Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Pat Norton

In this series, Manager of Visitor and Family Engagement Emily Bray profiles volunteers within the museum. Phillips volunteers are an integral part of the museum and help in many ways: greeting and guiding guests through the museum, helping with Sunday Concerts, assisting patrons in the library, helping out with Phillips after 5 and special events, and so much more. Our volunteers offer a wealth of expertise and experience to the museum, and we are delighted to highlight several them.

Mary Pat Norton, Art Information Volunteer and Public Program Volunteer

Mary Pat Norton

What year did you start volunteering for The Phillips Collection?I’ve been volunteering since February 2018.

What do you see as the most valuable aspect of your volunteering?

As a volunteer, I’ve had the opportunity to assist a variety of departments and learn about all of the artists within the exhibits. Before working here, I never seriously studied works by Paul Klee or the aboriginal Australian women artists, so I’ve enjoyed broadening my perspective. In doing so, I’ve been able to discuss these works with our visitors, gaining an understanding of their viewpoints as well. Overall, the best part about my role is that I have the privilege of helping visitors cultivate meaningful learning experiences, and they help me to do the same.

What do you do when you are not volunteering at the Phillips?

I am an art history MA student at George Washington University and an editorial assistant to a design historian. When I am not studying, I can be found eating my way through D.C. and wandering through the city’s art museums.

What is your favorite room or painting here?

I love the Laib Wax Room, and I really appreciate that there is a slab of wax on the outside of this space for visitors to touch. The eucalyptus poles in the Marking the Infinite exhibit are also fascinating.

If you had to choose one word to describe The Phillips Collection, what would it be?


Share a fun fact about you!

I excel at pogo sticking, and I grew up in South Florida.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I’ve really grown to love the Phillips and I look forward to learning more about this fabulous collection. Volunteering here has been a fun experience, and I appreciate everyone who has helped me learn more about the museum industry.

Reflections on a Graduate Course: Is Modern Art Spiritual?

Primarily red painting of the head of christ by Alfonso Ossorio

Alfonso Ossorio, Head of Christ, 1950. Ink and watercolor on torn paper, 30 x 22 in. Ossorio Foundation, Southampton, New York

I’ve been volunteering at the Phillips for more than ten years and have enjoyed the perks that come with it—free membership, preview tours of new shows, holiday parties in the Music Room, and more. However, I had never taken advantage of courses at the Center for the Study of Modern Art until the spring 2013 semester.

Phillips Volunteer Coordinator Lisa Leinberger alerted me to the opportunity to audit a course on a topic that interests me: spirituality and modern art. I contacted Megan Clark, Manager of Center Initiatives, and was soon enrolled.

I was a little intimidated as I took a seat in the Center’s seminar room with eight graduate students in art history from George Washington University. It had been 50 years since my last graduate seminar, and I was old enough to be the grandfather of these young women—and the father of our professor, Valerie Hellstein, the Center’s 2012-13 post-doctoral fellow.

But things quickly fell into place. Lisa changed my shift schedule to accommodate my seminar participation. The GW students soon came to be my fellow students. And Professor Hellstein (“Val”), though setting high performance standards, was friendly, accommodating, and accessible.

A highlight for me was an encounter with fellow student Beth Evans when I was at the volunteer desk. We discovered we shared a love of Goya’s The Repentant St. Peter on display in the Music Room.  I had written a volunteer’s  “Adopt a Painting” paper on it, and, as an intern in the Phillips’s education department, Beth was preparing a Spotlight Talk on it. Later on I attended her talk—it was great!

The required readings for the seminar were difficult, and the discussions rigorous—but they awakened an intellectual excitement I had not experienced in years. I was not required to do a seminar paper, but I did: my paper on Alfonso Ossorio came back with a comment from Val that began, “Gerry, this is quite good.” What more could a volunteer-wannabe-art-historian ask for!

Gerry Hendershot, Volunteer

And the winner is . . .

Last night, a curious audience sat down in our auditorium to screen ten videos–the jury-selected finalists of the Snapshot Home Movie Contest. Afterwards, one by one, audience members dropped a red ticket into one of ten boxes, each marked with the name of a finalist.The video with the most red tickets would win the “crowd favorite” title along with a slate of great prizes, including exposure during the DC Shorts Film Festival.

Meet the winner, Marie McGrory, a student at The George Washington University. Watch her video below, which she created during her recent spring break. Marie filmed virtually everything that happened at her family’s New York home that week, and edited her footage down to a final story that focuses on the importance of food in her family and their St. Patrick’s Day traditions. As jury-member and Washington Post Style Blog writer Maura Judkis observes, Marie’s delightful parents make incredibly compelling characters.

The McGrory Clan from Marie McGrory on Vimeo.