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SPEC Art Gallery presented its speaker, Glenn Lowry, Director of MoMA, who spoke about modern art, careers, and leadership. Credit: Lin Zheng , Lin Zheng

Museum of Modern Art Director Glenn Lowry never intended to be an art historian or museum director. “I wanted to be an Olympic skier,” he said.

Tuesday evening in Claudia Cohen Hall’s Terrace Room, Lowry spoke to the group of students, professors and art curators as SPEC Art Gallery’s first ever speaker event.

Lowry discussed the early years of his life, explaining that he competed on the U.S. ski team in Europe, racing against some of the best skiers in the world. Realizing how short his skiing career would be, Lowry quickly dismissed the idea of being a professional skier.

His college advisor drove Lowry toward art. He described art history to Lowry, “They turn the lights down, they show some slides, its not really hard.”

At the first slide, Lowry was hooked. A 16th century Persian manuscript with “hallucinogenic colors” appeared on the screen and he knew he wanted to pursue a career in art history.

Lowry took a number of jobs before he became MoMA director, including cataloguing Islamic manuscripts at the McGill Library, directing a then non-existent museum at the College of William and Mary — Lowry had gotten the job, but the actual museum had not been built yet — and heading the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Now, he strives for MoMA’s institutional goal to “make modern art as exciting and interesting to as large a public as possible.”

“I want as many people to enjoy the experience of looking at art as possibly can,” Lowry said.

He also offered some advice to his audience, encouraging them to be “strategic thinkers” and reminding them that it is of utmost important to reject people’s attempts to mold you.

“Define yourself, don’t let the field define you,” said Lowry confidently. “If you refuse to let yourself be defined that way you become a unique entity.”

The audience laughed along as Lowry discussed how his many jobs and, ultimately, his career path were instances of pure luck. He advised the audience to “let chance guide [them].”

He even went so far as to reveal that he didn’t originally want the job as MoMA director.

Senior Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art Ingrid Schaffner loved Lowry’s modesty. “[He credited] getting these incredible jobs and opportunities as his dumb luck and [how] no one else wanted them and he just happened along,” Schaffner said.

Now Lowry has become an integral part of the museum, as well as of their numerous contemporary art programs.

College freshman Caitlin Loyd talked about how inspired she was by the lecture. “I’m glad he didn’t pursue being a champion skier. He’s conquered his own mountain and demonstrated that there are endless possibilities in the field,” Loyd said.

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