Finale with Cafe Cubano, Ikat, and Lots of Talk

With Suzanne (and flowers) on D.C.’s Spanish Steps en route to The Textile Museum

On Friday, Suzanne and I begin our finale at the Washington Post‘s annual museums luncheon. We listen to presentations from advertising and editorial arms of the Style section and catch up with a handful of peers from D.C.’s museum community. The most interesting takeaway is a sense of openness and accessibility. Editors outline parallels between museums and the newsroom with sincerity and humor. The question and answer period launches a worthwhile discussion on interactive strategies and tools in museums.

Back at the Phillips, I share points of pride–our profound Antony Gormley exhibition, surprising installation of John Cage watercolors, recent Villareal acquisition (an infinite, digital Rothko?), The Migration Series. Touring offices, we stop to say hello to Ann (my boss and longtime mentor), who invites us in to chat. She poses a question: at the end of six months, what do you each take away from this exchange? Suzanne replies that benefits span the professional to the personal. She has increased familiarity with key platforms, received positive feedback from peers at AAM, made a friend. I’ve grown in confidence, gained insight into communications processes at a different type of institution, made a friend. Our impromptu answers, of course, only scratch the surface.

Next stop, recaffeination (some things don’t change). At the new Tryst at the Phillips cafe, Suzanne tries the cubano and I opt for iced americano. We have an extended conversation about our current work projects (press trips, strategic planning, art, artists). We also talk about Suzanne’s earlier life as a textile artist and conservator.

4:15 and time to squeeze one last adventure out of the day. Tentative itinerary involves a jaunt to H Street, NE, to introduce Suzanne to an evolving D.C. neighborhood and see Villareal’s show at Conner Contemporary, but when we realize she has never been to the Textile Museum we happily change course. A short walk up the Spanish Steps through Kalorama and we arrive with 30 minutes to spare. The Textile Museum represents a formative, museum experience for me (I visited regularly with my godmother as a child), and it’s a pleasure to be back with Suzanne. She brings a practitioner’s expertise and wonder (and enlightens me as to how the beautiful ikat piece we’re staring at was made).

Suzanne will soon sprint to catch a 5:50 train back to Richmond, but on our walk to the car we focus on what’s next. How do we extend the benefits of our experience? Does “mentorship” describe what’s valuable in our relationship? It has been so exciting because it’s reciprocal, catalytic, creative. We start brainstorming alternate terms with little success. After all, people understand “mentorship.” It has history and context. Would our exchange be useful under a different name? With that open question, and a hug, we say farewell.


Noon Hangout: Media, Networks, Continuing Ed

UPDATE: Due to technical difficulties we have rescheduled this chat to Wednesday, June 13–10:30 am EST. Thanks for your patience and hope you’ll join us then.

May has come and gone but the Media, Networks, & Continuing Education exchange is still on! A new hangout time is in the mix for Monday, June 11–noon EST. Suzanne now has webcam access in the office so we’ll take advantage during our lunch breaks and hope you’ll join us. To do so, visit where you’ll find a hangout underway. Participate between now and then by posting questions and links here and/or on our Google + page.

This topic is rather free form. Some areas we plan to address:
*Media Relations
*Reading lists
*Professional associations
*Professional events, conferences, trade shows
*Tech trends

Of particular interest to me at the moment–press trips. I’d like to learn more about informal, regularly scheduled visits to check-in with press contacts in other cities, as well as best practices for offering trips domestically or abroad to an individual or group of journalists to seed a story.

Taking Stock

May was a busy month for both mentor and mentee. Suzanne opened Maharaja: The Splendors of India’s Great Kings (on view through August 19), and I prepared to open Jasper Johns: Variations on a Theme and Antony Gormley: Drawing Space (both through September 9), as well as a new museum cafe, Tryst at the Phillips. To manage the sheer volume, we gave our May mentorship exchange a miss and took a little break from blogging. But silence can be deceptive. Throughout the month, mentorship was especially on my mind as I noticed changes in my work, evidence of Suzanne’s guidance and ideas sparked by our conversations. Some highlights:

  • I packed my latest press release with hyperlinks, program highlights, and relevant citywide events
  • Accessibility and welcome is the core of a summer ad campaign I’ve been involved in, which positions the Phillips as the “place to be” and features extended hours every Thursday night (social networks are fully integrated)
  • We paid it forward with a guest post about mentorship on the Emerging Museum Professionals blog
  • I now augment press releases with timely blog posts (coordinated through a new layer on Google calendar)
  • Plus, spring yielded a flourishing first vegetable garden for the Wichmann family. I’d be remiss not to note Suzanne’s encouragement on the work-life-balance front.