Fellow Spotlight: Shiloah Symone Coley

Meet our 2021-22 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. 

Shiloah Symone Coley by Nithin Charlly

Why are you interested in working at a museum?

From the time I was a little girl, I didn’t feel represented or seen in art museums. This ended up shaping the trajectory of my learning and pursuit of an artistic practice. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside children’s museums in the capacity of facilitating art programming and have done smaller projects with larger art institutions. However, I felt that I never truly learned the ins and outs of an art museum. I want to understand how and why they function in addition to how and why they change as their relationship to the audiences they serve has come into question over the past decade.

What brought you to The Phillips Collection?

As an artist, researcher, and writer, I continuously feel compelled to use narratives in all of their complexity as a point of departure for conveying the complications that lie amongst our perceptions of the self and others, which is further complicated by the plethora of identities and positionalities we hold at the individual, familial, and communal level.

How does an institution engage in the complexity of the narratives perpetuated by the work in addition to considering the different narratives of the publics they serve? I think the Phillips is enduring a period of transition as it grapples with its past, present, and future as an institution. When I applied for the fellowship, I was particularly interested in the Community Exhibitions occurring through the work of the Community Engagement and Education departments with different communities in D.C. The particular work of attempting to expand the reach of a museum to not only be inclusive but responsible and accountable to the communities of DC motivated me to pursue a position here.

Please tell us about your work at the Phillips over the summer, and the projects that you will be working on during your fellowship. What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

Over the summer, I focused on creating content for the Juried Invitational Inside Outside, Upside Down in celebration of the centennial. This meant connecting with the artists to create blog posts, social media content, and audio stops. Connecting with the artists has really offered me an opportunity to build my own community of artists working in and around DC, which was one of my biggest goals coming into the fellowship. As an MFA in Studio Art candidate at American University in my second year, I feel that I really missed out on community building during the first year of my program with covid restrictions in place, so it’s exciting to get to do studio visits with some of the artists working with the Phillips.

The focus of my fellowship is to bridge the Community Engagement and Marketing & Communications departments, while considering how we can be intentional about storytelling and engagement with our community. I hope to have a better understanding of museums as not only institutions but sites for civic engagement as I continue to work with artists and support programs at Phillips@THEARC.

What is your favorite painting/artist here?

Currently one of my favorite photographs in the collection is Man with Two Girls on Shoulders (East 100th Street Series) by Bruce Davidson.

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

Learning.

What is a fun fact about you?

I was a very mediocre competitive swimmer from age 5 to 15 years old.

Fellow Spotlight: Alexis Boyd

Meet our 2021-22 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. 

Alexis Boyd

Why are you interested in working at a museum?

I am an artist, writer, and researcher whose work engages Black critical and fabulative ecologies through visual and literary works and a transdisciplinary research practice. I have a BA in English and a BS in Applied Mathematics from Howard University, and I’ve recently earned my Research Master’s in Artistic Research from the University of Amsterdam. My time as a graduate student of Artistic Research gave me a unique opportunity to incorporate my theoretical research interests and artistic practice into a polyvalent and mixed media engagement, which has instilled within me a deeper appreciation of the importance of the practice and critical study of visual art and their webs of conceptual, historical, and socio-cultural significance. I believe that the artistic engagement emerging from “historically marginalized” communities is critical to the development of conceptual tools to face an increasingly ecologically precarious future and can serve as a limitless source of answers for past and future ideological and socio-cultural concerns.

What brought you to The Phillips Collection?

I am interested in working at a museum because, while I love art and art spaces and am interested in curatorial research, I can think of no better site to intimately engage with the various narrative, ideological, historical, political, and deeply situated stakes in the meaning making of art. I am excited to be at The Phillips Collection because I am really looking forward to being a part of an intentional, institutional effort to critically interrogate and consciously account for the role art institutions have played in maintaining systemic inequity.

Please tell us about your work at the Phillips over the summer, and the projects that you will be working on during your fellowship. What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

As a 2021-22 Sherman Fairchild Fellow, I have the exciting opportunity to work with the DEAI and Curatorial departments on the museum’s Institutional History initiative. This summer, I’ve been responsible for completing the preliminary historical and archival research. It has been incredibly interesting doing a deep dive into The Phillips Collection’s history and its relationships with various situated and intersectional communities and cultural institutions in Washington, DC. We hope to broaden the historical narrative to consider the institutional, ideological, socio-cultural, economic, and political arrangements that have led to The Phillips Collection as we know it today. We also aim to interrogate the ways the museum has benefited from and contributed to systems of oppression.

What is your favorite painting/artist here?

The first to come to mind is Simone Leigh’s No Face (Crown Heights). There is something fabulatively brilliant within the disjointure and synthesis in her exploration of Black female subjectivity while subverting the visual expectations of a subject, in the work’s intimacy and the very specific social and historical scenes it calls upon, and in its beautiful and unsettling organicism.

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

Earnest.

What is a fun fact about you?

I’m a terrible texter, but, as a result, I’ve gotten a few of my friends to agree to writing each other handwritten letters, which I’m super excited about!

Fellow Spotlight: Karina Gaytan

Meet our 2021-22 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.

Karina Gaytan

Why are you interested in working at a museum?

I am interested in working at a museum because I enjoy the process of learning things, and what better way to learn and to help others learn than to work at a museum.

What brought you to The Phillips Collection?

Prior to working at The Phillips Collection, I did not know about it until I was browsing for post-graduation plans. When I came across the Sherman Fairchild Foundation fellowship on the Phillips website, I felt it would be a great step forward towards a career in museums. I had always been interested in working at a museum but had not yet gotten the chance to work for one. I just graduated from Trinity Washington University in spring of 2021, so my junior and senior year were during the pandemic, and it made it hard to find these kinds of opportunities. Though my fellowship has been completely online, I have been able to work with the Phillips virtually.

Please tell us about your work at the Phillips over the summer, and the projects that you will be working on during your fellowship. What do you hope to accomplish during your fellowship?

Over the summer, I was learning to create and send out surveys for those who attended Phillips events. The data from the surveys is used to evaluate the different events. This helps to get a better understanding as to who is attending what events. Knowing this is important because we can see how to retain the returning audience and explore options for new audiences. Now, my projects include working with the volunteer program and continuing my summer surveying projects.

During my time here, I’d like to learn more about museum operations. Museum operations are of interest to me because I feel that these are often overlooked when people think of museums. When someone thinks of a museum, they tend to visualize what is on display, not so much the people and the work that went into making the displays possible.

What is your favorite painting/artist here?

My favorite piece from the collection is Leo Villareal’s Scramble. It is fun to stand in front of the piece and watch the colors slowly change.

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

If I had to describe the Phillips in one word it would be cozy.

What is a fun fact about you?

A fun fact about me is that I have never had to pay for a haircut.