A Spectrum on Inspirations

Christopher Gorman ’05 planned on pursuing a career after graduation in writing or journalism, but is now helping to co-chair the Spectrum, an initiative at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When Christopher Gorman ’05 graduated from Manhattan, he didn’t plan on working at a museum. His goal was to work in writing or journalism. The former features editor of the Quadrangle, who also wrote poetry and fiction, landed a job at Harper Collins Publishing, as the assistant to the art director, but he didn’t think he wanted to stay in publishing.

Gorman then saw an ad in The New York Times for a security officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and thought it would be an interesting place to work. At the very least, he thought he would get a change of scenery and the chance to be around wonderful works of art while he contemplated his next move.

“When I became a guard, I wouldn’t call it love at first sight, but it was as close to it as possible,” he says. “I loved being around the artwork and watching people’s reactions to it, helping visitors get around, listening to the docents and the people who gave tours and the interesting and wonderful things they would say about the artwork. It was within a matter of weeks that I realized that if I could find a way to stay at the museum, it could be a great place for me, and I could learn a great deal, but it could be an exciting place to have a career.”

And it has proven to be so. After seven months of serving as a security officer, Gorman was hired as assistant for special exhibitions, gallery installations, and design. In 2009, he was asked to be part of a newly formed committee, too, called Spectrum, which he has been co-chairing since last August.

The mission of Spectrum is to shed fresh perspectives on the museum, its collections and exhibitions through seasonal events that focus on contemporary artists, musicians and new media. Some of its previous events have featured Ringo Starr Ben Harper, Guster, Jon Sarkin, Duke Special and Jonathan Ames.

Gorman and the committee try to do four events in a year, maybe two large and two small exhibitions, but it’s not a hard-fast schedule yet. With an emphasis on collaboration, sometimes he and his co-chair come up with the ideas, and other times they cultivate ideas from their fellow committee members. One idea, in particular, that he can take credit for was a December event, An Evening with Katrin Sigurdardottir, who is an Icelandic artist with a recent exhibition.

“Her exhibition is based on works that are in another part of the museum, from an older period of art history,” he says. “Our mission is to share fresh perspectives of the museum, and here is this artist who has done that very thing with artwork, so I felt it would be a good fit.”

In February, Spectrum hosted an event with rock band Guster. At the start of the event, two curators talked about works in the museum’s collection that showed the historical relationship between art and music. They were joined on stage by Guster and Jon Sarkin, a folk artist who did the artwork for the band’s 2010 album East Wonderful. Then, Guster performed an acoustic set, while Sarkin created a work of art.

“After the conversation, the audience got to see the collaboration between an artist and a group of musicians play out before their eyes,” he says. “In terms of an unique experience for our audience, this event turned into a particularly beautiful one.”

Since working at the museum, Gorman has been inspired to draw and paint. He doesn’t have any formal training in studio art but has managed to have a few exhibitions during the past few years, a couple in the New York City and one in Rockland County, where he grew up. He likes to use ink on paper, pastel on paper, and does a lot of landscapes in black ink and white acrylic.

“I believe that painting on my own betters my form of understanding of how great artists are able to create great works of art,” says Gorman, who often carries a sketchbook on the subway. “Writing about the art and thinking about the art, all of this is informed by what I do at the museum, and all that I do away from the museum informs my work here, so it’s a nice relationship.”

Gorman also continues to write and recently started as an arts columnist for a website called Popten.net, which specializes in music, pop culture and movies.

And he’s very happy about how it all turned out.

“I have to say, as a New Yorker, as a person who went to school in the Bronx, now lives in Brooklyn, and works in Manhattan, I’m proud of the work I’m doing here, and I’m proud to be a part of a great New York institution, as I was proud to be a part of another great New York institution, Manhattan College,” he says. “That’s just something that I can’t say enough.”

*Article from the spring edition of the Manhattan magazine.