Volunteer Spotlight: Natalie Hall

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. Phillips volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concerts, assisting patrons in the library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several them.

Natalie Hall, Art Information Volunteer

Natalie Hall (left)

What year did you start volunteering at The Phillips Collection?
I began volunteering in 2008 after I retired from my position as an administrator at an independent school in Alexandria. We were members of the Phillips so volunteering was an easy extension of that interest.

What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?
I love to interact with guests who have a range of questions from the mundane but important “Where’s the restroom?” to discussion of Duncan Phillips’s life and ideas as a collector.  The exhibit Moving Forward, Looking Back in the first gallery has really sparked curiosity about the Phillips family and the collection.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at The Phillips Collection?
We travel a lot to visit family in the US and Jordan and visit colleagues in Indonesia and Thailand.  I am also very involved with Arlington politics and lobby for the National Peace Corps Association.

What is your favorite room or painting here?
Like Duncan Phillips, I love the color of the Pierre Bonnard paintings and Vincent van Gogh’s “The Garden at Arles.” Georgia O’Keeffe is another favorite.

If you had to choose one word to describe the Phillips, what would it be?
Stimulating.

Share a fun fact about you!
I study Indonesian at the Embassy close to the Phillips. We taught in Java and Bali.  The wealth of art in all forms was fascinating, especially in Bali.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
Emily Bray has been so supportive of volunteers.  The flexibility of self-scheduling is most welcome. People should consider volunteering.

 

Volunteer Spotlight: Tiffany Lin

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. Phillips volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concerts, assisting patrons in the library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several them.

Tiffany Lin, Phillips Music Volunteer

Tiffany Lin

What year did you start volunteering at The Phillips Collection?
2016

What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?
I enjoy seeing patrons who attend music concerts week after week, season after season. The Sunday Concerts have cultivated a community for music enthusiasts in DC to gather and share an afternoon together. I often witness audience members leaving concerts more invigorated than they were coming into the concert.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at The Phillips Collection?
I’m a business analyst at the Carlyle Group where I’ve worked for five years. In the fall, I will be joining the MBA program at the Wharton School in Philadelphia.

What is your favorite room or painting here?
The Music Room holds a special place in my heart. I’ve spent many moments unintentionally holding my breath in the Music Room, captive to the music vibrating off the dark wood paneling.

If you had to choose one word to describe Phillips, what would it be?
Sanctuary

Share a fun fact about you!
I play a bell tower instrument called the carillon and have performed concerts in 10 states since 2013 as a member of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America. Come hear me play this summer at the Netherlands Carillon in Arlington on June 30 and the McDonogh School on July 6.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
While I’ve enjoyed exploring other nearby venues for Sunday Concerts, I am excited to be back in the Music Room after the renovation is completed this year!

Guarding Renoir

Image courtesy of The Phillips Collection

My first day working as a Museum Assistant at The Phillips Collection happened to be the opening of Renoir and Friends. By some administrative fluke, or perhaps as a test, I was assigned to guard the pride and joy of the collection and the centerpiece of the show, Luncheon of the Boating Party.

Renoir has become a bit of a divisive artist in the art world. Beloved by much of the general public, he is remembered by his detractors for cloying pastels, mushy vegetation, and vaguely voyeuristic nudes. In some circles, Renoir has come to stand for “easy art”—the type of art for people who don’t know much about art. This attitude even made its way into mainstream media when, in 2015, art students protesting Renoir’s art, picketed outside the MFA in Boston holding signs proclaiming “GOD HATES RENOIR” and “reNOir.” The Atlantic ran a piece titled “Why Absolutely Everyone Hates Renoir.” The Guardian, The Smithsonian Magazine, and NPR all followed suit and ran pieces on the artist’s maligned reputation. With all this floating around in the back of my mind, I was curious to see what it would be like to guard arguably Renoir’s most famous work.

If I was expecting impassioned tongue and cheek protests I was sorely disappointed. I didn’t, however, see the sort of superficial adoration that super-famous works (think the Mona Lisa) seem to provoke.

Instead I witnessed people of varying age, race, gender, and physical ability pay homage to art that genuinely seemed to matter to them. The Luncheon of the Boating Party, like Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series or the Rothko Room, is a sort of pilgrimage destination within the Phillips. People would arrive at the final room of the show and break into beaming grins, eagerly snap pictures with friends, or fall into sobered silence when finally face to face with this masterpiece.

On some occasions visitors would come up to me or my colleagues to express their satisfaction and comment on how wonderful it must be to work at such a place.

It was moving to see art matter as profoundly as it did in the gallery with Luncheon of the Boating Party. In a world where our attention spans have been so shortened; where we have become desensitized through the sensationalism that bombards us daily, somehow the aura of this painting still has the power to move people either to joy or (perhaps even more impressively) to humbled silence. Whether or not this makes Renoir a great artist is somewhat beside the point. The reactions to Luncheon of the Boating Party are evidence that art can still matter to us collectively in profound and personal ways. In this sense, it doesn’t matter if the people gazing glassy-eyed at the painting “know” anything about art or art history; it seemed to strike them at a human level and in a way that reminds us all of the most fundamental point of art and its creation: to build connections within and between people.

Elliot Mackin, Museum Assistant