March 2018

Renee Cooley, IALD, MIES 
Cooley Monato Studio (semiretired)

Q: How did you first get started in the lighting industry?
Short story: I answered an ad in The New York Times. I had just come to the city after receiving an MFA in Photography from Yale in 1984, and simply wanted a job that would cover the rent, etc., while my primary pursuit would be photography. The ad said LIGHT in big letters and was for an administrative position in a lighting design company, Light & Space. Before long, the principal of the company, Peter Barna, engaged me in project managing a temporary lighting installation showcasing a new product line for a furniture showroom. Since my admin work was not very time consuming, he then started to teach me design and involved me in another, permanent showroom design. Longer story: one by one, he included me in design projects showing me as we went how the process worked and what luminaires could be applied. I recall him challenging me to present and sketch possible design ideas saying, "You show me your ideas and I'll teach you how to do them." Of course, he continued to input ideas, but allowed me to actively collaborate. All the while he was teaching me the basic science of lighting as well and never hesitated to explain how light works. I was fascinated, but the thing that really snagged me was our discussions regarding light and perception, and the introduction of works by "light and space" artists like James Turrell and Robert Irwin. After about a year, I transitioned completely out of admin and into design. We worked together for six years, and Peter was truly my mentor. In 1991, he decided to teach full time and close Light & Space. Since I was the only senior designer at that time, he referred all his business to me, and I started Renee Cooley Lighting Design. There was a lot of work and, through an architect, I met and hired Emily Monato to help out. We worked so well together that, in 1993, we formed a corporation - now known as Cooley Monato Studio.

Q: How did you first get involved in the IESNYC?
It's been quite a while, but I seem to recall it was by way of interest and attendance in the monthly programs. I then got to know more of my colleagues and recognized what great things the Section was doing to support education and recognition of good light practices and quality design. After a while, especially with the encouragement of Frank Conti, I became more active. I served under the Board of Managers as education chair from 1997-1998, a Lumen juror in 1998, a member of the Finance Committee from 1998-2003, Vision and Objectives chair from 2000-2002, and stayed on as an advisor in 2003. I was a board manager in 2003 and treasurer in 2005.

Q: How do you see your role as member of the IESNYC?
This past fall I semiretired (still involved in the business, but not so much design projects) and am traveling some. But I remain interested in the goals and activities of the Section as well as the camaraderie.

Q: In your opinion, what are the best assets of the IESNYC?
The people, most definitely! There are so many dedicated people who give their precious time and broad expertise to the goals and activities of the Section. No matter what involvement I've had over the years, I have, hands down, found them to be exceptional people to work with and spend time with. I think the monthly programs are a terrific resource, and the Lumen program is an amazing celebration of our talented NYC designers and the incredible support they receive from the manufacturing community. Also, the connections the Section has with IES, IALD, DLFNY, Green Building, just to mention some, are big pluses that enable it to collaborate and achieve even more.