an artist.

Romer has built a career as a film and video producer in the advertising industry over the last 20 years. He’s produced for Facebook, Twitter, and Xbox, among others. He’s also worked with world-renowned directors Terrence Malick, Rupert Sanders, and Jenn Nkiru.

(Photo: Andres Acosta / DP&A, Inc)

Long-held dreams

The gallery is the realization of a long-held dream. The couple wants to help artists and the Castro neighborhood thrive.

Last week's launch of the Schlomer Haus Gallery
Last week’s launch of Schlomer Haus Gallery (Photo: Andres Acosta / DP&A, Inc)

“COVID really made us realize the importance of community. Opening Schlomer Haus Gallery is a way for us to foster community while expressing our love of art and our desire to help queer, underrepresented, emerging artists thrive,” explains Schlarb in a press statement.

“We could have opened the gallery in another neighborhood with an established art scene, but we wanted to create a space in the Castro for the unseen to be seen — and where we can help foster artistic creativity and culture in the Castro.”

Related: Gay arts and culture in San Francisco

The Schlomer Haus Gallery - a gay art space in San Francisco
(Photo: Andres Acosta / DP&A, Inc)

Romer says they started talking about the idea of a gallery very early in their relationship.

“On our second date back in 2007, I mentioned to Steffan that I wanted to open an art gallery in San Francisco. I actually don’t remember saying that, but it had always been a dream of mine (I studied art history in college), but Steffan did. Fast-forward to June 2021, I asked Steffan what he thought about opening up an art gallery, shared a presentation I had put together, and unbelievably he said yes, okay let’s do it.”

The hope is to mount a new show every couple of months. The inaugural exhibition is titled Unseen Seen. It features six international artists: Heather Benjamin, Lanee Bird, Evan Paul English, David King, Ryan McMenamy, and John Webster.

“The six artists in this group exhibition explore the dynamic ways queer artists subvert the heteronormative gaze,” said Schlarb in a statement.

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Big tech and San Francisco

Many feel the arrival of big tech companies in San Francisco is irreparably changing the city’s feel. It’s also to blame for the gentrification of many neighborhoods. However, Romer says big tech has also brought benefits.

“I currently work in tech as a content producer, and Steffan who is running the gallery full time has worked in both tech and art adjacent careers for years. It was important to us to open the gallery here in our own neighborhood. We liked the idea of creating a venue for queer voices and being able to represent underrepresented people and their artistic visions.

“It’s undeniable ‘big tech’ has changed the atmosphere of the city, but it has provided us an opportunity to pursue a dream, created a new demographic of patrons, and a new platform of voices and identities. We found social media particularly useful in our curation process, being able to look around on Instagram and see work that we liked and artists that we thought had something interesting to say.”

 

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Schlomer Haus Gallery is open now by appointment, Tue–Sat 12-6 pm, at 2128 Market Street. Contact via phone (T:(415) 275-0960) or email ([email protected]). You can also follow on Instagram at @schlomer_haus

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