Jon Gray will guest curate the next exhibition in Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum’s acclaimed “Selects” series. As cofounder of the creative collective and cooking advocacy group Ghetto Gastro, Gray works at the intersection of food, culture and the Bronx experience. Celebrated for his collaborative spirit, Gray extends his creative vision to projects ranging from product design and fashion to architecture and immersive culinary experiences.

“Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro Selects” is the 19th installation in the exhibition series that invites designers, artists, architects and public figures to explore and interpret Cooper Hewitt’s collection of more than 215,000 objects. The exhibition will be on view from July 1 to Feb. 13, 2022 in the Nancy and Edwin Marks Gallery.

For this Afrofuturist iteration of “Selects,” Gray brings to life a fictional narrative through a provoking storyline by José Mejia, compelling artwork by Oasa DuVerney and a dynamic exhibition display by Snøhetta. Gray transports the museum visitor to the future world of 2077 in order to rethink, reposition and reclaim object stories and identities. Freed from the confines of classical and historic interpretation, Gray’s experimental presentation creates a space for alternate layers of meaning and reflection.

In this exhibition’s creative story, a series of political, social, racial and class revolutions in 2022 have set the stage for a collapse of global power structures. A massive tsunami leaves the land of Manhattan and much of the United States submerged underwater. In the midst of chaos on the world power stage, the nations of the African continent flourish without foreign intervention and the African Assembly is founded. Over the next 40 years, the African Assembly works to repatriate cultural artifacts from the continent and fund exploratory recovery missions. Set in the year 2077, visitors will enter the lab of the young explorer àlá, one of the most revered recovery experts, who has built their own private collection of historical objects. On view will be more than 40 of àlá’s most treasured pieces, which are prized for the creative ingenuity of makers and designers from the distant past.


In conjunction with the exhibition, Cooper Hewitt’s education department will launch an educator resource, “Design it Yourself: Imaginative Sight,” as part of the Smithsonian Learning Lab collection. The Learning Lab will expand on imaginative thinking and how to use objects as jumping off points for one’s own creative process.

Featuring drawings by DuVerney, the Learning Lab will prompt students to reinterpret objects, question what it means to see and use their imagination to design a better future.


Jon Gray is interesting because he is interested. His curiosity has taken him around the globe and has had him seated across the table from world-renowned thinkers, artists and chefs, but he’s most passionate about home. A co-founder of the Bronx-based collective Ghetto Gastro, he’s building his own proverbial table, to which he would like to invite the world. Founded in 2012, Ghetto Gastro honors the block to block shifts and overlap in international cuisine and culture that happens in his borough. The collective is committed to feeding, inspiring and growing young entrepreneurs in the Bronx. Conversations about inclusion, race and economic empowerment are explored through food, as the group occupies the crossroads of design, music, film, visual art and cuisine.


This exhibition was guest curated by Gray and organized for Cooper Hewitt by Associate Curator of Latino Design Christina De León, with curatorial fellow Carolyn Herrera-Perez.

Story by José Mejia. Art by DuVerney.

Exhibition design by Snøhetta. Graphic design by Kelly Sung.


“Jon Gray of Ghetto Gastro Selects” is made possible by Crystal and Chris Sacca and the Marks Family Foundation Endowment Fund.


Cooper Hewitt is America’s design museum. Inclusive, innovative and experimental, the museum’s dynamic exhibitions, education programs, master’s program, publications and online resources inspire, educate and empower people through design. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution—the world’s largest museum, education and research complex—Cooper Hewitt is located on New York City’s Museum Mile in the historic, landmark Carnegie Mansion. Steward of one of the world’s most diverse and comprehensive design collections—over 215,000 objects that range from an ancient Egyptian faience cup dating to about 1100 BC to contemporary 3D-printed objects and digital code—Cooper Hewitt welcomes everyone to discover the importance of design and its power to change the world. Cooper Hewitt knits digital into experiences to enhance ideas, extend reach beyond museum walls and enable greater access, personalization, experimentation and connection.

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