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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.

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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 operations@bng.bm!

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.
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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.

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BNG Team

Eve Godet Thomas

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. In the last newsletter we met Peter Lapsley and this week we meet Eve Godet Thomas.

Eve joined BNG two and a half years ago as Director of Programming and Engagement, having moved to Bermuda a year earlier following the death of her mother, the artist Molly Godet. Born in London, Eve studied modern languages before joining the MA Fashion (Journalism) programme at Central Saint Martins, leaving to work on the fashion desk on The Times newspaper, where she spent 6 years as a fashion writer and stylist.

Shortly after Net-a-Porter launched The Outnet, Eve joined the e-commerce company as Fashion Director where she spent 6 years developing the look and feel of the website’s imagery, grew the styling team and launched the company’s first in-house label. She then moved into marketing, working for British fashion and homeware brand Caramel.

In her role at the Bermuda National Gallery Eve works closely with Peter on exhibition development, the two having co-curated I Am Because You Are by Gherdai Hassell, The Shadow Land: Cape Dorset Prints from the Bacardi Collection, Flotsam & Jetsam: The Cost of Modern Living by Meredith Andrews and Testing Boundaries: In the Studio with Nancy Valentine and Christina Hutchings. She oversees all BNG communications – from the newsletter to the website and social channels and is responsible for the gallery’s events programming.

We caught up with Eve to discuss what a typical day in the gallery looks like for her and why internships are the key to a career in the arts.

Top: Eve 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?

EGT: It varies from day to day, which is part of what I enjoy about it. I could be working on an upcoming newsletter, scheduling content for the website or BNG’s Instagram and Facebook. I might be researching an upcoming exhibition or working with our designer on the graphics for the exhibition materials. My day often involves liaising with other team members to plan upcoming programmes and deal with the day-to-day operations needed to make those things happen. Every initiative truly is a team effort.

If I am writing for a newsletter or an exhibition catalogue, I tend to work from home as I find it hard to concentrate in the office. There is always a lot happening, both in the gallery and in the office. When I interviewed one of our trustees, Mitchell Klink, about the insights that he had gained into the running of BNG from curating Illusion & Abstraction: Capturing the Landscape, he likened working at the gallery to working in a start-up and I often think back to how true that is. It’s exciting and you can be nimble, but you also wear lots of hats.

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

EGT: There are two areas that I enjoy the most: coming up with ideas – whether that is for exhibitions, programmes, events or community collaborations – and writing, particularly interviewing local creatives for BNG’s fortnightly newsletter and for the exhibition catalogues.

Peter and I have co-curated a number of exhibitions over the past two years, which I have really enjoyed. I recently curated the Richard Saunders exhibition on my own and it’s something that I would like to do more of. When I look back at my career, I realise that it always comes back to storytelling – whether it is journalism, styling, branding or curating, it comes back to telling a story through different platforms.

Peter Lapsley and Eve Godet Thomas hang a work for From Darkness to Light: Portraits by Henry Ward. Photograph by Akil Simmons for the Royal Gazette.

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

EGT: A lot of people are intrigued by my role in general and what exactly it is that I do. I think that is true with a lot of jobs in the arts. Unless you are working in the arena, you are not aware of what goes on behind the scenes and all the jobs that go into making it happen.

When I was growing up, I knew that I wanted to work in fashion, but I didn’t want to be a designer, so I chose to go into journalism as I loved magazines. It was only by working by in the industry that I discovered how many other jobs there are in fashion – buying, merchandising, operations, graphic design, art direction, PR. They say that you can’t be what you can’t see, and I think that’s very true. I got my foot in the door through an internship at The Times newspaper, which was an invaluable experience and ultimately led to a full-time role. I hope that we can do the same with the BNG Internship Programme when it comes to jobs in the arts.

There are so many roles besides being an artist or an art teacher – curator, art handler, studio assistant, technician, archivist, registrar to name a few – yet people are often not aware of this, particularly in Bermuda where the job market is very traditional. The arts are an amazing pathway into so many varied careers; we see that with stories of students who have been through BNG programmes.

Eve gives BNG Volunteers a preview tour of The Shadow Land: Cape Dorset Prints from the Bacardi Collection.

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

EGT: The fact that always gets me is that the Watlington Room is set to the exact same temperature as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is because when Hereward T. Watlington left his collection of European masterpieces to the Bermuda National Gallery, it was on the condition that it be permanently housed in a state-of-the-art facility, with the exact same climate and light controls found in the Met.

Next time you open the doors to the Watlington from the main gallery you’ll notice how difficult it is to open the double doors. There is a slight difference in temperature which causes a vacuum. That is why.

St George’s by Daniel Putnam Brinley (American, 1879 – 1963). Oil on canvas. 1921. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery. Gift of David L. White, OBE.

BNG: What is your favourite piece in the BNG Collection?

EGT: My favourite piece in the collection is St George’s by Daniel Putnam Brindley. It was most recently displayed in A Source of Inspiration: St George’s as Seen Through the BNG Collection, which recently came down. It is a Bermuda landscape, of which there are many, but with an untraditional approach.

It is painted in cool blue tones, when most people tend to select warm colours to capture the light. The painting also has two figures in it, which you don’t often see in landscapes. The figures are flattened, as are the buildings, which are reduced to geometric outlines that contrast with the softness of the trees and clouds.

The thing that intrigues me the most is that the top right-hand corner is left unpainted – whether intentionally, or unintentionally, we don’t know. I find the transition from the strict geometric approach of the painting to the raw brushstrokes in the corner fascinating. I could stare at it for hours.

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BNG Team

Peter Lapsley

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 though 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, beginning with Executive Director Peter Lapsley.

A familiar face to many, Peter has been the Executive Director of Bermuda National Gallery for four years. An accomplished multimedia artist, he has exhibited in almost 60 exhibitions, including seven Bermuda Biennials, the Havana Biennial (2019) and solo shows at Masterworks (2010) and Victori+Mo Gallery in Brooklyn, NYC (2015).

Top: Peter 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.

He and his wife, fellow artist Andrea Sundt, ran the concept store &PARTNERS for several years, which they opened after returning to the island in 2016 following 10 years in New York. Peter completed an MFA at Parsons School of Design – The New School before going on to manage the academic fabrication facilities at Parsons for six years and later joining City University of New York as Adjunct Professor for ART 150, where he taught sculpture. Prior to his move to NYC, Peter spent five years as Director of the Bermuda Society Arts (2001-2006).

As Executive Director of the Bermuda National Gallery, Peter has strategic oversight on all BNG initiatives and serves as a spokesperson for the gallery. Together with the Board of Trustees, Peter is responsible for the mission and vision of the museum and leads fundraising initiatives, strategic partnerships and the development of BNG’s exhibition calendar and permanent collection. Peter works closely with the team on all projects, including exhibition development, education and public programming.

Peter gives the Minister of Education, The Hon. Diallo Rabain JP, MP a tour of Our People, Our Places, Our Stories: The African Collection earlier this year.

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

PL: A typical day at the gallery starts early to follow up on emails that have come in overnight, as well as getting started on the administrative items that require more immediate attention.  As a small team the day often quickly becomes collaborative on whatever project is front and center. Typically, Eve Godet Thomas (Director of Programming and Engagement) and I will catch up on both the overarching needs for the day as well as whatever individual projects are in either of our areas of focus. As the team arrive this conversation expands as individual catchups happen.

We typically have a team meeting once a week to make sure we all have a good sense of the needs for the team and where and who requires support. This happens in the gallery and is a nice benefit of the BNG… having the opportunity to be surrounded by art as we discuss and plan.

As mentioned earlier the day often becomes collaborative and depending on where we are in an exhibition cycle it can be discussing curatorial direction with Eve, helping to layout, design and install with Lara Hetzel (Volunteer and Operations Officer) when we have an exhibition going up or trouble shooting a specific exhibition need.

At other times it is working with our accounting team, grant writing, creating operational reporting, discussing the programming and exhibition needs with stakeholders and committee members, managing the shipping of artworks, contract discussion and collections management. These are just some of the daily operations I am involved in and I guess the key here is that every day is different and because of my background, which has a broad range of arts related experience, I am often pulled into supporting a wide range of needs as Executive Director.  

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

PL: The bringing of an exhibition together is the most enjoyable because it is the core of what we do. There is so much work that goes into planning and organising and managing it that, when we get to the layout and the install, there isn’t any time to worry about the rest.

There is a focus and an outcome that is deeply satisfying, and it requires a different mindset. I would describe it in terms of mindfulness as there is a focused commitment to the action of the exhibition’s manifestation, of problem solving that brings one to a different space. With that said, it’s not all mindful especially as one often stands atop a 30 ft ladder…   

Peter leads the Minister for Youth Culture and Sport, Dr. the Hon. Ernest J Peets and US Consulate General Karen Grisette on a tour of the 2022 Bermuda Biennial.

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

PL: I guess it would have to be what I have described above. That the role encompasses such a wide range of needs from the engagement with the public, stakeholders, officials, as well as administration and management of operations to discussing the conceptual underpinnings of an exhibition, and making sure of relevance to the community, to climbing a ladder to install lights, or designing and building a structure to problem solve the install of an artwork.

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

PL: I would have to say three things: 1. that the original concept involved artists who were seeking to have an organization that could show Bermuda’s artists at a national level as well as showcasing international artworks. 2. People assume that we are funded, and while we do have some long-term partners who we work with, we have to raise the funds for everything we do.  3. We have a very small team who manage to create exhibitions and programming that is world class and I think there is an assumption that there are more of us then there are.

Iconostasis of Water by Nancy Graves, 1992. Etching, aquatint, and dry point on Fabriano Artistico paper with screenprinted and embossed collage. Collection of Bermuda National Gallery.

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

PL: Iconostasis of Water by Nancy Graves. I love this piece for a number of reasons. It is a large-scale work on paper at almost 8 ft long and 5 ft tall. It is about printmaking and collage with such a variety of marks elements (including an embossed fish) that I find myself constantly engaged. It is a work that I see and think dammit… I wish I had made that as I can imagine it must have been so satisfying to bring all of these elements together in such a fantastic way. The whole piece sings, it’s a must see. It is currently on loan to Clarien Bank at their new banking center in Point House.