Women Leaders: Dorothy Kosinski, Director of The Phillips Collection

Our spring arts preview featured 20 women cultural leaders in Washington, D.C. We wanted to amplify their voices in our online newsletters, spotlighting each of them individually. Our Monday April 11 newsletter features Dr. Dorothy Kosinski, Vradenburg Director and CEO of The Phillips Collection.

THE GEORGETOWNER: D.C. should have a “spring awakening” of sorts after two long years of Covid. What are you most looking forward to for your institution this season?

DOROTHY KOSINSKI: Well, the Phillips was going strong throughout 2021, especially in celebration of our Centennial year! The beginning of our 100th anniversary year was devoted to our Centennial exhibition “Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century.” That was followed by our invitational juried show Inside Outside, Upside Down. In the fall, we featured three magnificent projects: “David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History,” “Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful,” and “Intersections: Sanford Biggers.” You are right, we are starting 2022 with a bang. We opened “Picasso: Painting the Blue Period” last weekend. It’s a big show with 90 objects from all over the world, some 45 pictures have never been seen in D.C. It’s the first early Picasso exhibit in D.C. in 25 years. Most importantly, we draw back the curtain on some fascinating technical analyses that reveal the picture beneath the picture. It’s a story of art meets science.

GEORGETOWNER: What led you to become a leader in your organization? Tell us a bit about your career trajectory and inspirations along the way?

DK: I became director at the Phillips in spring 2008, following a curatorial career of over 30 years. My curatorial work took me from New York to Paris and Basel, and then back to the states to the Dallas Museum of Art. It is a joy to shepherd a distinguished collection such as the Phillips and one that matches my own scholarly expertise of 19th and 20th century European art so perfectly. It has been especially interesting to shift the spotlight somewhat to the art of our own time, a key interest of our founder Duncan Phillips and his painter wife Marjorie.

GEORGETOWNER: What are the biggest challenges for your organization?  

DK: Obviously, every cultural organization faces financial challenges. That’s one reason I’ve invested so much time and energy and creativity in enlarging our endowment, to provide sound financial footing for the next 100 years. During the last five or six years, we have been much more focused on fulfilling our responsibilities to our communities, our service to schools, to the elderly, to advancing our work around equity and diversity. Of course, the pandemic threw everyone a huge challenge in terms of health, organization, staffing, etc. 

GEORGETOWNER: How do you feel being among the first women to lead an arts institution? 

DK: I’m proud to be a woman leading the Phillips. I know that my background and point of view enhances our capacity to be nimble, responsive, and open as an art museum in the 21st century. I’m keen to open the door and let down the ladder for the next generation of women leaders.

GEORGETOWNER: What are you most proud of accomplishing while serving in your position?  

DK: I’m especially proud of three major accomplishments: instituting back in 2018 our DEAI program of paid internships and fellowships led by a Chief Diversity Officer, the first at a U.S. art museum, as far as we know. This program has touched and changed every aspect of our work and institutional culture. I would mention too, our profound engagement in community, especially around our portfolio of art and wellness initiatives. In addition, I’m proud of our vital and dynamic program of contemporary art exhibitions and projects.

For more information on The Phillips Collection see here.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *