Recently, fabulous and fashionable lady Jessie Schlosser Smith took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me and, over a broccoli rabe pizza and some much-needed wine, chatted about how long it takes to incubate a baby, her secret past as a visual artist, and how she once dealt with an unexpected Thai sartorial conundrum.
Kyle Thomas Hemingway Dickinson: So, Jessie Schlosser Smith, fabulous lady of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, how are you doing today?
Jessie Schlosser Smith: I’m great! The nasturtiums just went up at the museum. We do it every year, and every year the staff gets so excited. The smell of them just permeates throughout the museum. I was just talking with the head of horticulture, and I asked him how long it took the nasturtiums to grow. He told me that they planted them nine months ago!
KTHD: Just like a baby!
JS: That’s what I said!
KTHD: So, among many many other things, you organize the Gardner Museum’s Third Thursdays!
JS: Yes! This next one, April 17, the same day we have a new show opening. It’s works by Carla Fernández, an amazing Mexican textile and fashion designer. She was an artist in residence at the Gardner. They’re busy installing the show right now and it actually opens on April 17, so this is an extra special Third Thursday! It’s going to be so cool, there are going to be dancers who have specially choreographed a dance inspired by the exhibition. One of our conservation staff members has brought a velvet textile that is in the collection but not on display, it’s in storage. So she’s going to bring out this beautiful piece of velvet and talk about it, what the technique was that created it.
KTHD: Do you like throwing parties?
JS: Of course!
KTHD: Do you like to throw parties outside your job?
JS: You know, I think because I spend so much time throwing parties at the Gardner, I have pretty low-key personal parties. I love going to parties that somebody else has organized. That’s why I love Opus Affair!
KTHD: That’s why I love Third Thursdays!! What goes into planning one of these shindigs?
JS: So much. It’s a great collaborative effort. We have lots of wonderful colleagues at the museum who I brainstorm with constantly. We’re always getting together and thinking about what themes would be fun, what activities would be fun, what music we should have...
KTHD: That sounds like so much fun. I love coming and wandering around the Garnder, especially after hours. What is it like going to work there every day?
JS: It just doesn’t get old, honestly. I feel very lucky and humble, it’s amazing to get to work there. I work up on the fourth floor of the Palace.
KTHD: Do you ever just want to sleep over?
JS: I have worked late, certainly, and it does get dark up there. Being able to look down at the courtyard from the fourth floor is magical.
KTHD: Any ghosts? I hear there’s ghosts!
JS: No, but if there are they would be friendly ones! [laughs]
KTHD: Ghosts aside, you’ve been in the fine arts world for quite some time! What drew you to that?
JS: Well, I went to UNH, and I was an English major with a studio arts minor. After I graduated, I had no idea what I was going to do, so I applied to a bunch of internships. I ended up doing an internship at the Society of Arts and Crafts, which is a gallery on Newbury Street, and it was wonderful. I loved it, I loved the women I worked with, they were hilarious and amazing and so smart. After I did that for a summer, and I was hooked!
KTHD: What kind of studio art was your focus?
JS: It feels like such a long time ago! I did a lot of ceramics, and I did some painting and drawing.
KTHD: Any of that I can find on the Internet?
JS: No! I hope not!
KTHD: It’s a closed chapter?
JS: It might be open again at some point! One of the things about Third Thursdays that is so much fun for me is the studio activities that we have. We have a great studio educator who manages all those projects and we get together and brainstorm the activities. I’ll get together with her to brainstorm and try out the activities. Sometimes, I just want to do that all day and not do any work on my budget!
KTHD: Budget bad, arts and crafts good!
KTHD: So, when you’re not throwing parties, what are you doing?
JS: Gosh! Well, I love keeping in touch with the cultural life in Boston—museums, theatre, dance, music—I love soaking it up. I wish I traveled more, I love traveling. And I have four nieces and nephews under the age of seven that I love spending time with. I wish I could see them every day!
KTHD: What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled?
JS: I spend a semester in Thailand when I was in college, that’s definitely right up there. The people are so friendly, the food is amazing—I want to go back! And I’d love to do a southwestern United States road trip, I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon!
KTHD: That’s amazing! Second, what is one Boston arts thing you’ve seen recently that you loved?
JS: I went to Acoustica Electronica for the first time recently—I loved how immersive it was. And I love dancing, so that was great.
KTHD: And finally, what’s your favorite cocktail?
JS: I like a mojito, I also love a dark and stormy. And I’m always up for a glass of red wine.
KTHD: Any preference?
JS: I like a nice Pinot Noir.
KTHD: Bright and fruity, just like Jessie Schlosser Smith!