WHO: Monica O. Montgomery, Director, Museum of Impact / Strategic Director, Museum Hue
By Olivia Mason
BIO: Monica O. Montgomery is an international speaker, graduate professor, museum director and cultural entrepreneur, curating media and museums to be in service to society. She is a winner of the 2016 Arts Entrepreneurship Award from Fractured Atlas. She is the cofounder and Strategic Director of Museum Hue a multicultural collective advancing professionals of color, in arts, culture, museums and creative economy. Her work with Museum Hue includes speaking to students and career changers, training cultural leaders and HR staff, and partnering with universities and institutions to facilitate diversity staffing, pipelines to leadership, equity & inclusion initiatives, job fairs, town halls, tours and talks. Additionally she organizes with Museums Workers Speak, leading the collective nationally and locally in social media, membership recruitment and external affairs to promote inclusion, parity and thriving wages careers in museums.
Monica directs two community museums at opposite ends of the contemporary and historic spectrum. She makes history come alive as Executive Director of the Lewis Latimer Historic House Museum; remixing the museum experience by interpreting the maker movement, STEAM, and community connections. The Latimer house champions Museum Anarchy through the lens of Latimer’s legacy of Black History and cultural achievement. She curates the current as the Founding Director of the Museum of Impact (MOI) the first mobile social justice museum at the intersection of art and activism. MOI’s inaugural exhibit ‘Movement Is Rising: Journey of #BlackLivesMatter’ is traveling the eastern seaboard popping up in community spaces and encyclopedic institutions like Brooklyn Museum. The exhibit transforms visitors from bystander to Upstander and collects oral histories and stories via the Activist Love Letters™ transmedia project. Read more of Monica’s bio here
O: I am so happy to have the chance to speak with you! You are so busy! Tell me, what are you working on right now that stands out as being the MOST fun and exciting?
M: I am currently working on curating a show for Museum of Impact called ‘Resilience Remix’ that celebrates artivists, activists and movement builders that are nuancing the narrative, claiming agency and fighting back against systematic oppression in creative ways. It will blend contemporary issues with collectives that are championing change around these issues. I ride for all things social justice and curating stories about this work is making me very happy!
O: Amazing and so necessary. How do museums inspire you?
M: My inspiration for visiting museums is very multifaceted, I am intrigued by great exhibit design and the ways information and didactics are displayed and designed to evoke a mood and shape an experience. I truly enjoy observing curatorial practice and exhibit design that enhances the visitor experience and brings a sense of delight as you walk through.
O: Do you have a favorite museum?
M: EMP Museum in Seattle Washington, Its colorful, alternative, geeky, Sci-fi friendly and overall epic.
O: Favorite museum memory?
M: As a kid running through the Air & Space Museum looking at puppet shows and large air planes, hiding from my parents. I gave them quite a fright every time I would disappear deep in the belly of the exhibits. Fun times!
O: What was the last museum you visited?
M: The Science Gallery in Dublin Ireland, its literally a playground for adults, with cool exhibits and a hipster vibe. I also do a lot of meetings in the Cafe of the Brooklyn Museum. I recently met with my UK friends from Museum Detox collective to discuss diversity, equity and Museum Hue amongst our core supporters. We talked shop about institutional differences in the US & UK.
O: What’s your favorite NYC experience?
M: Walking along the length of Brooklyn Bridge Park on a sunny day, eating gelato with a good book and my neo soul music.
O: Favorite NYC brunch option?
M: The yummy jollof rice, mac and cheese and eggs benedict at Lenox Sapphire in Harlem.
O: Most romantic NYC recommendation?
M: An evening night cap looking out along the Hudson river under the palm trees at Brookfield place (Near Freedom Tower in lower Manhattan) facing the New Jersey waterfront.
O: What NYC street food are you most likely to eat?
M: Shish Kabobs, with Chinese 5 spice, only found in Flushing, Queens. Queens is the foodie capital! #ItsInQueens
O: Which museum is on your bucket list?
O: Which museum do you typically recommend to out-of-towners?
O: What do you collect?
M: Business cards mostly, I have stacks of them in my house. I’ve been thinking of creating a conceptual art piece with them. I also collect socially responsive art, artifacts related to activist movements, and shot glasses.
O: Which item might you donate to a museum that best represents your life?
M: My Metrocard, because it takes me everywhere I need to go in the 5 boroughs.
O: What show do you binge watch?
M: Game of Thrones of course! If you’re not watching… Get Your Life Because Winter Is Coming!
O: Monica, thanks for all that you do and the unique perspective you were able to provide. Greatly appreciated!
M: Lovely chatting with you, Olivia.
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Monica is an alumna of Temple University with a Bachelors of Arts in Broadcast Communication and LaSalle University, with a Masters of Arts in Corporate Communication. She is an adjunct professor with Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University. She has paneled at NYU, American University, Pratt Institute, University of Pennsylvania, among others and she holds leadership positions in New York City Museum Educators Roundtable, U.S Department of Arts & Culture and the Talent Philanthropy Network. She is a dynamic empowerment speaker, educator and facilitator who has presented to all ages and keynoted conferences throughout Europe and North America.
PHOTO CREDITS AND DISCLAIMERS
* Copyright (c) 2016 The Colored Girls Museum
** Copyright (c) 2016 Wyckoff House Museum
*** Copyright (c) 2016 New Museum, Simone Leigh, Landscape, from the series Anatomy of Architecture, 2016. Digital collage. Courtesy the artist