Fellow Spotlight: Jordan Chambers

In this series, we profile our 2019-20 Sherman Fairchild Fellows. As part of our institutional values and commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, the Sherman Fairchild Fellowship is a comprehensive, yearlong paid program that includes hands-on experience, mentoring, and professional development. Over the summer, fellows gain experience in all facets of the museum, then in the fall and spring semesters, the fellows focus on projects of their interests.

Jordan Chambers is pursuing an MA in Museum Studies at Marist College’s LdM Institute. She has completed graduate work towards an MA in Experimental Psychology and holds a BA in Psychology from Georgia Southern University.She is interested in how museums can contribute to the well-being of visitors, and is researching methods and programs that are inclusive to visitors with mental disabilities.

Why are you interested in working at a museum?
I have always loved the atmosphere within museums! To me, museums are very calming places where I can visit objects, art, and history that I wouldn’t normally get to see in my daily life. I love getting to experience new things, and museums have always offered this with their exciting, ever-changing exhibitions.

What brought you to The Phillips Collection?
DC is such an incredible city with so many vast opportunities! I did research on local institutions and The Phillips Collection really resonated with me. The art is phenomenal as I have a penchant for Impressionism. The Phillips also offers so many unique experiences such as Creative Aging, gallery talks, Phillips after 5, and so much more. There is truly a little something for everyone here and I couldn’t think of a better place to begin my museum career!

Please tell us about your work at the Phillips over the summer.
Over the summer we did an immersive campaign into the area of DEAI or diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. I heavily researched this topic and gained a lot of knowledge on what is being done within museums, as well as what institutions can do to improve this aspect. I created workshops and toolkits about issues such as Visitor Service and Inclusive Leadership, while also co-creating workshops on both Microaggression and Accessibility which will ultimately be implemented within the institution.

What is your fall project and how did you choose it?
During the fall I am working in the education department, specifically in the area of wellness within the museum. We are still flushing out ideas, but I am interested in how we can make the museum a truly inclusive environment for everyone to enjoy; a space where anyone and everyone feels welcomed and non-stigmatized. I want to create a place for decompression and reflection, where visitors can take a pause. Stress in general is increasingly prevalent within our society and sometimes museum galleries can be overwhelming experiences. Therefore this type of space is necessary and can be really therapeutic for visitors.

What is your favorite space/painting/artist here?
My favorite space within the museum is the Music Room in the original house. It feels like walking through time and always seems to leave me in awe.

If you were to describe the Phillips in one word, what would that word be?
Daring. The Phillips Collection is always daring to go beyond the norm of what a museum should be and who its services are for.

What is a fun fact about you?
I play the tenor saxophone.

Fellow Spotlight: Mykaela Brevard

In this series, we profile our 2019-20 Sherman Fairchild Fellows. As part of our institutional values and commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion, the Sherman Fairchild Fellowship is a comprehensive, yearlong paid program that includes hands-on experience, mentoring, and professional development. Over the summer, fellows gain experience in all facets of the museum, then in the fall and spring semesters, the fellows focus on projects of their interests.

Mykaela Brevard earned her BA in Visual Art and Design from North Carolina A&T State University. She is interested in learning about museum work across departments, especially how museums can benefit the community. Mykaela is a ceramicist and hopes to share her clay skills with the Phillips audience.

Why are you interested in working at a museum?
I became interested in working at a museum my senior year of undergrad. My mentor introduced a plethora of careers in the museum field (other than director and curator) and I instantly became intrigued. From then on, I began researching internships and fellowships that aligned with my need to explore all facets of the museum.

What brought you to The Phillips Collection?
What brought me to the Phillips was the possibility of doing what I mentioned above, learning about and gaining a bit of experience in different departments. So far so good.

Please tell us about your work at the Phillips over the summer.
Over the summer I worked with Makeba Clay, Chief Diversity Officer, and fellows Traka Lopez and Jordan Chambers to construct a variety of DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion) related workshops and toolkits, as well as participated in professional development sessions and museum visits.

What is your fall project and how did you choose it?
My project in the fall will be working at Phillips@THEARC with Monica Jones, Phillips@THEARC Program Coordinator, assisting in the planning and execution of programs, pop-ups, etc. at the museum’s satellite location in Southeast DC. I’m also in talks with teaming up with Donna Jonte who manages our Creative Aging program and a partner at THEARC to run a hand-building clay class. I chose it because I wanted to see what our satellite location was doing to benefit the community it is in, as well as being a part of that impact. I want to do the clay class because it’s my passion and I wanted to share the love with others.

What is your favorite space/painting/artist here?
My favorite work in the Phillips is technically not in the Phillips. It’s the mural Diocco (Contact) by Senegalese artists Muhsana Ali, Fodé Camara, Viyé Diba, and Piniang (Ibrahima Niang) on the back of the courtyard wall. I love love love the vibrant colors and the surrealist vibes I get from it.

If you were to describe the Phillips in one word, what would that word be?
Interesting.

What is a fun fact about you?
I’m a ceramicist 🙂

Phillips Flashback: Conceptual Artist Yuri Schwebler

Processing Archivist Juli Folk shares her findings in the Phillips Archives about Conceptual Artist Yuri Schwebler.

Since I began working as a processing archivist in The Phillips Collection Library and Archives this summer, one of the resources I access to learn more about the museum is our rich collection of oral histories, a documentation effort that began in 2004 and continues today. These transcripts are the result of hours of conversations between professional oral historians and The Phillips Collection directors, curators, exhibition designers, artists, and other staff. While reading the oral history with Bill Koberg, The Phillips Collection’s chief of installations who started as a museum assistant in 1971, I was struck by his passing mention of a familiar outdoor sculpture around the corner from the museum.

“Now that you’ve scratched my memory, there was a Yuri Schwebler [show at The Phillips Collection in 1973], and those were works that were designed for the space that were made out of slate and, I think, in some cases, glass on rails with pendulums. There’s an example of that, now,  on Q Street, around the corner, in front of a… house.”

If you’ve ever walked to The Phillips Collection from the Dupont Circle Metro station via Q Street NW, then you’ve probably seen it, too. The work, by conceptual artist Yuri Schwebler, sits in front of a muted green house on the north side of the street.

Sculpture by Yuri Schwebler. Photo: Juli Folk

Sculpture by Yuri Schwebler. Photo: Juli Folk

Schwebler, a well-known participant in the 1970s DC arts scene, was born on November 21, 1942, in Nazi-occupied Feketic, Yugoslavia. He immigrated to Delaware as a child, taking art lessons in high school and eventually attending Western Maryland College before being encouraged to pursue his art career in Maryland and DC. He is best known for ambitious works designed for specific sites and is associated with the Max Protetch gallery. The piece on Q Street NW is exemplary of the concepts Schwebler was exploring at this time, including geometry, balance, light, shadow, and natural processes.

Schwebler’s 1973 exhibit at The Phillips Collection, 2 as 3 sculptures, is an early exploration of themes that would pervade his career.

Exhibition Postcard Image courtesy of The Phillips Collection Archives

Exhibition Postcard. Image courtesy of The Phillips Collection Archives

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The exhibition brochure shows that the five works emphasize pendulums, plumb bobs, materials, and spatial balance. As Koberg noted, the pieces were designed specifically for the courtyard space.

Henry Allen, writing for The Washington Post Arts in 1973, called the show “sculpture in the tradition of the pyramids, not the Pieta—of alchemy rather than esthetics.” Allen goes on to describe that, “The five new works comprise: 12 big sheets of 1⁄4-inch plate glass, 11 aluminum I-beams, each with a small hole drilled in the center to hold a carpenters’ spirit level, 11 plumb bobs that dangle from 11 golden strings, and 26 turnbuckles to tighten 13 silvery wires.”

The Washington Post Review

The Washington Post Review

A 1981 essay by Lynda Roscoe Hartigan for an exhibition organized by The Hudson River Museum, The Studio: Sculpture by Yuri Schwebler, describes Schwebler’s works as sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent, constructed both indoors and outdoors, and exploring “geometric precision and modules to magical transformations and theatrical engagement, from small wall-oriented objects to projects of monumental proportions”.

Spatial drawings of geometric figures based on numerical values (as in both mathematics and alchemy, according to Schwebler) were refined on increasingly larger scales between 1973 and 1978. In five sculptures made in 1973 specifically for the garden of The Phillips Collection, Schwebler arranged in each work two sheets of plate glass to suggest equilateral triangles (“2 as 3”) resting on or under aluminum I-beams. The measure of each piece for balance and precision was taken in effect by carpenter’s spirit levels and plumb bobs on golden threads, while taut silver wires both secured the constructions and extended the image of drawing between points and planes in space. Industrial hardware and pristine glass were combined to reveal both structure and process. Catching light and elements in the space around them, each transparent variation acquired a certain poetry in harmony with its environment—a foil to formal crispness.

Other popular local works included filling the atrium of the Corcoran School of Art with pyramids and a series of “Magnetic North” installations around the District. In the winter of 1974, after years of planning, Schwebler created a sundial using the Washington Monument as its gnomon shifting against the carefully calculated pattern shoveled into fresh snowfall. Walter Cronkite reported for the CBS Evening News that the project required $24, six feet of snow, and a permit and plow from the National Park Service. When asked about why he made it, Schwebler replied, “You can actually see the Earth move, or feel it move, by watching that shadow.”

Again, Hartigan quotes Schwebler’s take on his work around DC.:

“Relating [is] what I’ve done in those pieces over the years rather than sculptures… around this town [Washington, DC], looking at sculpture that exists—like a general here and a horse and general there—[it] is always imposing on the space but… dealing with the structure of the space, and somehow showing something that I saw in the place, rather than really imposing myself.”

Sadly, Schwebler died by suicide at his home in Marlborough, New York, on March 3, 1990, at age 47, and his obituary appeared in The Washington Post. He was survived by his partner, Enid Sanford, as well as his mother, Eva Schwebler, and two sisters. Because so much of his work was temporary by design, many installations are no longer in existence; the piece on Q St. NW is thus an even more poignant reminder of his artistic efforts and local legacy.

The Phillips Collection Archives was established in 2006 to organize, preserve, and make available the museum’s records of enduring value that document the history of the museum, including its origins, activities, and events. The Archives serves as the museum’s institutional memory, and is especially rich in documentation of Duncan and Marjorie Phillips, the museum’s founders. The Archives also selectively acquires primary source material that relates to the history of the museum as well as collections that focus on artists whose work is in The Phillips Collection. The archives welcome staff as well as visiting researchers and scholars during public open hours as well as visits by appointment. Research conducted by staff and visiting scholars leads to exhibitions, exhibition catalogues, books, articles, theses, and doctoral dissertations.

 

Resources and Further Reading

Allen, Henry. “It Means Something But What?” The Washington Post, July 20, 1973.

Anderson, John. “The Missing Archive of Yuri Schwebler.” International Sculpture Center re:sculpt, January 25, 2017. https://blog.sculpture.org/2017/01/25/the-missing-archive-of-yuri-schwebler/.

Caldwell, John. “Art; Thought-provoking Work At The Hudson.” The New York Times, November 15, 1981. https://www.nytimes.com/1981/11/15/nyregion/art-thought-provoking-work-at-the-hudson.html

Frgey, Benjamin. “Phillips Collection: A Sculptural Side.” The Washington Star-News, July 20, 1973.

Hartigan, Linda. “The Studio: Sculpture.” Hudson River Museum Exhibition Catalog, 1981. https://books.google.com/books?id=7vbldwPxOfkC.

Meyer, Robinson. “On Google Maps, the Washington Monument Is a Sundial.” The Atlantic, May 23, 2014. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/05/on-google-maps-the-washington-monument-is-a-sun-dial/371555/.

Meredith. “DC Art History: Yuri Schwebler and the Largest Sundial.” Brightest Young Things,

March 9. 2010. https://brightestyoungthings.com/articles/dc-art-history-yuri-schwebler-and-the-largest-sundial.

Metcalfe, John. “Queen of Beverly Court.” Washington City Paper, July 2, 2004. https://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/news/article/13029304/queen-of-beverly-court

Moorhaus, Donita. Transcript of an oral history in The Phillips Collection Oral History Program: Interview with Bill Koberg, The Phillips Collection Library and Archives, 2010. http://library.phillipscollection.org:8080/#section=resource&resourceid=257980

Pearson, Richard. “Yuri Schwebler, D.C. Artist in 1970s, Dies.” The Washington Post, March 5, 1990. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1990/03/05/yuri-schwebler-dc-artist-in-1970s-dies/f1626044-8a11-4d06-8de6-1da77b08bdad/.

Richard, Paul. “Phillips: A Look at the Locals.” The Washington Post, September 15, 1973.

Seadler, Dee. “ART: Schwebler Through the Looking Glass.” Memo: Washington’s Comprehensive Entertainment Magazine. August 19-September 1, 1973, p. 14.