BNG Team

Rehana Packwood

Meet the BNG Team

Get to know the team behind the 2022 Best of Bermuda Award. As a small but nimble team of five staff, we all wear many hats. Our membership has grown over the past year and with a relatively new team in place we thought that we would introduce ourselves to you. In celebration of being named Best Museum we will be profiling each of our staff members over the next few weeks. This week we meet Rehana Packwood.

Since joining the Bermuda National Gallery just over a year ago, Rehana has breathed new life into the gallery’s education programming in her role as Education Officer. A passionate digital artist, she has expanded the scope of BNG’s signature Art+Tech programme to include a focus on animation and digital painting and has introduced an after-school programme to further develop student skills picked up in the long-running summer camp.

An avid fan of comics and visual storytelling, Rehana has also introduced a Narrative Art camp, taking place in the shorter school breaks, which encourages a younger age group to learn to make comics, create flipbooks, and write and illustrate poetry.

Rehana returned to Bermuda in 2021 to take up the role at the gallery, moving from London where she was completing her Masters, having previously spent two years teaching in Japan. As Education Officer she plans and coordinates all BNG education programmes, for both children and adults. Working closely with the curatorial team, she produces the BNG Kids activity booklets which accompany each of our exhibitions and works with schools and community organisations to lead tours of the gallery.

We caught up with Rehana to discuss her passion for digital art, the joy of children discovering the gallery for the first time and how BNG education programmes provide art classes for a broad audience, often free of charge.

Above: Rehana photographed by Meredith Andrews. Top: The BNG team, from left to right Jennifer Phillips, Office Administrator; Eve Godet Thomas, Director of Programming and Engagement; Peter Lapsley, Executive Director; Rehana Packwood, Education Officer; Lara Hetzel, Volunteer and Operations Officer.

BNG: What does a typical day in the gallery look like for you?

RP: There is no such thing as a typical for me really, as it is dictated by what programmes are going on. At the moment, I am running the Art+Tech Summer Camp programme, so that takes up most of my attention. I split my time between teaching digital art skills, liaising with the camp counsellors and running back and forth between our satellite education space in Washington Mall and my office at the gallery, as I am also planning our fall programming.

During term time, my weeks are shaped by the programmes that we run on different days – whether that is the twice-weekly after school programme or Draw and Explore, an artist-led drawing course for adults. We have had some great teachers, including Dr Edwin Smith, John Gardner, Tiffany Paynter and Vaughan Evans who have each shared their unique approach.

A lot of my time is also taken with creating the education materials that accompany each of our exhibitions, reaching out to schools to promote our programming and encouraging field trips to the gallery.

Young visitors work through the BNG Kids activity booklet for A Personal Perspective: Photographs by Richard Saunders.

BNG: What part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?

RP: I enjoy teaching, particularly younger age groups. Kids are fun, and their enthusiasm can be infectious. I enjoy giving tours of our exhibitions for the same reason. Seeing smaller kids come into the gallery for the first time is always fantastic as they get so excited!

Towards the end of the last school year, we were able to bring in a couple of different schools to see The African Collection: Our People, Our Places, Our Stories, which was wonderful after two years of field trips being put on hold because of the pandemic. I look forward to doing more this coming academic year.

Rehana with students from a P3 class at West Pembroke Primary who came in to see The African Collection: Our People, Our Places, Our Stories.

BNG: What would people be most surprised to know about your role?

RP: People are often interested to discover that alongside kids programmes, we also offer a range of adult classes.  People are also always intrigued by the fact that I design all of the BNG Kids activity booklets. A lot of work goes into them, working closely with the curatorial team to define the underlying theme of the show and then expanding on this to create a holistic approach that is both educational and entertaining for varying age groups.

The packs are designed so that kids can use them for self-guided tours of our exhibitions and so that schools can also use them as stand-alone lesson planners, alongside our virtual tour. The booklets are free and can be picked up in the gallery or downloaded online.

BNG: What is something that most people don’t know about BNG?

RP: I think that a lot of people don’t realise that we work hard to get funding for our education programmes, which means that often we are able to offer free places, both for adults and children – whether that be with scholarships or through community-based adult programmes such as Urban Sketch. Our programmes are designed to be inclusive and to reach as broad an audience as possible. The arts should be for everyone, and we work hard to make that happen.

South American Project, c.1965 by Richard Saunders. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: What is your favourite piece in the collection and why?

RP: I don’t have a favourite piece, but I am fascinated by the images in A Personal Perspective: Photographs by Richard Saunders. Every time I look at them my eye is drawn to something interesting and unique – whether it is the baby’s face peaking through in South American Project, c.1965 or the intensity of the girl’s stance in Members of the 4-C Club Listening to Instructor, Upper Volta, 1972.

I have always loved black and white art and the strong contrast that it creates. I am a big fan of manga, Japanese comics, which are in black and white, and Saunders’ photographs share a similar narrative thread.

Bermuda Artists

Documenting Life in Africa

Richard Saunders

Swapping a successful freelance photographic career for a role as a foreign correspondent for the US government, in 1967 Richard Clive Saunders (Bermudian, 1922-1987) became International Editor for Topic, a magazine published by the United States Information Agency (USIA), now the Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs bureaus within the US State Department. Topic ran from 1965 to 1994 and covered art, international politics and emerging technologies. As part of a commitment to cultural exchange, the magazine was printed in both English and French and was aimed at audiences in Africa, often focusing on Americans with family ties to the continent such as Miles Davis, Martin Luther King Jr, and a young Barack Obama.

Saunders stayed in this role until his retirement in 1986, during which time his photographs appeared in almost every issue of Topic. Over 20 years, he took close to 50 trips to Africa, visiting more than 30 countries, moving seamlessly between photographing heads of state and documenting rural life across the continent. “I never took pictures of what people thought Africa was about,” he said. “I was there to record what I saw when I saw it […] I never felt strange in Africa. It was always like going home.” In 1973, the USIA held an exhibition of Saunders’ work in Africa, which showcased 59 of his best photographs. The exhibition opened at the US Information Service Lincoln Library in Kumasi, Ghana, and toured the continent for two years, displayed in libraries, galleries and cultural centres the length and breadth of Africa.

Top: Women Building Lesotho Track, Lesotho, 1971. Above : Members of the 4-C Club listening to instructor, Upper Volta, 1972. Both by Richard Saunders.

“I was a witness to everything,” Saunders told Bermuda’s The Royal Gazette shortly after his retirement in 1986. “Whatever I saw, I was a part of — I didn’t try to change it, didn’t attempt to change it. I simply tried to document it. “In those days Africa was just beginning to develop,” he explained. “When I first went in, it can’t have been more than ten years after the first independent African nation had come into being. It was an exciting period — you could actually see the changes occurring from one month to the next.” During his lifetime, Saunders was awarded many honours for his contributions to photography, including the International Black Photographer’s Award (1982) and the United States Information Services Honour Award (1986). Of his chosen path, Saunders said: “It’s been a way of life for me that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

“Photojournalism has been a very rewarding and fascinating career for me. As I look at my friends who are lawyers, or doctors, I think how bored they must be. For me there is always a different room, a different sunrise, different people with different ideas — and always a new experience tomorrow.” Richard Saunders died in 1987 at the age of 65, just days before receiving the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bermuda Arts Council. The award was presented posthumously to his wife, Emily Saunders.

 Maize Harvest at Ejura, Ghana, 1972 by Richard Saunders.

After his death, Saunders was acknowledged by Congressman Charles Rangel of New York for his contributions to both photography and civil rights. Gordon Parks, who described Saunders as one of his dearest friends, told The Mid Ocean News, “He was a first-rate person as well as a very fine photographer.” The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington expressed interest in collecting Saunders’ photographs and bid for his work but his wife, who was the executor of his estate, decided that they should go to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, which is where he had wanted them to go. However, as a project of the USIA, there was a Congressional ban on the domestic distribution of Topic, and it became clear that an act of congress would be required to release his photographs taken for the magazine.

In 1988, Congressman Rangel wrote to Charles Wick, then director of USIA, about the best way to preserve Saunders’ archive. A congressional waiver was sought and secured, and legislation was introduced to move his work from the USIA to the Schomburg Center, which is now a custodian of 20 years of photographs taken by Saunders for Topic. His wife donated 30 of his photographs to the Bermuda National Gallery’s permanent collection, from which A Personal Perspective: Photographs by Richard Saunders is drawn.

Shirley Pearman, MBE, a friend and neighbour of Saunders, has generously loaned several issues of Topic to the Bermuda National Gallery for this exhibition. In the 1970s, Saunders sent the magazines to Pearman, a long-time educator and advocate for the arts, to share with her students.

A Personal Perspective: Photographs by Richard Saunders is on display in the Ondaatje Wing through to February.

2022 Bermuda Biennial

A Poetic Response

2022 Bermuda Biennial

Amidst the vibrant artworks gracing the walls in the 2022 Bermuda Biennial stand three custom built tables. Step closer and you will see that each one displays a selection of poems, marking the first time that the medium has been included in the exhibition and providing Bermuda’s vibrant community of writers with a new platform. 

The selection was overseen by Richard Georges, the first Poet Laureate of the British Virgin Islands and the Department of Culture’s 2022 Writer-in-residence. Eleven poets were chosen, each with a unique approach. 

“The theme of the 15th Biennial of the Bermuda National Gallery is A New Vocabulary: Past. Present. Future., an apt prompt that remains at the centre of these fine literary submissions.” says Richard. 

“If we were to take up one of the many vocabularies that these works gesture towards and trace the cartographical qualities of these poems, we would discover each poet turning towards the liminality of the spaces they inhabit, of the realities and histories they recall, document, or imagine.” he adds. 

The 2022 Bermuda Biennial. Photographs throughout by Brandon Morrison.

“The poets here are searching the contours of language to discover another subtextual and submarine truth. In Alan C. Smith’s lyrical prose-poem 2059: Devonshire Dock, that truth is literalised by an eco apocalyptic vision. It is a function of a global outlook to a ubiquitous issue to flatten, to similarise the ways in which different communities grapple with the problem. Smith begins from a point of nostalgia, the areas of the map that we recognize, the words and ideas and images we find familiar: ‘There was a time this dwindling pile / of shattered stone used to be a pier’ this is juxtaposed and challenged by the foreboding vision of a lessened or lessoned island that has been devoured by the rising sea.

That ravenous sea reappears at least twice, once in Ajala Omodele’s Middle Passage Atlantic in ‘the crossing’ yawns ‘open-mouthed, frothing / and toothless’ as it swallows the sick and the young alike. The ocean here, has taken on the spirit of the atrocities that occur upon it, and operates as an ethereal abyss, an ending and a nothingness, a ‘madness’ that the stolen must endure and survive. The boat then too, mirrors the island, and is here an avatar of horror, of separation, loss, and disconnection.

2022 Bermuda Biennial poem Brood by Jessica Lightbourne.

In this way, Smith’s shrinking island, the ‘needle narrow stretch of land’ resonates, not just with the horror of the loss of the foothold of hope in the void, but of the growing ‘still encroaching waters’. Andrea Ottley’s sea is the same, must be the same as the first sea, but her ocean is a playful participant, ‘laughing along the shore’, as much setting as character amidst the wide family of birds and the tapestry of music they make. If Ottley’s sea laughs, then the sea has both mouth and humour – it is not a stretch for us then to assume that it may also have its own language, just like the boastful white-eyed vireo

It would be a mistake to sweep these poems into the neat box of ecoliterature, as for most, the environment is not merely an ends of its own, but a necessary participant in what is overwhelmingly a collection of work that concerns itself primarily with the psychic trauma of loss. Nancy Anne Miller’s suite of poems flutters in the space between the artist’s eye and the page or canvas amid the ever-present threat of interruption by water (sea, rain, and even ink), a humming, a returning wave.

2022 Bermuda Biennial poem proud. by Liana Nanang.

But perhaps what Miller senses is truly an echo, a word we have forgotten but Yesha Townsend still searches for. She says that ‘all of June is a broken loaf’, but perhaps it is the chain (of islands? Of bondage?) that has been broken over the ‘hundred and a hundred and a hundred years’. Townsend returns to that echo, searching for it on the tongue of Sally Bassett and in the creased pages of Shakespeare. Sycorax is long gone before the curtain rises for the first act of The Tempest, but she haunts the conscience of the islander in the audience. But ‘let’s say hiaro is fire’.

As much as their words slick and slice the tongue in equal measure, these poets echo the canons of the archipelago and the continent. They embrace the duality of the in-between space that every island and shore represents, knowing full well that when we dwell on the threshold of the marine and the terrestrial, the past and the now, the living and the dead we claim neither and we claim both.

The poet’s burden remains the same after this noble celebration of art. They will continue to mine their vocabularies, the shifting contours of their tongues, bodies, and histories, searching for the right words that must make us right.”

– Richard Georges, Poet Laureate, British Virgin Islands.

The 2022 Bermuda Biennial is on display through to the end of the year.

BNG Team

Lara Hetzel

Meet the BNG Team

Get to know the team behind the 2022 Best of Bermuda Award. As a small but nimble team of five staff, we all wear many hats. Our membership has grown over the past year and with a relatively new team in place we thought that we would introduce ourselves to you. In celebration of being named Best Museum we will be profiling each of our staff members over the next few weeks. This week we meet Lara Hetzel.

Lara joined the Bermuda National Gallery as Volunteer and Operations Officer in February 2021, having first worked with the team as a Camp Counsellor on the Art+Tech programme the previous summer. A former Watch Leader for the Bermuda Sloop Foundation, she manages the gallery’s volunteer programme and supports the daily operations of the gallery

Volunteers play a key role at BNG and Lara manages 40 active volunteers who work across various sectors of the gallery – from welcoming visitors at the front desk, to assisting with exhibitions and events, to sitting on committees and advising at board level. 

Her role is hands on and wide ranging, particularly when it comes to exhibition changeovers. The logistics of installing an exhibition are myriad: from liaising with artists and lenders, to directing the contractors prepping the space and engaging the volunteers who help both behind the scenes and front of house. At the centre of it all is Lara. You might find her at the top of our 10 foot ladder hours before a show opens, working on the lighting, before running the guest list at the front door moments later as people start to arrive.

With a background in content creation and a degree in Anthropology and Film Studies from Wesleyan, Lara also produces the 360-degree immersive tours that accompany our online exhibitions and photographs many of our visitors and special guests for BNG’s website and social channels.

We caught up with Lara to discuss the vital role that volunteers play at BNG, the daily needs of running a gallery space and how seeing the exhibitions through visitors’ eyes always keeps them fresh.

Top: Lara photographed by Meredith Andrews. Above: The BNG team, from left to right Jennifer Phillips, Office Administrator; Eve Godet Thomas, Director of Programming and Engagement; Peter Lapsley, Executive Director; Rehana Packwood, Education Officer; Lara Hetzel, Volunteer and Operations Officer.

BNG: What does a typical day at the gallery look like for you?

LH: Every morning, I check our volunteer calendar to confirm who we have lined up for the day’s front desk shifts; Bermuda National Gallery has a roster of around 20 fantastic regular volunteers that welcome our visitors, perform reception duties, and serve as the public face of the gallery during opening hours. The day is split into two shifts, with volunteers assisting with a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly slot. At the start of the day, I’ll do a walkthrough of the gallery and turn on any audio-visual works before updating the morning’s volunteer on any gallery events, upcoming exhibitions, or anticipated tours for the day.

From that point on, my typical day can vary widely based on the exhibition calendar. When a new show is going up, much of my time is spent downstairs in the gallery: deinstalling and packing up any loaned works, patching and painting the walls, organizing any trucking needed for the transport of artwork or plinths, and working closely with Executive Director Peter Lapsley to execute the curatorial team’s vision on layout and install. Volunteers also play a vital role in this process; having a broad pool of volunteers with diverse skills and interests means that while one person may not be available for a regular front desk shift, they’re keen to get their hands dirty and hop in on the install front.

Once the shows are up, I can be found photographing them for our virtual walkthrough with a specialized 360-degree camera, planning the upcoming volunteer calendars and liaising with new volunteers, tackling daily facilities needs – from changing light bulbs to communicating with HVAC technicians, supporting other staff members on research projects and website admin, or working to optimize BNG’s always overflowing storage spaces, among other tasks.

Lara uses a 360-degree camera to film a virtual walkthrough of the Bermuda Biennial.

BNG: What part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?

LH: On the public-facing side, I always appreciate spending time with our volunteers and gallery visitors. Having others enjoy and respond to BNG’s exhibitions is the ultimate reward for the time spent in the lead-up. Everyone’s background and approach to art is so different, that even after a show has been up for months, these conversations always illuminate something new for me.

Behind the scenes, it’s been a joy to discover BNG’s permanent collection and familiarize myself with 30 years of the gallery’s exhibition and institutional history. There’s a treasure hunt element to research that can’t be beat, and the thrill of getting a peek behind the curtain never wears off. This year, processing the incoming Biennial applications was also a highlight; to get this condensed snapshot of what some of Bermuda’s most exciting artists and poets are currently working on was invigorating and inspiring!

Lara Hetzel works on the lighting for A Personal Perspective: Photographs by Richard Saunders, together with BNG intern Yasmin Eve Townsend.

BNG: What would people be most surprised to know about your role?

LH: People are often surprised to learn that although I have “volunteer” in my title, I am a full-time paid staff member! That being said, BNG’s volunteers play an essential role in the gallery’s operations, from the front desk all the way up to our Collections and Exhibitions committees. If you have an enthusiasm for the arts, and the drive to expand on your own skills and interests while making a difference, please reach out to me at!

BNG: What is something that most people don’t know about BNG?

LH: I’m not sure that locals always realize the rate of exhibition changeover: that due to staggered openings in the five exhibition spaces, in a single year they can visit BNG multiple times and always see something new. This is why I encourage everyone to follow us on social media and subscribe to the e-newsletter, you don’t want to hear from a friend about a great show that you’ve only just missed out on!

A more general tidbit of BNG trivia is that there was once a movie theatre in our current City Hall home. The room in the staff office that currently houses our printer and filing cabinets was formerly a projection booth, and still has the heavy door and metal shutters that you often saw installed for fire safety in the era of flammable nitrate film stock.

Helmut Sculpture #2 by James Cooper, 2009. Photograph. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery.

BNG: What is your favourite piece in the BNG collection and why?

LH: James Cooper’s Helmut Sculpture #2 (2009) is the first piece that comes to mind. I had the work as my desktop screensaver for several years after seeing it at the 2010 Bermuda Biennial, long before I had any thought that I would eventually work at BNG! I admire Cooper’s ability to draw the strange out of the everyday, to take play and experimentation seriously. This piece always makes me want to make art.

Another standout piece for me is Chesley Trott’s Untitled (1997) spice wood sculpture, bequeathed to BNG by the late Nea Willits in 2021. Having previously been exposed to Trott’s powerful large-scale public artworks in bronze (We Arrive at Barr’s Bay Park, and When Voices Rise in Wesley Square), it was exciting to spend time with the Bermudian sculptor’s work on a more intimate scale. When I was photographing this piece during accessioning, it seemed to continually reveal itself, almost unrecognizable from each new angle.

Untitled by Chesley Trott, 1997. Spicewood. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of Nea Willits.

Celebrating 100 Years of Bermuda Art

City Hall & Arts Centre

Standing proudly in the heart of Hamilton, the City Hall & Arts Centre is the epicentre of the arts in Bermuda. The building, which was built by Will Onions in the late 1950s, provides a sanctuary amidst the bustle of the island’s only city.

Housing both the Bermuda National Gallery and the Bermuda Society of Arts, along with the Earl Cameron Theatre, the landmark celebrates the arts, in all its forms, under one roof.

With the Bermuda National Gallery recently named Best Museum and the Bermuda Society of Arts named Best Gallery in the 2022 Best of Bermuda Awards by The Bermudian Magazine, there is no better time to visit.

As BNG celebrates its 30th anniversary, and the BSOA celebrates its 70th anniversary, step in to explore 100 years of Bermuda Art.

City Hall & Arts Centre is open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4pm and Saturday 10am to 2pm. Closed on public holidays. 

Best of Bermuda Awards: Best Museum

Situated on the first floor, the Bermuda National Gallery houses Bermuda’s national art collection and presents innovative exhibitions and programming for every member of your family. A dynamic institution with an energetic staff and volunteer team, the contemporary art museum delivers world-class art and culture experiences in the heart of Hamilton.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the gallery, which grew from a collective of artists who returned to the island in the 1970s after studying abroad; their shared workspace becoming a place of collaboration and discussion for young, visionary Bermudian artists.

There are three exhibitions currently on display: The 2022 Bermuda Biennial A New Vocabulary: Past. Present. Future., which showcases the best of Bermuda’s contemporary art (shown above); From Darkness to Light: Portraits by Henry Ward which captures key figures in Bermuda’s diverse communities and A Personal Perspective: Photographs by Richard Saunders which showcases a selection of striking black and white photographs held in the gallery’s permanent collection.

BNG Kids Activity Books to accompany each exhibition, as well as the nearby Sculpture Park, can be picked up (free) in the gallery to encourage children to explore on their own.

Admission is $5 for adults, free for BNG members, seniors, students and NARM members.

Best of Bermuda Awards: Best Gallery

Established in 1952 and celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Bermuda Society of Arts is the oldest arts establishment on the island. The gallery was originally housed in the Hamilton Hotel, which stood where the City Hall & Arts Centre carpark is situated today. The hotel was destroyed by a fire in 1955 and upon completion of the City Hall & Arts Centre in 1961, the gallery was granted a lifetime tenancy.

Affectionately known as The People’s Gallery, BSOA provides an essential space for emerging local artists to both showcase and sell their work. Many of Bermuda’s established artists showed their work for the first time at the gallery.

Situated on the top floor of City Hall & Arts Centre, the gallery works with both individual artists and community organisations. Launched in 1983, the Bermuda Society of Arts Scholarship Award provides financial assistance for Bermudians pursuing higher education in art and underlines the gallery’s mission to nurture the growth of visual art and artists in Bermuda.

Current exhibitions include The Journey to Emancipation: Summer Members Show and The Marine Art Prize. Shown above: The Annual Primary Schools Art Show 2022, photographed by Akil Simmons for The Royal Gazette. 

Admission to the Bermuda Society of Arts is free.

City Art Tour

Launched 7 years ago, VIVID: The City of Hamilton Public Art Initiative, previously known as the City Arts Festival, brings artworks outside the four walls of the City Hall & Arts Centre building and into the streets of the city.

The City of Hamilton recently launched a city art tour map, allowing visitors to complete a self-guided art tour of the city. Taking in 19 works, mostly large-scale murals, such as Flourish Your Mind by Alshante Foggo (shown above), the tour includes two works produced in collaboration with the Bermuda National Gallery in support of the Peaceful Art Protest (shown below).

Art Tour Maps can be picked up from the City Hall & Arts Centre. Or click here to download a copy. 

BNG Team

Jennifer Phillips

Meet the BNG Team

Get to know the team behind the 2022 Best of Bermuda Award. As a small but nimble team of five staff, we all wear many hats. Our membership has grown over the past year and with a relatively new team in place we thought that we would introduce ourselves to you. In celebration of being named Best Museum by The Bermudian, we will be profiling each of our staff members over the next few weeks. This week, we meet Jennifer Phillips.

The longest serving staff member within the current team, Jennifer has played a key role at the Bermuda National Gallery since 2015 when she joined as Office Administrator, in which capacity she oversees BNG’s Membership Programme and the use of the gallery for private events.

Jennifer splits her time between the gallery, where she spends 3 days a week, and several other roles within the arts, including that of Chair of the Bermuda Arts Council (a position that she has held since 2018), where she oversees the distribution of funding to local artists and arts organisations as well as the BAC’s annual awards ceremony. She is also a member of the Bermuda Festival advisory committee.

Passionate about the performing arts, Jennifer trained as a ballet dancer with the Jackson School of Performing Arts from the age of 4, later joining the National Dance Theatre of Bermuda and United Dance Productions. She performed both locally and internationally for many years and was one of the first members of the Bermuda Dance Company. An experienced stage manager, Jennifer has worked closely with the Department of Culture on the annual Premier’s Concert for over a decade. She recently joined the board of the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

We caught up with Jennifer to discuss how assisting BNG with their Art of Music series led to a full-time role at the gallery, how the museum spends a staggering $70,000 per year on electricity and why funding is so crucial.

Top: Jennifer Phillips photographed by Meredith Andrews. Above: The BNG team, from left to right Jennifer Phillips, Office Administrator; Eve Godet Thomas, Director of Programming and Engagement; Peter Lapsley, Executive Director; Rehana Packwood, Education Officer; Lara Hetzel, Volunteer and Operations Officer.

What does a typical day at the gallery look like for you?

It is difficult to define my “typical” workday, as there are so many different areas of daily operations at Bermuda National Gallery. I always say that my title of “Office Administrator” barely scratches the surface of what I do! I am the Membership Officer and Rental Coordinator. I also do bookkeeping and proofreading. On any given day you could also find me documenting incoming artworks or giving a tour of an exhibition!

My role is part time – I work three days per week, on Monday/ Tuesday/ Friday.  Generally, on Monday mornings I start by recording any funds that have come in during the previous week from general gallery admissions, merchandise sales, membership renewals, event sign-ups (this could be anything from yoga classes to summer camps or art lectures), or donations. After that, it really depends on what’s going on at the time – my day during our membership renewal period will look very different than when we are in the middle of an exhibition changeover, for example.

What part of your job do you enjoy the most and why?

I enjoy the multi-faceted nature of my job. Having so many different things to do keeps it interesting. I am quite analytical by nature, but am also a creative, so it is wonderful to be working at a place where working on a computer can be counterbalanced by spending time in a museum full of ever-changing exhibitions of all genres of visual art. I also like the fact that we are a small team. We collaborate on many projects, and each person’s input is valued.

Jennifer leads a tour of Flotsam & Jetsam: The Cost of Modern Living by Meredith Andrews as part of an International Women’s Day event.

What would people be most surprised to know about your role?

My relationship with Bermuda National Gallery began a few years before my official employment started. I was (and still am) a freelance stage manager and I was initially hired as an independent contractor to provide organisational and tech support for several music events that were being held in the gallery.

Pre-COVID, BNG had a robust Art of Music programme. We’ve invited international musicians to Bermuda, and we’ve collaborated with local musical artists for a series of Friday night Happy Hours. We’ve also hosted some very successful initiatives interpreting the exhibitions – local musicians were asked to choose an artwork that spoke to them, and create an original piece based on that artwork. The resulting performances in the gallery were really inspiring and a lot of fun! It’s something that we hope to be able to launch again soon now that restrictions are easing.

My contribution to these events is what led to my being invited to join BNG as a permanent member of the team. Although my role today is very different, advising on the inclusion of performance arts is still a part of it. For example, together with Alan C. Smith, I helped to organize the poetry response to Gherdai Hassell’s exhibition I Am Because You Are.

Dr the Hon. Ernest Peets, Minister for Youth, Culture and Sport, Gherdai Hassell, Jennifer Phillips and Peter Lapsley, Executive Director of the Bermuda National Gallery at the opening of I Am Because You Are.

What is something that most people don’t know about BNG?

People often don’t realise that we are a charity, and that we depend on donations from the community to stay afloat. The fact that we have the word “National” in our name sometimes gives people the impression that we are a government-funded entity. Although we do receive a small annual grant through the Department of Culture, this is directed specifically towards the preservation of the National Art Collection and only covers a tiny portion of our overheads.

To put costs into perspective, our electricity bill averages over $70,000 per year! This is why our membership drive (which takes place every spring) and annual appeal (which takes place each fall) are so important – they are the two main income generators on our yearly calendar. They have become even more crucial since 2020 when we were forced to cancel our annual black-tie gala, which is traditionally our biggest annual fundraiser. We are planning to host an in-person event this fall, hopefully in the BNG Sculpture Park, but with no one currently dedicated exclusively to fundraising, it puts a lot of strain on the small team.

We are extremely grateful to private companies and organisations who appreciate the value of what we do, and support BNG’s initiatives through various grants and sponsorships. It is their support that allows us to deliver world-class art exhibitions and culture programming to Bermuda.

Titus Kaphar creates Tax Collector for the 2011 exhibition Re-Interpreting the European Collection. On opening night, dressed in character, he anonymously entered the gallery and sliced into the canvas of a pastiche he had created of Gainsborough’s Portrait of Thomas John Medleycott, held in the BNG Collection, before discarding both the materials and the workman’s outfit and emerging as himself, the artist.

What is your favourite piece in the BNG collection and why?

The BNG collection covers such a broad range, it is impossible to choose a favorite!  My father, BNG Chairman Gary Phillips, is a collector of Charles Lloyd Tucker paintings, so I do like Flatts Hill and Blue Period (Flatts Hill), which are in BNG’s permanent collection.

In celebration of BNG’s 30th Anniversary, earlier this year we exhibited our Collection of African Art, and I really like the bronze face mask attributed to the Senufo peoples in the Ivory Coast. I’m attracted by its details, which are incredibly intricate and delicate.

Tax Collector, a performative piece that Titus Kaphar did for the 2011 exhibition Re-Interpreting the European Collection exhibition is a favorite of mine. Sadly, we don’t own it, but the fact that we – a small institution on a tiny island – have featured such prominent and current artists as Titus Kaphar (you may recall his painting for the June 2020 Time magazine cover) speaks to BNG’s reach.