Imagine traveling through Europe with a busload of people with your last name. That’s what Alex Morpugo did recently, courtesy of his genealogy-loving father. In Washington, Morpugo, 28, is studying exhibition design at the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design. He previously worked in industrial design.
What was it like to meet all of those distant Morpugo relatives?
It was fascinating. There were, I think, over 40. We rented a bus. It was a four-day trip and we explored the city of Trieste in Italy and the city of Maribor, which is in Slovenia, which is essentially the origin of my family.
There’s a lot of family history of mine in this town, Trieste, Italy, which used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is often forgotten, which is really sad because it’s a spectacular city.
There was an exhibition on [my grandfather] in Maribor, which was fascinating.
It was actually a big group, and it was very friendly.
What is exhibition design?
I’m not a curator, I’m not choosing the collections. What happens is an institution or museum will come with a collection or a concept for an exhibit. They’re asking for a space to be purpose-built to display something or for an experience. My main interests are in permanent exhibits within large institutions.
You were doing industrial design before pursuing your master’s.
I initially got interested in industrial design because I had a passion for high-end furniture that essentially was sold as fine arts. I’ve been able to work for a kitchenware manufacturer. So a knife block I designed is actually for sale at Walmart.
I just had a really diverse range and had a lot of wonderful opportunities to work even in this niche medical field called facial prosthetics, which provides non-weight-bearing somatic prostheses to patients who have parts of their face removed for whatever reason.
So what do you love about creating a design?
I think it’s a love-hate relationship, because it’s difficult and there’s so many different demands. But I just love that feeling that you have something that has been made, and it has varied interpretations. You know, a sculpture just sits there. A museum interior can be viewed by many people and they’re all going to take away what [their interpretation is] from it.
Thinking about designing a museum interior is a lot more in depth and difficult than I initially thought.
What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?
I think there’s something about Shabbat that it recurs all the time. And it’s such a nice thing on a Friday. While it’s not something I do regularly by any means, I always enjoy it when I’m there. Just like when I find myself with Jewish family, friends, it’s great.