Friday, May 20, 2011

Introducing John Ito, Exhibit Designer & Builder

We feel both lucky and happy to have had John Ito join Mindport’s staff this January.  A former employee of the Children’s Museum of Boston, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and the Lawrence Hall of Science, John is now calling Mindport (and Bellingham) home.  Though he currently spends most of his work time in Mindport’s basement building what he calls a “people and sound convergence device,” Kevin and I lured him up from the depths for a conversation.  Here’s some of what we discovered: 

John grew up outside of Boston in a suburb called Norwood, home his parents’ ice cream shop and a terrific scrap metal yard.  Access to “junk,” the inventions of Dr. Who, and encouragement from his grandfather and an uncle -builders themselves- led to a childhood spent taking things apart and putting them back together, carving bows and arrows, and fixing bikes. 

After high school, where he focused on art and was voted “Most Radical Senior,” John attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  He initially thought he might want to be an animator, but at 17 “had way too much energy to do something that required sitting down.”  John turned to metal sculpture instead, but continued to “focus on everything” finding that not being limited to one area resulted in a much bigger and interesting perspective. 

Following stints working for a photo developer, a video store, a hospital laundry room, and a coffee shop, John found his way to museum work, starting out in Visitor Services at the Children’s Museum of Boston at the age of 22.  He then moved into exhibit designing and building at this and other institutions before joining the staff of Mindport. 

When I ask him what he likes about what he’s doing now, John laughs and says, “Well, it’s exactly what I want to be doing, and that’s an impossibility for most people.  I get to build what I want to build – there’s no one giving me directions or telling me what to make, and that’s just not normal for most people.  It’s wonderful.” 

Questioned about how he came to have such a varied and interesting set of skills, John admits that he was not studious ever, noting that, “not focusing on what I was supposed to focus on to be a ‘success’ led me to where I am.  When you let go of expectation – especially expectations for yourself – a lot of interesting things can happen.” 

 Carol, another MP staffer, had some additional questions for Mr. Ito.  

Q. How many pens do you have on you at the moment? 

A. Six fountain pens, one ball-point, two mechanical pencils, and one standard issue pencil.

Q. What is your favorite bike? 

A. A Schwinn Corvette cantilever frame with 2-speed kickback coaster brake hub, moustache bars, leather saddle, BMX pedals with mavic rims and slick tires.  It should also be black and have a milk crate on the front. 

Q. What was the first thing you took apart and put together?

A. My grandparents’ clock.  It was broken and I accidentally fixed it – leading me to believe I could fix anything.  

Tallie Jones

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