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The Day I Stepped into the MoMA and Dreamed of Working in New York

Back in Italy, after a long time an email from the Museum of Modern Art turned my dream into reality

by Stefania Castelletti

NYC collage by Stefania Castelletti

In Italiano

In the summer of 2014 I visited New York City for the first time. Back then, I couldn’t imagine that my trip would have been the first step in  realizing my biggest dream: to live and work in the Big Apple. During that holiday I went to the Museum of Modern Art and I visited the “Architecture & Design” section: design was put at the same level as art, which was a revealing moment for me. MoMA was the first museum, back in 1932, to include design objects among its collection, showing great foresight. Peter Blake, Architecture & Design’s curator in the 50s, stated that “everyday objects are an integral part of the art of our time” and therefore worthy of being exhibited in a museum. Today it’s a well established idea, but it was rather revolutionary for the time.

Stefania Castelletti on the Brooklyn Bridge

After finishing high school, intrigued by this concept, I decided to enroll in the Graphic Designcourse at the European Institute of Design (IED) in Milan and after graduation, I immediately sent my application for an internship at the same Museum that had fascinated me so much.

A few months passed by and I hadn’t received news from the States, so I decided to put my mind at ease: they had certainly chosen someone else. Meanwhile, I had found a job in an art direction studio in Milan. There, I had the incredible opportunity to work with some luxury brands (Valextra and Masseto, to name a few) so I started to build my experience in the creative field. However, on a cold December day, I received an unexpected email from the Museum of Modern Art. In a state of awe, I started reading: they were interested in my application. We arranged for a phone interview and, within a few weeks, here I was on an intercontinental flight: destination New York City.

A year later, when I think back to those incredible four months spent in the city, everything seems a distant but wonderful dream. I lived in a small but cosy studio apartment on 54th Street, very close to the Museum. For a European, living in Midtown can be challenging at first: accustomed to the ancient and elegant buildings of our cities, it’s not hard to imagine how intimidated I was to be all alone in the midst of gigantic skyscrapers. But it wasn’t too long before I started loving that strip of buildings between Central Park and “Midtown”. In fact, it was quite easy to walk to any place on the island from there and, more importantly, I was very close to my office: the Department of Retail. This office manages all the activities related to the MoMA Design Store, from e-commerce to real brick and mortars located all over the island (from Midtown to Soho).

My role was well defined, but sometimes I had the chance to deal with other matters: in addition to traditional graphics (mood boards for the buyer team and design proposals for new products to be presented at the October 2019 reopening), I also helped to manage events (workshop set-ups) and the e-commerce (merchandising and constant website checking). In short, a 360-degree creative experience that allowed me to acquire a confidence that I had never had before. I’m sure it’s a feeling that all immigrants have experienced at least once in their lives. New Yorkers, after all, are very good at spreading their energy and positivity.

Il MOMA (Tony Fischer / Flickr.com).

My working experience at MoMA was made even more special by the excitement in the offices for the upcoming renovation: the $400 million expansion made it possible to reorganize the museum’s permanent collection and enrich it with new works by women or artists belonging to minorities, traditionally less represented and known. Weeks passed too quickly, and the arrival of spring marked the end of my internship. I wistfully waved goodbye to New York, sure it wasn’t forever.

It’s been exactly a year since when, nervous and full of expectations, I got on a plane headed to this wonderful adventure. After all this time, New York is still on my mind, and that’s why I couldn’t resist coming back there last October for the reopening of the new MoMA. Besides admiring the restyling of the museum, I had the chance to see first-hand some of the products I had worked on, displayed in the brand new MoMA Design Store.

Today I live and work in Italy, but my hope is still to go back to New York, the city of my dreams.

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