How to Serve 4,600 Visitors in 14 Hours (and Have Fun in the Process)

This year, the Phillips’s annual free family festival included more enriching activities than ever before and was met with record-breaking attendance. To celebrate, Phillips Educator Rachel Goldberg (dubbed internally, with awe and affection, “Family Festival Czar”) presents a series of posts about what it takes to pull this community event together and the impact on families that makes it worthwhile.  

Photos of artmakring, instrument playing, and art looking at the Jazz 'n Families Fun Days

Photos: Sue Ahn

This was my 5th year organizing a large-scale family festival at the Phillips, and every year they seem to get more fun and to run more smoothly. I love seeing the museum full of parents and caregivers sharing their love of art and jazz with the kids in their lives. Watching their faces as they peel back a print in the art workshop, discover an exciting detail in a painting (like the dog on the table in the Luncheon of the Boating Party), or hear live jazz for the first time in their lives makes months and months of preparation worthwhile.

On top of countless meetings and hours of planning, here are some of the key ingredients that make Jazz ‘n Families Fun Days great:

    • 15 instruments in the instrument petting zoo, from clarinet to bongo, loaned by the Sitar Arts Center (adding up to a whole lot of noise by our young visitors)
    • 20 Phillips volunteers from 5 different departments aka amazing colleagues
    • umpteen bajillion Jasper Johns-inspired prints created by families in the art workshop
    • 1,000 Discovery Packs distributed (an official part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens campaign) including two brand new stops debuted expressly for Fun Days in the Jasper Johns exhibition and Hunter Courtyard
    • 750 pedometers distributed by sponsor United Healthcare, bringing the Let’s Move message home (we walk far in museums! my personal step-count for the weekend was 25,692!)
    • 10 live jazz performances in the Music Room
    • 9 neighborhood museums within walking distance open free as part of Dupont-Kalorama Museum Walk Weekend
    • 4 years of collaboration with DC Jazz Festival
    • 3 improvised performances in the galleries (my favorite part of the whole weekend)
    • 1 NEA Jazz Master (Kenny Barron in conversation with Rusty Hassan)
    • 1 storyteller (a subtle and soothing way to draw families into the museum’s library)
    • Numerous museum assistants and security supervisors who work tirelessly to keep the art safe (they should really wear superhero capes)
    • 1 of the best tent sales in museum shop history (in my humble opinion, anyway)
    • 1 continuous, winding line out the café door to taste the delicious offerings of Tryst at the Phillips (including, for many a weary parent, seriously effective espresso drinks)

Above all, it’s the record-breaking 4,600 visitors of all ages who spent the weekend engaging with art, jazz, each other, and all of us who make this free annual event a rich and joyful experience.

Rachel Goldberg, Manager of School, Outreach, and Family Programs