What Matters to Jennifer Grasso

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Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.

Jen Grosso is the Director of Architecture at Alloy, a group of architects and developers committed to making Brooklyn beautiful, equitable, & sustainable.

What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Having a Saturday morning cup of coffee with my girlfriend Massi. That cup of coffee is best when refilled and becomes half the day. We read, write and tinker around on “projects” that go mostly nowhere. That side table she wants to build? Model it, give up. That semi-coherent RHONY take I had? Outline, get distracted, maybe come back to it later. Undirected caffeinated weekend ambition is perfect fuel for the deepest cut research projects of absolutely no consequence.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

A summer afternoon of making mud pies at my grandparent’s country house as a kid. I had collected my grandmother’s CorningWare, a pink plastic strainer, and some silverware out by the lake. I filtered layers of pebbles through lake water, mixed mud with grass, and packed it upon the dish. I scavenged leaves off the nearby tree, tore dandelions from the lawn, and petunias my Grandmother’s planted half-barrel. I raided my grandfather’s tool shed for old bits to go in one, while Barbie’s heels adorned another. When a mud pie was complete – I’d present it to my mother, chuck it into the lake, and then start again. It was a feral kid joy in the process of assembly.

What is your biggest regret?

I regret not taking on more risk earlier in my life. Professional, financial, creative.

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

I think only by witnessing change in who I am. Every bunch of years I look back at my younger self like “who was that?!” and in this way can look back at past relationships I’ve had and feel them differently because I feel so different from my past selves.

What makes you cry?

Usually thinking too long about the people I miss, or might miss in the future.

But, here’s a list of other things that also made me cry this month:

At least 2 strangers running the NYC Marathon cheered on by family.

A Bake-off contestant being sent home.

Ada getting married in the Gilded Age (Uncompelling character. Rushed plot point. Why the tears?)

A Zyrtec commercial.

An IG reel of an elderly doggo. I was on the subway to work. It was maybe 7:30am.

Andrea Gibson’s announcement on “We Can Do Hard Things” (bad)

Andrea Gibson’s second announcement on “We Can Do Hard Things” (better)

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

Buildings can take time, but the cool part is there’s few moments along the way I think
“Hey, we made that! This exists in NY now!”

Standing on the first constructed floor right at the level the ground used to be.

Getting to the tippy top and seeing a view of NY that never existed before.

Driving along the BQE just living my life, and seeing a project in the distance.

The accomplished moments are fleeting, and almost always worn off well before final completion, and seeing old projects feels a bit like seeing a high school friend you haven’t stayed in touch with. Do I make eye-contact? Does it remember me?

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

No, but returning to infinite everything/nothingness sounds pretty interesting.

What do you hate most about yourself?

I really care what people think of me. I hate how much time I spend thinking about what others might think about what I do and say.

What do you love most about yourself?

I have access to a hundred gears. I can lose myself in an idea, and turn around and get shit done. I can build consensus in a team, and I can speak out. I love learning and like to think I’m always changing.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

My father’s spaghetti and meatballs.

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