Meet Our Spring Interns: Emily, Gabriela, Adriana, Jason

Our spring 2022 interns reflect on the projects they’ve been working on and what they’ve learned during their time at The Phillips Collection.

Emily Roberson, American University

“My name is Emily Roberson and I am the Curatorial Intern. My main project has been researching female artists from the Harlem Renaissance. I’ve really enjoyed visiting institutions in Washington, DC, to conduct primary and secondary source research. Many of the artists I’m studying have received very little scholarly attention, so it’s exciting to be working on a project that will really contribute to the conversation about their lives and work. I’m a second-year art history master’s student at American University, and my research specialization is 18th- and 19th-century European art. I’m especially interested in feminist approaches to art history and studying under-researched artists. I moved to Washington, DC, during the pandemic, so I still feel like I have a lot of the city to explore, but I keep returning to the Phillips because the increasing focus on under-represented artists is refreshing and inspiring to me. I also really value the emphasis on transcultural and diachronic exhibitions that connect modern and contemporary artists in creative ways.”

Gabriela Sepulveda Maiz, George Washington University

“Hi! My name is Gabriela Sepulveda and I’m the Community Engagement Intern. I’m originally from Puerto Rico, and moved to DC in August 2020 for my master’s in Museum Studies at George Washington University. I love birdwatching, running, hiking, and dancing. I’m interested in moving museums toward deeper and more meaningful engagement with their surrounding communities. As the Community Engagement Intern, I create, develop, and design the wellness kits we distribute to the community. It’s been an intellectually enriching process and I’ve been honored to meet and interact with the community directly.”

Adriana Vergara, George Washington University

“I am Adriana Vergara, a graduating senior at The George Washington University, minoring in Italian and majoring in art history. This spring, I have been working as the Contemporary Art Conservation intern under the mentorship of Associate Conservator Patricia Favero. During my internship I created documentation for the time-based media works in the collection. Specifically, I chose to focus on the work Transfigured Night by John Akomfrah because I had the opportunity to see it on display at The Phillips Collection last spring and I wanted to learn more about the work and aid in its conservation. Throughout this internship I learned that the museum is truly a collaborative environment, and that each department is eager to help the others succeed. This internship has also pushed me to think more deeply about what characteristics are most important to an artwork’s identity and it has allowed me to better understand the complexities of conserving time-based media. As an aspiring conservator, this has truly been an invaluable experience for me.”

Jason Rosenberg, George Washington University

“I’m Jason Rosenberg and I am originally from South Florida. I am currently an undergraduate at The George Washington University majoring in art history and political communication. In addition to art, I also enjoy spending my time singing in GW’s a cappella group “Sons of Pitch,” riding on my school’s equestrian team, and developing film in the darkroom photo lab. This past spring, I’ve had the absolute privilege of interning in the Curatorial Department with my mentor, Vesela Sretenovic. Throughout this process, I’ve experienced the opening of an exhibition, meet local artists, learned more about the grant-funding process, delved into copyright law within fine art, and gained first-hand understanding of how a museum operates—with a special focus on the pivotal role curators play. Work I’ve done has included: writing and publishing blog posts, researching artist foundation profiles for potential funding, attending staff meetings, drafting email templates for derivative copyright permissions, and sorting through library collections. My mentor and all the staff I’ve met at the Phillips have illuminated a whole other side of the art world that I’ve never had access to. I know this opportunity will have a lasting impact as I continue my studies in graduate school and prepare for an exciting career in art law down the line. Thank you!”

Meet Our Spring Interns: Chloe, Julia, Daniel, Elizabeth

Our spring 2022 interns reflect on the projects they’ve been working on and what they’ve learned during their time at The Phillips Collection.

Chloe Akazawa, Georgetown University

“I’m Chloe Akazawa and I’m currently completing my master’s degree at Georgetown University in Art and Museum Studies. I’m grateful to have been part of The Phillips Collection’s Marketing and Communications department this semester. Throughout my internship, I drafted social media posts to promote upcoming events and created a master document of community organizations for future partnerships. My main project focused on the Pay-What-You-Wish ticket (offered at the top of ever hour), where I analyzed and compiled visitor survey data in order to better market this promotion. Overall, this internship has shown me the many facets of Marketing and Communications in the museum field, and I have gained so much valuable advice and insight from my colleagues that I will take with me in my future endeavors.”

Julia Hub, American University

“My name is Julia Hub, and I graduated in December from American University, where I majored in Art History and minored in International Studies. As the Education and Community Engagement intern this spring, I’ve had the chance to work on a variety of really interesting projects that have taught me a great deal about the arts, museum work, and museum communities! The main projects I have been working on have been a gallery observation project and the drafting of gallery aids to enrich audience participation with artworks. For the past month, I have been observing visitor behaviors and tendencies as they visit the Picasso: Painting the Blue Period exhibition. For example, I look at how long visitors look at paintings, read text, or converse with their fellow visitors. This information will then be used to understand how people engage with exhibits and what improvements can be made. I’ve also been creating audio stops for multiple works throughout the collection that offer information and guidance for visitors to immerse themselves more deeply with the art. Both projects have taught me about the importance of understanding how people interact with art in the galleries and how to work to improve their experiences!”

Daniel Muljono, University of California, San Diego

“Hello! I’m Daniel Muljono, a recent graduate of University of California, San Diego. As a cognitive science major specializing in design and interaction, I feel right at home with the Digital Experience department. My main hobby is typically drumming, but since I currently don’t have a drum set, you might see me air drumming in my room. I’m from Indonesia and I’ve always loved it there, especially our culture and traditions. Batik is our national clothing ‘artstyle’ and we proudly wear it for any formal occasion, from weddings to business meetings. Indonesia’s traditions can be summarized into bhineka tunggal ika which translates to ‘unity in diversity,’ and I proudly say that our diversity in cultures, religions, and cuisine gracefully represent this traditional value. Throughout my time at The Phillips Collection, I’ve worked on two main projects: a gamification project (using elements of game playing to encourage engagement) and a museum experience proposal. For my gamification project, I created a game that could create a jigsaw puzzle out of any given image. The puzzle was created through Unity, meaning that it’ll be easy to implement on any hardware (phones, tablets, or computers). The second project was a proposal to improve the museum experience through digital interactive means. This proposal was made after thorough research, museum visits, and interviews with different museum sectors.”

Elizabeth Palumbo, George Washington University

“​My name is Elizabeth Palumbo, and I am the Director’s Office intern this spring. I’m a junior at George Washington University studying International Affairs with a concentration in Contemporary Cultures and Societies and a minor in French. Some of my interests are travel, photography, walking, and rock climbing. I chose to intern at The Phillips Collection because it offers a different experience with art than many museums in Washington, DC. I also love that The Phillips Collection has programs focused on music, wellness, and community engagement! During my time at the Phillips, I have compiled art gallery exhibition lists, done artist research, and written one-liners for the museum’s annual gala. The internship has confirmed that I’d like to continue working in museums and has taught me a great deal about how they operate. I have learned about the role of trustees, how different departments work together, and the museum’s relationship with members and artists. I have also learned about and admire how The Phillips Collection is committed to diversity, inclusion, and community engagement. It is constantly evolving, which encourages the staff, trustees, and artwork displayed to be flexible and adapt to the needs of the community.”

A Window Opens on Peter Lister

Phillips Museum Educator Carla Freyvogel spoke with artist Peter Lister, whose work Music Room is in the Phillips’s collection. In 2022, the artist gifted the related print Approaching Music to the Phillips.

In January 2022, the Phillips’s virtual Guided Meditation sessions were inspired by artworks in the collection related to music. On January 5 we highlighted artist Peter Lister and his monoprint Music Room. Lister himself joined our meditation session that day and I interviewed him a few days later.

For those of us lucky enough to work at the Phillips, the title of Lister’s work has a lovely connotation, evoking our magical Music Room in the original Phillips House, a space that reverberates with beauty even when silent.

Music Room by Peter Lister is a dark piece, or appears to be at first glance. Then the eye settles on an almost luminous reddish rectangle and travels diagonally to an almost blue rectangle of a similar size. Competing for our attention is a white shape occupying the upper left corner that is scored (scored!) with black lines. Diagonally across, the right corner of the image is anchored by a less bold whiteish shape.

Peter Lister, Music Room, 1976, Color monoprint, 11 x 9 in., The Phillips Collection, Acquired 1967

We discussed the artwork during the meditation session. Some of the participants perceived the presence of a person, perhaps someone who had fingers resting on a string instrument, getting ready to strum or do a bit of pizzicato? Others identified a blurred musical score in the upper left while some interpreted this area as a window with a scrim or a curtain in red and yellow stripes.

Music Room was created in 1976, when Lister was 43 years old. It was purchased by The Phillips Collection’s then chief curator, James McLaughlin, from Philadelphia dealer Robert Carlen. Carlen is known for promoting the work of Horace Pippin. I had a chance to chat with Lister about his Music Room, how it came to be in our collection, and how his practice has evolved over the years.

Peter Lister is a native to the Philadelphia area. A 1958 graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), he was the recipient of two fellowships that allowed extensive study abroad. While now he works in watercolor and watercolor pencil, most of his early career was defined by oil and acrylic painting and printmaking. He also taught studio art at Rosemont College.

The travel fellowships exposed a world of beauty and artistic inspiration to Lister. Greece captured his heart. Here is an example from c. 1980. Inspired by a famed church in Mykonos, Lister started to create several casual works he called “fantasias.” He described trepidation in beginning this series: “When I got there I was absolutely frozen with fear that I would not know what to do or how to do anything. So I started at the edge of the paper…with a kind of strip of the color, and trying things out and then made my way boldly into the paper.”

Peter Lister, Fantasia (Mykonos), c. 1980, Acrylic on paper, 9 x 12 in., Collection of the artist

Ultimately, this church proved to be one of his most successful subjects. He sold most of the 60 or 70 pieces he produced in this series. He reflected on the church and surrounding scene and remarked: “I had fun with the steps…I looked at this and I said ‘You were cleverer than you knew, Peter.’ I love the rhythm between the four steps, three steps. That’s music too”.

Lister’s oil painting from 1959, Firemen, was included in an exhibition at PAFA in 2017 called The Loaded Brush: The Oil Sketch and the Philadelphia School of Painting. The exhibition explored the legacy of Thomas Eakins. Eakins’s firmly believed that by sketching in oil, an artist would be able to authentically capture the fleeting experience of light and gesture.

Peter Lister, Firemen (Gladiators), 1959, Oil on canvas, 12 x 16 in., Collection of Bill Scott, Philadelphia

When comparing Firemen from 1959 to the Fantasia painting of the church in Greece from 1980, we can see that spontaneity continued to be important to Lister throughout his career. He uses thick impasto for the church walls, with some forms appearing to float and the blending of white becoming almost gray.

I was curious about his recurring references to music, both in Music Room and in his perception of the rhythm of the steps in Fantasia.

Lister became infatuated with music at a young age. He said, “I think part of my fascination with music was the printed note. That it made the music happen in the sense that I was looking at a visual image, a script, writing, and I was able to interpret it into sound….and the fact that the notes on the page could be transformed into sound. It became just fascinating to me.”

Lister kindly shared with me an image related to Music Room. Titled Approaching Music, it is the first pull from the plate that produced the monoprint Music Room, and Lister recently gifted the work to the Phillips. The plate was zinc and once had a life as an etching plate. Why Approaching Music? I asked. “It wasn’t quite music yet because the tension between the triangles is murky at best…”

Peter Lister, Approaching Music, 1976, Color monoprint, 14 1/8 x 9 1/2 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of the artist 2022

In both images, the whiteish rectangle in the upper left corner pulls our eye. In our meditation group, some participants saw a page of music, others saw a window. Lister said, “So many painters have that inside-outside use of a rectangle. Certainly Matisse—it is just everywhere in his work. Picasso, those major French painters. Think of the American Impressionists; they always seem to put their wife or daughter in front of a window and paint her there.”

“We live inside and we look out. I don’t set out to put a window—a window opens. When I am in a landscape, there isn’t a window, I am looking out because I am in.” He explained that as he works on a piece, an abstract image often becomes more realistic. A large pale area might evolve from being a compositional device to being an actual window.

Through our conversation, Peter Lister opened a window onto his world and his work. I want to extend a huge thank you and much warm gratitude to a talented artist who took the time to talk with me and to share his process and art with our meditation community.