Meet Our Spring 2024 Interns

Meet our spring 2024 interns, who have just finished up their internships at the Phillips. Read about what they worked on over this past semester. Thank you, Anissa, Erich, Megan, and Natalia!

Spring 2024 interns

Anissa Santos, The George Washington University

Anissa Santos is a graduating second-year MA student in The George Washington University’s Museum Studies program. With a concentration in Exhibitions and Visitor Experiences, she has extensive training in research and curatorial writing and experience in museum evaluation, programming, DEAI implementation, and content creation. As a first-generation, Latina graduate student, she believes strongly in the importance of establishing Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion practices in the museum field and establishing relationships and trust with local and cultural communities. As the Spring DEAI Intern at The Phillips Collection, mentored by Shelby Bergstresser and Dr. Yuma Tomes, she has conducted research on neurodivergent resources and experiences in museums in order to develop and pilot TPC’s new sensory bags (now available at the Information Desk). She is very excited and hopeful about the future of accessibility and inclusion for current and future TPC visitors. After graduation, she will be returning to her hometown, Los Angeles, CA, and hopes to work at any museum in education, public programming, curatorial research, or DEAI. If you would like to connect with her, please send an email or LinkedIn message her way!

Erich Brubaker, Northern Virginia Community College

Erich Brubaker (they/he), served as the Public Programming Intern, mentored by Head of Public programs Ashley Whitfield, supporting public events and community engagement projects, including Curator Talks, Third Thursdays, Creative Seedlings, and the Bonnard Salons. Their main projects included devising adult craft activities for Phillips after 5 in March and April, supporting administrative function and event execution in the Public Programming department, writing blog posts related to the Bonnard Salon programs, and arranging a community partnership with a local organization dedicated to the sustainable reuse of leftover crafting supplies. Erich is about to finish an Associate Degree in Art History at Northern Virginia Community College. They already hold a Certificate in Historic Preservation, and plan to pursue a Bachelor’s in Art History in 2025. They currently spend a lot of their free time visiting museums (over 100 globally since moving to the DC area in 2017), watching TV or Studio Ghibli movies, eating good food, drinking tea, and snuggling with their cat Kumo.

Megan Sommerfield, The George Washington University

“Like Duncan Phillips, I’m from Pittsburgh, so I learned at a young age about his family and the incredible art museum they built. Then, I attended Purdue University, where I quickly fell in love with art history. As the Collections Intern for Purdue Galleries, I solidified my interest in museum work as a professional career. When I began my masters in museum studies at George Washington University, The Phillips Collection was the first place I sought out jobs. I have now had the honor to work here as the Library and Archive Intern, mentored by Juli Folk and Amanda Acosta, which allowed me to find my true passion in the museum field, archival work. Archives are home to some of our most precious treasures and information, and I want to play an active role in preserving them for generations to come.”

Natalia Georges, The George Washington University

“Originally from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and of Lebanese descent, I am currently a first-year graduate student at George Washington University, specializing in Marketing. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Suffolk University, and I have had the privilege of being  mentored by Renee Littleton as the Marketing and Communications Intern. During my internship, my main objectives were to deepen my understanding of art movements and to enhance my marketing skills within the cultural sector. Throughout my internship, I engaged in several key initiatives, including: data analysis and strategic insights (compiling and analyzing daily and weekly sales reports); content development for an upcoming social media interview series; curate the museum’s Fodor’s Travel “30 Best Museums in Washington” feature; press relations and branding (developing press kits for Bonnard’s Worlds and participate in the press preview); community and partnership engagement (initiated outreach to restaurant partners to analyze discount utilization, organizing activities tailored to seniors from Iona Senior Services); French institutions outreach (led a successful email campaign targeting over ten French cultural and educational entities to promote Bonnard’s Worlds); marketing strategy development for the upcoming Multiplicity exhibition. I joined the Phillips with the goal of learning about art history, curatorial practices, and to refine my digital marketing skills. I am proud to say that I have not only met these goals but also contributed meaningfully to projects that have expanded my expertise and fueled my passion for integrating marketing with the arts.”

If it is not true, then it should be

Phillips Educator Carla Freyvogel on Pierre Bonnard’s depiction of reality in his paintings in Bonnard’s Worlds (on view through June 2, 2024). 

My cousins and I, jaws slack, eyes wide, stare at our grandfather. He is seated at the head of the kitchen table, delicately dabbing the corners of his mouth with his napkin and sipping wine. He has just told another one of his spellbinding stories. 

Then we ask, “Really? Is that a true story?” We hung on to his every word and laughed at his outrageous descriptions and cartoon-worthy voices. We loved his stories. 

“Well,” he explained, “if it is not true, then it should be.” 

This statement baffled me in my youth. Did my grandfather just simply make up a story? Did he lie? It did not seem like a lie. A renowned storyteller*, his stories always seemed completely believable, yet wonderfully dramatic. As he expressed real life experiences, they were filled with heightened conflict, absurd coincidences, unexpected wisdom, and aggrandized feats. The characters in his stories had foibles that were understandable and universal. He made summers feel hotter and winters feel colder. 

Later in life, I could grasp that what happened in his stories was not his point. The characters were not as important as the emotions. The settings, while fantastical, did not define the tale. What mattered was the unbridled and irrepressible spirit of humankind. 

As I stroll through Bonnard’s Worlds, taking in the rich vistas, the shimmering yellows of summer’s warmth, the rumble jumble of garden colors, the swaths of paint in hues so unique that I must contemplate the order in which they went on the canvas, I am taken into a scene; be it Normandy or the Riviera, the garden or the bedroom, I understand that Pierre Bonnard did not give a fig about reality. 

Pierre Bonnard, Southern Landscape with Two Children, 1916–18, Oil on canvas, 54 3/4 x 77 7/8 in., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Gift of Sam and Ayala Zacks, 1970, Photo Courtesy of AGO, © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Even without a realistic rendition of Bonnard’s garden, I am swatting away flies, hearing chickens clucking, and feeling the warmth of sun on my arms. In his shimmering interiors I can sense the aloneness of his wife, Marthe, before their dining room cupboard (Now what was I looking for?). I feel the warm weight of a dog in my lap and the languidness of a long bath in a deep tub. 

I am inspired by Bonnard’s work to have these experiences. I am not presented with reality; I am not told the true story. But, if it is not true, then it should be. I am dealing with a version of the truth that has been deftly distilled, giving me the spirit of it all. 

Wait, wait! The tiles in Marthe’s bathroom were white? If they were not the slightly undulating shapes of glistening purple, succulent orange, flaming red, and mottled teal, then they should have been! 

Pierre Bonnard, Nude in the Bath, 1936, Oil on canvas, 36 5/8 x 57 7/8 in., Musée d’art moderne de Paris, Purchased from the artist, 1937, for the Universal Exposition of 1937 © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bonnard said, “For the painter, the presence of the object, of the motif, gets in the way while he is painting, so after working for a time, the painter can no longer recapture the idea that he started with.” 

So, it was for my grandfather that the reality of the story got in the way of its point. He wanted to recapture the essence of the idea that he started with. The month of the year, the number of dollars owed, the age of the farmer—these details got in the way of the point of the story. The idea of the story must be preserved so that in all honesty, if it is not true then it should be.  

*Nelson C. White (1900-1988) was a landscape painter in the style of American Impressionism. He was also a noted storyteller. https://archive.org/details/lp_connecticut-characters_nelson-c-white

In Memoriam: Dani Levinas, Champion of Contemporary Art

The Phillips Collection mourns the passing of Dani Levinas, Chair Emeritus of the Board of Trustees, and expresses its deepest condolences to his family, friends, and the Washington, DC, community he loved.

Dani Levinas in his Georgetown home. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Dani, along with his late wife, Mirella, was a true advocate for contemporary art and experimentation. His extraordinary dedication and leadership during his tenure as Chair of the Board from 2016 to 2022, as the Phillips celebrated its centennial, helped the museum dramatically expand its focus on contemporary art, community engagement, and diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. Like the museum’s founder Duncan Phillips, Dani was passionate about supporting living artists, collecting art of his time, and living with his art. This was evident by his art-filled Georgetown home and his recent book, The Guardians of Art: Conversations with Major Collectors—both of which he generously shared with the Phillips community. The Phillips was honored to host an intimate evening with Dani last October celebrating the launch of The Guardians of Art, which highlights the motivations, passions, and practices of major art collectors around the world.

Dani and Mirella Levinas at The Phillips Collection 2016 Annual Gala

Through his decades-long work as a collector, writer, publisher, and curator, Dani was particularly dedicated to contemporary Latin American art and artists. He connected the Phillips with Spanish artists Bernardí Roig and Daniel Canogar and Cuban artists Los Carpinteros, who, because of Dani’s generosity and vision, are now part of the museum’s permanent collection. He made an indelible mark on the Phillips by encouraging the museum to be more innovative, experimental, and global in scope.

With their travels and time spent living in Argentina, Spain, and Miami, Dani and Mirella were intimately aware of urgent social issues in the US and around the world. Dani’s support made possible the groundbreaking and expansive exhibition The Warmth of Other Suns in 2019, which shared poignant stories about global displacement. Dani also cared deeply about expanding access to art through technology and reimagining the role of cultural institutions by spearheading enhancements to the visitor experience.

Dani Levinas and curators Massimiliano Gioni and Natalie Bell at the opening of The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement. Photo: Rhiannon Newman

“Dani was a crisp and intelligent thinker and a joyful and passionate advocate for contemporary art and artists. His network of friends, colleagues, and people who loved and appreciated him spans the globe,” says Vradenburg Director & CEO Jonathan P. Binstock. “Indeed, well before reconnecting with him in my role at the Phillips, like many, I saw Dani regularly at art events in global cultural capitals year after year. He was steadfast in his warmth and welcoming posture, and his eagerness to discuss all the latest developments in the art world and beyond. I learned a lot from Dani. He will be sorely missed.”

“Dani Levinas’s passion and enthusiasm for art by living artists will have an enduring impact on The Phillips Collection. We will truly miss his inspiration and guidance,” says Phillips Board Chair John Despres.