Fellow Spotlight: Traka Lopez

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.

Traka Lopez is currently pursuing an MA in Museum Studies and Historical Preservation at Morgan State University in Baltimore and earned her BFA from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Traka’s passion includes sustainability, advocacy, museums, and art-based communities, leading her to work with the HBCU Alliance of Museums and Art Galleries and the Morgan State Graduate Student Association. In 2018, Traka became Membership and Outreach volunteer for the Association of African American Museums (AAAM), where she was eventually hired as AAAM’s inaugural HBCU Special Projects Intern. In addition, Traka works as a museum graduate assistant at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art.

Why are you interested in working at a museum?
My interest in museums started with the arts. My mother is an artist, and she would take me to galleries and museums as a young child. During my undergraduate years, I started as an art educator. After realizing that I wanted to connect the classroom art-making activities to art history/art dialogue, I began my career path in museums, as a gallery docent.

What brought you to The Phillips Collection?
As a student pursuing Museum Studies, I started looking for opportunities for professional development. Along with my research, I started volunteering for local museum conferences, art programs and applied for any field related cohorts. During this process, I was in the Arts Administrators of Color mentoring cohort. There, I found a mentor, Makeba Clay, Chief Diversity Officer at The Phillips. Ms. Clay suggested that I apply to the Phillips Collection, which I did, and it’s been a wonderful experience ever since!

Please tell us about your work at the Phillips over the summer.
Leaning about DEAI has been an eye-opening experience for me. As a person of color, I learned how to advocate, create and implement diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion in cultural institutions. This “deep dive” in DEAI is impactful and gave me an introspective lens of diversifying narratives.

What is your fall project and how did you choose it?
My fall project is in the Curatorial Department and I will be working with Senior Curator Elsa Smithgall and others on the exhibitions for the museum’s centennial. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be part of the curatorial team; since art historical movements are correlated and inspired by social movements, it is in alignment with my academic area of study.

What is your favorite space/painting/artist here?
The Phillips Collection is a beautiful museum. I don’t have a favorite space. I rather explore the space and in my free time, I enjoy walking throughout the museum, especially the house, because of the amazing woodwork and its eye-catching ceiling.

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

What is a fun fact about you?
I used to be a welder.

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 🙂