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5 Ridiculous Questions with Todd Smithby Page Leggett on November 20, 2020
Bechtler Museum of Modern Art
When Todd Smith became the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s executive director in early September, it was a homecoming of sorts. Smith lived in Charlotte early in his career – when he worked as a curator at the Mint Museum.
But he’s lived a lot of places in between his stints in Charlotte. Most recently, he made his home in the OC. He served as director and CEO at the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) for the past six years.
His career leading art museums has also taken him to Tampa, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; Knoxville, Tennessee and Fargo, North Dakota. (Really. And he found a lot to love about the city made famous by a Coen Brothers’ film about murder for hire.)
Smith earned his bachelor’s degree in art history and political science from Duke University and a master’s degree in art history from Indiana University. He’s been a friend since I met him through his work at the Mint many years ago. I suspected I knew his answers to some of the questions I posed. (And I did. Hello, Tyler Brule.)
But I’d never heard of Ted Lasso until now. Culturally and in every other way, Todd is always miles ahead. Also, I’m no good with numbers, so I may have asked him more than five questions.
On to 5 (Math-Challenged) Ridiculous Questions with Todd Smith
What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been that you didn’t expect to like?
That’s an unfair question. I suffer from extreme wanderlust and have always found something to like in every place I visit. I was surprised, though, how much I fell in love with Shanghai and can’t wait to go back once the world re-opens.
What’s your favorite breed of dog, and what does that say about you?
Pembroke Welsh Corgi. We have our second one, Pebbles, now. As a breed, they are so fun-loving. I guess though, given their physique, it means I’m an “ears-and-waddling-butt sort of guy.”
What’s some good advice that you just didn’t take (but wish you had)?
Maya Angelou once commented, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” I have gotten better over the years at heeding that advice. If only I would have taken that advice more regularly, I could have saved myself many unfortunate decisions.
You’re on a flight. Just for fun, let’s say you got upgraded to first class. The chatty person beside you asks what you do for a living. How do you explain your job and the Bechtler?
(Or do you fake sleep because you hate talking to strangers on planes?)
Oh, if I am lucky enough to be able to turn left when I board, I am heading for that lie-flat seat with the aisle door closed and finding my personal Zen space of podcasts and magazines. But if I am asked, I would say that I am fortunate to be able to lead one of the gems of the museum world, a museum with a rich collection of European modern art, housed in an architectural showplace, and proud to be here as the museum steps into its second decade with hope and ambition.
You and your husband, Ben Hood, have been together for almost 25 years. What’s the secret to a long, happy marriage? And you can’t say “living in different cities” because that’s not practical for most people.
(Note: Smith and Hood, a lawyer, have frequently lived in different cities, but they – and Pebbles – are enjoying being under the same roof now.)
In the words of the inimitable Ted Lasso, “Be a goldfish.” Learn to let things go. And I always have to remind myself, it is not as if I’m perfect, either.
Now. we’re into extra innings …
What did you wear to your in-person interview at the Bechtler? What did it say about you?
Full-on suit and tie. You can never show too much respect to your potential bosses.
What public figure, who most people haven’t heard of, do you most admire?
It would have to be Tyler Brule, the editor-in-chief of Monocle magazine. He founded Wallpaper magazine back in the day and launched Monocle and its radio and online platforms over the last 12 years.
It covers all that shapes the world I want to live in. Its editorial content ranges from foreign affairs, travel, culture, design to business, urbanism and fashion. It is my media one-stop source. And even with all of the attention-sucking social media in our lives, the magazine is so well designed it makes me want to dig in for hours.
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