Can you explain the type of work you do with the Cooper Hewitt?
I support School & Tour and Professional Development programs, each of which encompasses a few programs. For Professional Development, I work on technology with Arts Achieve, the multi-partner i3 grant that brings iPad technology to NYC arts classrooms. I also worked on Cooper Hewitt’s Smithsonian Design Institute by completing the back-of-house financial paperwork, travel, and logistics for 30+ participants from across the country.

For School & Tours programs, I have been working on Design in the Classroom, our big school outreach program, for which I do the scheduling and reporting. Lately, with the Museum opening soon, my role with Tours has fast become a larger role. Together with Kimberly Cisneros (School and Tours Manager), I am working on the planning for public, private, college, and school tours with the docents and our contracted educators.

What was your background before coming to Cooper Hewitt?
Prior to Cooper Hewitt, I had worked at the University of Arizona’s Museum of Art and School of Art, where I taught art to college students. That’s where I also received a MA Art Education. Before that, I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Peru and had other museum experiences at Fresno Art Museum and the Uffizi Gallery.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Interacting with the teachers and the students. Design is about people, so interfacing with the people, teaching them, and helping them come to a positive conclusion makes me most happy.

What has been your most memorable moment at the Cooper Hewitt?
I think instead, for me the best memories of Cooper Hewitt involve the friendships that have been fostered with colleagues. These relationships have taught me a lot.

How has the renovation either opened new doors or posed new challenges for you?
The renovation has definitely opened new doors for us. With the Museum closed, we’ve had to be creative in where and how we hold our programs. Design in the Classroom is a direct product of the renovation, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

What are you most excited about once the museum reopens?
All of my museum experiences have always involved being on the floor, with the students, teachers, and artists, so just being in the museum will be exciting. I began working at the Cooper Hewitt during the renovation, so I’m eager to experience the halls full of exhibitions and to hear the many languages of our visitors.

How would you describe good design? Bad design?
We teach that good design is about the user. When we look closer at the brainstorming process of designing in consideration of a user, the nugget that most resonates, fascinates, and attracts me is empathy. When a designer has lived and experienced the needs of their client, the programs/products/ideas that s/he designs for that group of specific users are essentially by one of those specific users. With empathy for the client, the end-designed product can be more than successful–it can become meaningful. Good design is often seamless to one’s life; it can even be unnoticed because it is so integrated and effortless. Bad design wastes resources, poses additional challenges, makes assumptions and requires more exertion.

What is your favorite Cooper Hewitt exhibition to date? Why?
The Design With the Other 90% exhibition was particularly significant to me. The stories behind the exhibition illustrate the ways design can permeate one’s daily life. Every Peace Corps volunteer experienced the daily balancing act of teaching the importance of efficiency and updating practices whilst maintaining cultural integrity and traditions. By sharing new technologies, you were a witness to the betterment of another’s life. This exhibition holds personal meaning and relevance to me because I have lived through it.

Finally, if you could redesign anything, what would it be?
The man’s suit. If we look at the history of men’s clothing, not much has changed in the last couple centuries. Although a “suit is classic,” I’d be curious to see how the future might enable a redesign. Perhaps this might require a concurrent redesign of the social acceptability and expectation of men’s fashion…

2 thoughts on “Meet the Staff: James Reyes

James, Thank you for the information you sent re: Friends of Metuchen Library visit on Sept. 24. The Treasurer and I have been playing “telephone tag” and not yet connected. She will draw a check for $450 and get it out to you ASAP. Please keep our reservation open.

Hi James! I’m trying to get in touch with someone regarding J.C. Eisenhart Run-VII wallpaper we found in a home we just purchased. Can you help me with this? I have tried calling and even sent an e-mail but have had no luck getting in touch with someone

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