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.”

My Dream One-on-One: Ben Hough / Willem De Kooning

Currently on view at the Phillips is One-on-One: Bridget Riley / Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a special installation in which Riley selected three of her works to be displayed alongside Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Visitor Services Associate and Marketing and Communications Detail Ben Hough shares which artwork from the Phillips’s collection he would select for his One-on-One installation.

“I’m not interested in abstracting or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and color. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it—drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or idea.”—Willem de Kooning

Abstract expressionism is defined as a subjective emotional expression with particular emphasis on conveying diverse styles and techniques through nontraditional and usually nonrepresentational means. Willem de Kooning’s abstract representation allowed him to use his unique art-making process as a tool to express personal thoughts and ideas, providing a deeper understanding of his mind. As an artist myself, I also tend to focus on nonrepresentational subject matter like de Kooning. While there is the occasional literal subject within my work, I don’t pertain to a specific style when it comes to self-expression.

Willem de Kooning, Asheville, 1948, Oil and enamel paint on cardboard, 25 9/16 x 31 7/8 in., The Phillips Collection, Acquired 1952

Since de Kooning’s techniques have led to new advances in the art world, artists like me now have the freedoms to experiment and play with what art making can provide to the audience. De Kooning’s Asheville shows his iconic nonrepresentational configuration that he used throughout his life to express his ideas of the emotional legacy of World War II and the array of influences available to him at the time of peak modernistic idioms. While I do not paint to reflect the legacy of war, understanding where the piece is coming from conceptually provides a new way of thinking when creating. At first glance of Asheville, I asked myself what his objective was—there had to have been a deeper intention behind this very conceptual composition and color story. Was every brushstroke deliberate? Was the addition of collage used to show his ideas of experimentation? Or was there some sort of further understanding of how these nontraditional materials would affect the tone of the piece? De Kooning’s rudimentary approach gives works like Asheville a definitive tone and allows the concept of modern art to be recognized deeper than what’s on the surface of the work.

This sense of experimentation is reflected in my own work. Using color, line, and ideas of emotions and conscious thoughts, like de Kooning, I express my intentions with confidence, rarely ever sketching the work beforehand in the traditional way and approaching the surface of the canvas with a perception of familiarity. This process, while intentionally allowing me the freedom to produce unique and meaningful works, also demonstrates new techniques and gives me the chance to explore new ways of art making. Fundamental to de Kooning’s art is also the meaning of reality. At the start of his lifetime the era of modern art was already well established—masters like Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky had changed the way art was perceived at the time. De Kooning grew up with the influence of these recognized artists, which guided his own process to what it would become by the mid-1900s.

Ben Hough, Stupid Thoughts, 2021, Acrylic and oil pastel on canvas, 12 x 36 in.

Within my own work and the use of acrylic and oil pastel, Stupid Thoughts derives from the ideas of sadness, pain, and confusion. Below the surface of the work are words and thoughts I intended to physically visualize before the start of the layering process. Approaching the canvas in this way sets the tone for a piece and with the use of various mediums gives me the same experimental application process de Kooning used for several of his works. With line I intended to show a clear distinction of boldness and precision contradictory to the idea of confusion and pain associated with the first layer of color and text. Central to de Kooning’s suggestion and influence of the modernistic idioms, my works are heavily influenced by my perspective of the world and the subjects that make me question my own impressions.

Since joining as a Visitor Services Associate last fall, having the freedom to walk the halls of The Phillips Collection and lay eyes on countless masterpieces has been one thing I know I won’t have the privilege of experiencing in such an intimate way anywhere else. Works like de Kooning’s continue to deepen the conversation of what expressionistic art has to offer artists and the world in general. Nontraditional creativity is a concept that must remain, without it we are stuck in the past and while we can certainly learn from past masters we live in a time where art is forever changing. Artists like de Kooning show that influence can create an entirely new field and method of art making.