Maria Lomanto '90 majored in fine art and modern language at Union College before earning an M.A. in Italian studies from University of Toronto and a Ph.D. (A.B.D.) in performance studies from New York University. She also holds an A.A.S. from the New York School of Interior Design and a certificate in healthier materials and sustainable design from Parsons, The New School. Today, Maria is an award-winning designer and principal of DesignGLXY LLC. She founded the interior design firm in 2019 on principles of health, wellbeing and sustainability in the built environment. For all projects – commercial or residential – Maria incorporates biophilic and sensory design to create indoor experiences that are human-centric and deeply reflect a client’s brand or lifestyle. She is a WELL-accredited professional and Living Future accredited, as well as a Fitwel ambassador and a Healthy Materials advocate. A member of the Female Design Council and American Society of Interior Designers (NY Metro), Maria is co-chair and a founding member of the Health, Wellness and Sustainability committee for the NY Metro chapter – the first in the country. She came to interior design after a 25-year career in corporate theater as an executive producer and designer of large-scale immersive experiences and events. Maria is also a dancer who participates in dynamic movement practices like 5 Rhythms and 360 Emergence. During the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, she turned one of her hobbies – playing the hand pan – into offering sound healing sessions, or sound baths, to reduce anxiety and help people fall asleep.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career or volunteer activities?
The most challenging thing has been moving from the top of one field to starting over and building a new career from scratch – and making the shift from working with teams of people to working, initially, as a solopreneur. The most rewarding aspects, whether for my work or for the sound baths, is really the same – making peoples’ lives better and the gratitude that I receive. When it comes to the spaces that I’ve designed, it means the spaces are working. A healthcare professional who works in one of the spaces exclaimed when she met me, “You, you, you! You make my life better every day!”
Who inspired/inspires you, both professionally and personally?
A huge inspiration to me was Professor Charles Steckler. He’s a genius and is an amazing model of how to approach any design problem with curiosity and no ego. He’s masterful at finding unique and unexpected solutions and creating complete worlds around you. He’s one of those rare minds that finds the connections between things that others don’t see.
What advice would you offer today’s women students, not just at Union, but across the country?
If you have the opportunity to study abroad or to study somewhere that challenges all your norms, do it. Expanding your experiences to ones that are foreign to you will make you grow and give you perspective on yourself. The other advice I’d give is this – be who you are. Don’t try to twist yourself into someone who you are not, or to fit some ideal that isn’t true to who you are. It's really bad for the soul. Don’t let fear stop you from trying – fear has never killed anyone, but it can certainly stop you in your tracks. So push through fears to keep moving toward the things that you want to achieve in life.
What was your most formative experience at Union?
Aside from the time that I spent studying in Italy, hands down it was my years involved with theatre – which at the time was in the Nott Memorial – and taking Professor Barry Smith’s improv class. Anyone who took that class knows that it was hardly about improvisation. It was much more about finding ways of being in the world and creating a safe space in which people could drop their defenses, open up and grow. To this day, I draw on things I learned in that class.