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The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY PEGGY MCGLONE peggy.mcglone@wash­post.com

D.C. cul­tural lead­ers of­fer words of wis­dom to the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s new leader.

It has been nearly 16 months since the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion an­nounced that Cor­nell Univer­sity Pres­i­dent David J. Sko­r­ton would be­come its 13th sec­re­tary. Be­tween the March 2014 an­nounce­ment and Sko­r­ton’s ar­rival this week, the bil­lion­dol­lar in­sti­tu­tion has been busy — ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of open­ing its first mu­seum out­side the United States at the site of the 2012 Lon­don Olympics; rais­ing money to­ward its first $1.5 bil­lion joint cam­paign; and out­lin­ing a 20year master plan to re­design its mu­se­ums on the south­ern edge of the Mall. ¶ Then there is the fi­nal con­struc­tion and open­ing of the in­sti­tu­tion’s new­est mu­seum — the Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can History and Cul­ture. ¶ It’s enough to over­whelm any­one, even the for­mer pres­i­dent of an Ivy League univer­sity. So we asked a few of Washington’s cul­tural lead­ers — some are re­cent trans­plants, oth­ers have deep roots — to share their wis­dom with the New Guy.

Molly Smith

Artis­tic di­rec­tor of Arena Stage since 1998

Get to know the neigh­bor­hoods of Washington, D.C. — ev­ery­where from Pet­worth to South­west Washington to Adams Mor­gan to Mount Pleas­ant. This is a city of neigh­bor­hoods. That’s what makes us dis­tinc­tive. Go to restau­rants or an arts ac­tiv­ity in ev­ery neigh­bor­hood in the city. It’s a very ex­cit­ing time to be in Washington, D.C.

I would also say to him to get to know the univer­si­ties. He comes from an aca­demic back­ground, and we have an ex­pert in any area. It’s a po­lit­i­cal city, but also a city where the best and bright­est come in eco­nom­ics, history and medicine.

It’s one of those places where you can find a thrilling din­ner com­pan­ion ev­ery night of the week.

Get to know: Andy Shal­lal, founder of Bus­boys and Po­ets. He un­der­stands how things launch neigh­bor­hoods through busi­ness and food.

Dorothy Kosin­ski

Di­rec­tor of the Phillips Col­lec­tion since 2008

When I left Dal­las to take the helm at the Phillips in 2008, I was sur­prised by just how much of a com­pany town Washington can be. Of course, I ex­pected pol­i­tics to be cen­tral in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, but in ret­ro­spect I think that I some­times un­der­es­ti­mated its per­va­sive­ness into nearly ev­ery silo of in­flu­ence.

Cul­tural con­ver­sa­tions can get lost or di­min­ished by news of the day. And so it quickly be­came clear to me that D.C. mu­seum di­rec­tors and se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tors bear a heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity. It’s on us as cul­tural lead­ers to con­stantly re­in­force our in­sti­tu­tions’ im­por­tance to not only our visi­tors, mem­bers and con­stituents, but to the na­tion’s leg­is­la­tors as well. At all times, we are charged to cham­pion the arts and hu­man­i­ties as mean­ing­ful and, yes, es­sen­tial threads of ev­ery­day life . . . not just in Washington but across the coun­try and around the world. So my ad­vice to Sec­re­tary Sko­r­ton is to get some rest be­fore he starts in July. A busy sched­ule awaits!

Get to know: Scott Kratz from the 11th Street Bridge Park Pro­ject, be­cause he is a ster­ling ex­am­ple of boldly cap­tur­ing and grow­ing ex­cite­ment, op­por­tu­nity and po­ten­tial in a part of the city that de­serves at­ten­tion.

Ed­mund Fleet

Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of THEARC (Town Hall Ed­u­ca­tion Arts Recre­ation Cam­pus)

Get in­volved in the com­mu­nity by do­ing what is a pri­or­ity for the com­mu­nity, not just com­ing in and as­sum­ing we have all the an­swers, can solve all the prob­lems, but by show­ing what is a pri­or­ity for the com­mu­nity is pri­or­ity for us.

So many come in with a sav­ior men­tal­ity and not ev­ery­one needs to be saved. Bet­ter to un­der-prom­ise and over-de­liver. You al­ways need to be cred­i­ble — cred­i­ble in the com­mu­nity and cred­i­ble in the board­room.

With all of the chang­ing dy­nam­ics of the city, [think about] that sin­gle par­ent who wants more for their child than they had. They’re try­ing to fig­ure out how to nav­i­gate the chang­ing land­scape in the city. That is to me, the au­di­ence we strive to go af­ter. They need a lit­tle bit of hand hold­ing, some­one to work with them. While, yes, it is im­por­tant to raise money, you have to al­ways re­mem­ber why you’re rais­ing that money.

Get to know: The Ad­vi­sory Neigh­bor­hood Com­mis­sions, so that he will know what the com­mu­nity is think­ing.

Deb­o­rah F. Rut­ter

Pres­i­dent of the Kennedy Cen­ter since Septem­ber

Pace your­self. There are more events on any given night than any hu­man be­ing can ever at­tend. There’s my first gala, my first Na­tional Sym­phony Con­cert, first Kennedy Cen­ter Hon­ors. Don’t worry, there will be another year, and don’t try to do ev­ery­thing all at once.

Ev­ery­body who is not liv­ing in Washington, D.C., says it is filled with peo­ple who don’t re­ally live here but who pass through. That’s not true. It’s filled with peo­ple who love D.C. as a home, a place to work, to live and play. The peo­ple of Washington, D.C., are a re­flec­tion of the fact that we have so many ex­tra­or­di­nary in­sti­tu­tions. It is re­ally a joy from time to time to be a tourist. I have had even more fun when I visit as a tourist rather than as a pro­fes­sional.

You should got to the Phillips Col­lec­tion. It’s beau­ti­ful. Beau­ti­ful scale. It’s a spe­cial place and one ofmy fa­vorites.

Get to know: I have enor­mous re­spect for Rusty Pow­ell [di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Gallery of Art]. He’s a fan­tas­tic guy. And I just spent time with Dennis Kelly, head of the [Na­tional] Zoo. I would say, go visit the zoo, have a visit with the pan­das and know that we have this large-scale in­ter­na­tional zoo and yet it is a very in­ti­mate space as well.

Wil­liam “Bro” Adams

Chair­man of the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties since 2014 and for­mer pres­i­dent of Colby Col­lege

[ Washington] is a place of some unique­ness in the way it works, you have to get used to that. Un­til you ex­pe­ri­ence it, it’s hard to un­der­stand the full im­pact of it. . . . Both the NEH and the Smith­so­nian de­pend upon po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions and the re­al­i­ties of Washington. We have to find our way in those com­plex chal­lenges. It’s a po­lit­i­cal place.

Liv­ing in Washington is a great part of these po­si­tions. Get­ting to know this city has been a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. It is a com­pany town in some ways, but much more di­verse and in­ter­est­ing, and I’ve been pleas­antly sur­prised how much fun I’ve had get­ting to know this.

There are lots of cul­tural in­ter­ests, cul­tural in a re­ally broad sense, and the in­ter­na­tional cul­tural com­mu­nity here. I’m still do­ing it, still learn­ing. That’s an im­por­tant thing to start early on, and to keep pur­su­ing. And it’s in­cred­i­bly in­ter­est­ing.

Get to know: Fel­low trav­el­ers in this cul­tural world, the mu­seum heads, the heads of the agen­cies that deal with cul­ture . . . the NEA, the IMLS [In­sti­tute of Mu­seum and Li­brary Ser­vices], some of the peo­ple who deal with cul­tural is­sues in the State Depart­ment and the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Molly Smith

Dorothy Kosin­ski

Ed­mund Fleet

Deb­o­rah F. Rut­ter

Wil­liam “Bro” Adams

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