June 27, 2017
June 27, 2017
By Jackie Kucinich and Tommy McFly
Photographs by Jonathan Pushnik | September 1, 2010 | People
Washington is a city that attracts showboats and overachievers—people trying desperately to stand out from the crowd any which way they can. And then there are some who just do, no matter how quietly they go about it. To wit, these three men. Their careers of choice are disparate, ranging from the arts to politics to journalism, but all have one thing in common: a rarified zest for life and the ability to combine equal parts drive, smarts and savvy to create their own recipes for success.
Title: Staff Writer, The Washington Post
Hometown: Buffalo, New York
Readers can never know where Dan Zak will turn up when they open The Washington Post, and there’s no telling what he might be writing about from one day to the next. But fans of the twentysomething reporter—and there are many—know they can trust he’s going to tell a good story.
The Buffalo, NY, native demurs when praised about his writing skills and versatility and says his slightly eclectic body of work is simply a function of his role as a general assignment reporter and a series of editors who have allowed him to explore a range of topics. But even for a versatile writer, Zak has covered a lot of ground.
In his five years at the paper, he has reported on the White House, a cat show, a weekend clinic on riflery and patriotism in Virginia, DC’s snow-pocalypse 2010, local crime, The Real World D.C. and New York Blue—the US elephant polo team— to name a few.
Zak says no matter what he is working on—be it a documentation of glitz and air kisses at an Academy Awards afterparty or a sober report depicting the devastating impact of the oil spill on a small town on the Gulf Coast—his main goal is to bring out a theme that is larger than the story itself.
“I really like to soak up what I’m writing about and understand the motive behind it,” he says. His primary objective for the future, notes Zak, is to focus more on writing a series of stories based on one concept. “I’m trying to be more ambitious,” he says
Shot on location at the Dupont Hotel
Stephen Bennett Phillips
Title: Fine Arts Program Director, Federal Reserve Board
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
As Fine Arts Program Director at the Federal Reserve Board, Stephen Bennett Phillips is responsible for a collection of more than 500 works of art. Like many curators, he plans installations and cultivates collectors for donations, but then there’s the other part of his job: meeting with the Board’s governors to find out what kinds of art they prefer and then showcasing it in their offices.
When governors, appointed by the president and approved by Congress, entertain guests and hold power meetings to discuss monetary policy, it’s Phillips’ selections that serve as conversation-starters in their work spaces.
Influencing power brokers’ opinions about art, personal expression and the finer points of visual communication has been part of Phillips’ livelihood for decades. Before pursuing a graduate degree at George Washington University, he worked at the Phillips (no relation) Collection. “That was where I really cut my teeth in the art world. The Phillips Collection is really a painter’s museum.”
In his current role, he organizes exhibits and also negotiates loans of art: Presently, views of Paris from the collection at the Banque de France and the Carnavalet Museum are on display at the Marriner S. Eccles Building on Constitution Avenue through January 2011. When talking to a neophyte arts appreciator, he says, “You don’t want to intimidate. I encourage people to just look—have a visual response.”
When not in the halls of the Eccles Building, you can find Phillips taking in more art on 14th Street or strolling the galleries at the Hirshhorn or The Phillips Collection. His personal collection is chockablock with contemporary art by William Christenberry, Sean Scully and Renee Stout, to name a few.
Title: Legislative Counsel for Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.)
Hometown: Washington, DC
There aren’t many Washingtonians who can decipher complicated political legalese and then fill in as a drummer at the Rock and Roll Hotel on the fly. But Lex Paulson is not your average Washingtonian.
It was his first week back in the city after leaving his job at a Connecticut law firm when a friend who was playing a benefit at the H Street NE venue called and said he was short a drummer for the show. Even though his musical expertise is on the keyboard, Paulson was happy to oblige and showed up in a suit to play the show.
A District native, Paulson started making music at age three by using the renowned Suzuki Method (“functionally my first language,” he says) and has been infatuated with playing the keyboard ever since. A regular with locals bands U.S. Royalty and The Child Ballads, Paulson has not been satisfied to leave his creative streak behind when the music stops.
To that end, he has opened up his household to the city’s community of artists, academic scholars and some other individuals he has gathered along the way for monthly salons that he says are based “loosely upon the tradition of the French and English salons in a very tongue-and-cheek way.”
“Here’s how I think about it,” Paulson says. “People who built Western civilization did it while drinking with their friends and singing songs together. We [are trying] to create the latest link in that chain.”
Being an ambassador of culture in the sterile environment of Capitol Hill has its challenges but Paulson seems to have balanced both aspects of his life much like ex-patriots do in diplomatic circles. “It’s sort of like growing up bilingual,” he says. “You have to think in both languages, in terms of music and in terms of politics. Both are completely at the heart of the person I am.”
June 27, 2017