The Artist Sees Differently: Darci Vanderhoff

Darci Vanderhoff, Chief Information Officer, on the mic

Darci Vanderhoff, Chief Information Officer, on the mic! Photo: Joshua Navarro

DARCI VANDERHOFF, Chief Information Officer

How did you learn about the Phillips?

I originally came to Phillips exhibitions as an art enthusiast. One of my favorite shows was Impressionists in Winter in 1998. I didn’t even mind the long lines (once I got inside). Several years later, I came to sell the Phillips on the idea of online ticketing. Then, in 2001, I applied for the IT Director position when it became available at the museum.

You formerly worked as a writer, you’re a musician in a band. Do you feel you are inspired by the Phillips art? 

I worked at the editorial desk of the Washington office of the Wall Street Journal for a number of years, and then left to freelance in both writing and photography. I was published locally as well as in Dallas, Detroit, and other cities. I did research for Judy Woodruff’s book This is Judy Woodruff at the White HouseRadcliffe College’s Arthur Schlesinger Library (a women’s archive) holds a collection of my articles and photographs. I eventually became a music critic, and at the suggestion of musician friends, I decided to attend music school myself. It was a radical idea to me, so I took to it immediately. After getting my feet wet in a local music school for a year, I enrolled at Berklee College of Music in the mid-1980s with a scholarship.

I am a musician. I primarily sing but also write. My degree is in songwriting. I am one of thirteen in the local band Cleve Francis and Friends. We routinely play at The Birchmere in Alexandra, Virginia, and at local benefits. We released a CD, Storytime: Live at the Birchmere, in 2009. In addition to singing, I am the “administrator” of the group: setting rehearsal schedules, digitally recording rehearsals, distributing recordings, managing databases, etc., which is where my digital skill-set comes in handy. I am the only woman in the group. Go figure. I recently joined a smaller group doing more instrumental music across a wide spectrum of genres. Instrumentation includes keyboards, guitar, upright bass, and vocals (three of us sing). I’m having fun doing lead vocals again.

Yes, I am inspired by the art at the Phillips, and even more by the artists who work here. Most of my coworkers are brilliantly creative people.

Do you listen to anything as you do your artwork?

My “artwork” is primarily music. I listen to a lot of music during my work commute, but I also use that time to prep for shows. The rehearsing could be considered a driving distraction, I guess, but it’s been a part of my commute for some time, so I think I balance the two well. Don’t tell anyone.

Who’s your favorite artist in the collection?

I am very fond of Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Edward Hopper, Jacob Lawrence, Paul Dougherty, Childe Hassam, Gustave Courbet, and our growing photography collections.                   

Do you collect other artwork – or anything?

I collect a few things:  I have a striped beach rock collection, mostly from Plum Island in Massachusetts where I strolled often while going to school. I have a Washington Nationals bobble-head collection that is in need of attention. I also collect art. One of my favorite acquisitions was purchased from one of the Phillips museum assistants in a staff show: a colorful photograph of multiple faucet handles from an abandoned steel mill in Pittsburgh. Clearly, I trend toward water themes.

 And do you have a favorite Marjorie Phillips painting?

I like Nuns on the Roof, too.

Hear Darci’s song, “Every Little Bit”

 

People Who Work Here: Sue Nichols

Sue Nichols

Photo: Sue Ahn

Susan Nichols, Chief Operating Officer

You’re seen a lot in the museum–in the galleries, at various events–is at all work-related or do you like being with the art?

Of course I love being with the art, but mostly I just love being with the people. I am enamored of many of our staff members and working with them is tons of fun. Also, I really enjoy meeting and talking with our visitors and seeing responses to the museum. So I am easily able to combine work with pleasure in this way. I also LOVE many of our programs and want to be part of them.

How did you learn of the Phillips?

I’m too old to remember. It was a long time ago.

Do you have a favorite artist in the collection?

No, but every day I see something fantastic. And I love the Reading Room displays that Librarian Karen Schneider and Cataloguing and Technical Services Librarian Sarah Osborne Bender put together. I adore the fact that we change things up all the time, and I’m amazed at how we can make such a small collection appear fresh and new every day.

Are there more women now in top executive positions at art museums, such as you and Dorothy Kosinski, the Phillips director?

I think the museum field has always been a great place for women. I entered the field in 1985 already in a senior role, and many of my colleagues were (even then) very talented women.

Which smartphone do you use?

Okay, I’m awfully proud to say that I recently upgraded to a Samsung 4G, which (when I acquired it) was one generation ahead of that owned by IT Support Specialist Sandy Lee! Since then, of course, he has won an upgrade as a door prize somewhere, but for a couple of weeks I was on the cutting edge. Pretty rare for me.

People Who Work Here: Lisa Leinberger

To celebrate National Volunteer Week, Rolf Rykken sat down with Lisa Leinberger, our tireless volunteer coordinator, to talk about the Phillips volunteer program, recently listed among D.C.’s top 25 volunteer opportunities in the Washington Post.

Photograph of volunteer coordinator Lisa Leinberger at the Art Information Desk

Volunteer Coordinator Lisa Leinberger at the Art Information Desk. Photo: Joshua Navarro

Lisa Leinberger,  Volunteer Coordinator

When did the Art Information Desk start?

When the volunteer program originally started [in 1988].

Has the service changed over the years?

Yes, there are quite a few more volunteers now than in the past. There are 90–100 volunteers now. The program was more or less in place when I took over in February 2006. The volunteer program is under visitor services. The demographic of volunteers has changed. There are more young professionals who volunteer (about 15-20%), several mid-career folks (about 10-15%), as well as retirees now.

And there are three types of volunteers at the Phillips: departmental volunteers, volunteer children’s docents, and art information volunteers.

What are the qualifications to serve at the Art Information Desk?

Enthusiasm for the museum is the first qualification.

A volunteer must commit to a minimum of one year service, two shifts each month, and attend two formal training sessions per year.

I give each volunteer a private tutorial about the collection, its history and philosophy (“the eye” of Duncan Phillips), plus they are briefed on each special exhibition.

How did you learn about the information desk?

I knew the importance of volunteer programs from my former position as board member and chairman at the New Mexico Museum of Art, Fine Art Committee, in Santa Fe, NM.

Two days after I moved back to D.C. in 2005, I became a member of The Phillips Collection.

My house was under construction at the time. The noise and the dust were punishing. I knew this museum was filled with quiet beauty. It was the perfect escape. I called the museum to inquire about volunteering. That very day the volunteer coordinator was moving to another position. After a long conversation about my interests and qualifications, she asked me if I would be interested in applying for the position that she was vacating. Long story short, I now have what  many folks call “the best job in D.C.”

Many first-time visitors seem very enthusiastic–especially after seeing the collection. Is that your impression too?

First-time visitors, frequent visitors, and even members are constantly telling volunteers at the Art Information desk how wonderfully welcoming this museum is. Folks often stop to chat with volunteers to share a story about a former visit or to marvel at a new exhibition or addition to the collection.

Do you have a favorite artist in the collection?

Each time the galleries change I get a new point of view and appreciation for various art works in the collection. However, I am continually besotted with Paul Klee.