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.