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‚Äôs 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?

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

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