The Scoop: The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., is a fun date spot more than 100 years in the making. Now celebrating its centennial, the museum houses artwork that represents the history and diversity of American culture. Many pieces were collected by Duncan Phillips in the early 20th century. Couples can visit the museum for a date, or they can go online and participate in artist talks, concerts, and other virtual experiences hosted by The Phillips Collection.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, couples didn’t have as many date options as usual, so they had to get a little creative. At-home date nights have become a huge trend over the last year, and many beloved local establishments have offered digital resources and online activities to stimulate excitement and romance in a socially distant setting.

As a long-standing museum in Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection has a lot to offer in terms of virtual education and entertainment during COVID-19. The museum has launched livestream concerts, book clubs, meditations, and artist talks to keep people engaged in the cultural scene while staying within local health regulations.

The museum itself is currently open to the public and allowing visitors with timed tickets to stroll through the exhibitions. To celebrate its centennial, The Phillips Collection is currently hosting the Seeing Differently exhibit to showcase 200 major works from the 19th century to the present day.

Photo of the Seeing Differently Exhibition

Installation view of “Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century,” featuring artworks by (left to right) Howard Hodgkin, As Time Goes By (red) and As Time Goes By (blue) (2009). Photo: Lee Stalsworth.

A date at the museum can be quiet and thoughtful, and the large space provides plenty of room for social distancing. Couples can lift their moods by exploring the artwork on display.

“The artwork is uplifting, especially the colorful pieces. We have two giant artworks by Howard Hodgkin that are so colorful. I love to walk through them. They bring new energy to my existence,” said Jennifer Mitchell, Media Relations Manager at the museum.

According to a University of London study, when a person looks at a beautiful piece of art, their brain becomes flooded with dopamine, also known as the love chemical. That can be a wonderful upside for daters looking for a stimulating environment.

The Phillips Collection has expanded into the digital learning space over the last year, and its online offerings have been popular among art lovers around the world. Miguel Perez, who is the museum’s Head of Public Programming, said his goal is to promote the power of music and art to as large an audience as possible.

“We want people to walk away with something they’ve made, felt, or learned,” Miguel told us. “It’s important to give people that knowledge. When we were in person, you could see somebody’s mind working, and now we see it with our engagement surveys.”

The Museum is Celebrating Its Centennial

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the modern world. But this isn’t the first pandemic endured by The Phillips Collection. The museum itself was inspired by the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

Duncan Phillips (1886-1966) lost his brother to the flu virus that swept through the world more than 100 years ago. “Sorrow all but overwhelmed me. Then I turned to my love of painting for the will to live,” Duncan wrote.

Photo of Duncan Phillips


Marjorie and Duncan Phillips in front of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” (1880 – 81), c. 1954. Photo: Naomi Savage.

To overcome his grief, Duncan started collecting works from many of the major artists of the 19th and 20th century.

“Duncan saw art collecting as therapy. It turned into a love for him. The name of the museum was originally the Phillips Memorial Art Gallery,” said Miguel.

Duncan’s goal was to create an intimate space for thought experiment and exploration. To this end, he collected works from a variety of artists, including Georgia O’Keeffe, Georges Braque, and Grandma Moses.

In 1921, Duncan married the love of his life Marjorie, whom he had met at an art exhibition a year earlier. Marjorie was a passionate painter, and she took over the museum after Duncan passed away in 1966.

To celebrate the museum’s 100th anniversary, the staff is hosting its Centennial Exhibition. “Seeing Differently: The Phillips Collects for a New Century” will run until September 2021.

A visit to the exhibit is a culturally vibrant date activity for art lovers. They will view over 200 works of art spanning the last two centuries. The artwork includes paintings, prints, photographs, and sculpture.

One highlight of the exhibit is Jacob Lawrence’s “Migration” series, which explores the Great Migration when over a million African Americans fled from the South to the North from 1916 to 1970. The museum is showcasing its famous “Luncheon on the Boating Party” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as well as the Rothko Room, which features the work of Latvian-American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970).

“It’s the largest exhibition we’ve ever put on. All of our galleries are dedicated to celebrating these 100 years, but we focus on our acquisitions over the last 10 years, as well,” Miguel told us.

The Phillips Collection makes room for local and international artists to intermingle and pass on ideas that resonate with the human spirit.

Virtual Experiences for People All Over the World

Since it opened more than 100 years ago, The Phillips Collection has welcomed art lovers of all types. It is a classic spot for a date in Washington, D.C., and the museum has even seen quite a few marriage proposals.

Now that the museum is reopened, local couples enjoy special moments at The Phillips Collection once again. However, since the pandemic shut down the museum for many months, the staff has also developed engaging online date options that the public didn’t have prior to the COVID-19 shutdown.

For instance, couples can go online to watch a music series inspired by the museum’s 100th anniversary. Each composer developed a new piece of music based on a work of art on display at The Phillips Collection.

“You can watch those recordings of international compositions online. You could cook with your date while listening to the music,” Jennifer told us.

Photo of the centennial music program

Vijay Iyer, Arooj Aftab, and Shahzad Ismaily Love in Exile. Still shot from video by Dominic Mann.

The Phillips Collection hosts artist talks and meditation classes that can give couples at home an interesting way to shake up their binge-watching routines. Each weekly guided meditation class has been designed to pair nicely with a serene piece from the museum’s collection.

Couples can also enroll in virtual art classes. Before some of the workshops, the participating art makers will receive kits with the materials they will need to complete the project. Then an artist will lead the digital class where they create art together. This is a good opportunity for art enthusiasts to learn new techniques and practice their skills.

“The digital museum space gives people access and can lift their spirits while they’re at home during the pandemic,” said Jennifer. “You can engage with a date in a personal way that lets you get to know each other.”

The Phillips Collection is an Uplifting Place for a Date

The Phillips Collection has plans for expanding its reach in the community as more visitors return to view its galleries in person. In July 2021, the museum will open a juried exhibition featuring the work of more than 60 D.C. artists.

“This is the first time we’ve done something like this in recent history,” Miguel told us. “Duncan Phillips would have exhibitions of local artists and have them on sale.”

The Sunday Concert Series will also return in the fall and be available in person and digitally. The Phillips Collection team told us virtual events are here to stay because they have allowed local artists to reach music and art lovers in the U.K., France, Japan, and other parts of the world.

“This year, we saw a 300% concert attendance increase. In six concerts, we had 2,300 sign up to attend digitally, compared to 780 max if we were onsite,” Jennifer said. “That shows how broad our reach has been with global views.”

The Phillips Collections attracts a diverse following of locals and tourists who are interested in art and culture. The museum started over a century ago with one man’s vision, and it is poised to continue spurring intellectual conversations and cross-cultural understandings for generations to come.

“There is true heart to the Phillips, in the staff and in the artwork. It’s uplifting for me to do this work,” Jennifer said.

Additional photo credits: Jennifer Wen Ma’s “Brain Storm,” Nadia Sirota photo by Graham Tolbert, and an image from the “Your Inner Doll” workshop led by Sherri Roberts Lumpkin, Founder and Executive Director of the Ragbaby Exchange.