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Joyce Hill Stoner, Ph. D.

Joyce and Patrick Stoner are an Eccentric and Successful Local Power Couple

The WHYY film critic and his art conservationist wife make quite the potent pair.

BY LORA BILTON ENGLEHART

 
 

Joyce and Patrick Stoner. Photograph by Jim Graham.

Joyce and Patrick Stoner prefer flying under the radar. An art conservator, Joyce has never appeared on air with her well-known PBS movie critic husband, and Patrick doesn’t accompany his wife when she consults at museums. Even when she’s a guest on PBS, promoting art-related events, the on-air staff knows not to mention their connection.

Joyce claims the two share few interests outside theater and watching PBS shows like Downton Abbey—and they do go to the movies from time to time. Yet these two highly productive human beings have supported each other’s demanding work schedules and curious eccentricities for 47 years. “It’s really more like 20 years, because Patrick travels so much,” Joyce laughs.

Patrick grew up in Woodstock, Va., where he acted in local plays and worked as a radio host. “The one thing I’ve always had was a voice,” he says.

He was also a fan of the movies, watching his favorite films multiple times at a cousin’s movie theater. Patrick is a founding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia recently inducted him into its Hall of Fame. He’s hosted WHYY-TV’s syndicated movie-star interview programs Flicks and Quick Pics since the mid-1980s.

Joyce made her career choices at an early age. Growing up in Chevy Chase, Md., she pinpoints fifth grade as the time she identified her passions for theater and art. She didn’t want to choose between the two, so she made a decision: “I’ll concentrate on art during the day and work in theater at night.”

It’s what she’s done ever since. For 42 years, Joyce has been an art restoration consultant and art conservator for the Wyeth collection, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library, and small museums and collectors in the Baltimore-Philadelphia area. She directs one of three fine art graduate conservation programs in the country, and she also has some impressive theater accomplishments. To date, she’s written lyrics, music and/or scripts for almost 30 stage productions. Notably, in 1974, Joyce wrote the lyrics and most of the music for the off-Broadway show I’ll Die If I Can’t Live Forever, which the New York Times called “the best mini-musical in town.”

Patrick and Joyce met in 1965 at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., when they acted opposite each other in a workshop production of Hamlet. Patrick earned a bachelor’s in theater and speech, and Joyce earned hers in fine arts. In 1970, each received a master’s degree—Patrick in drama from the University of Virginia and Joyce in art history from New York University. They married in William & Mary’s historic Wren Chapel.

The two then moved to New York City, where Patrick completed coursework for a doctorate in drama at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He also had a big part on the soap opera Love of Life, and he appeared in some Shakespeare productions. Joyce “reverse commuted,” studying art history in the city during the day and traveling to New Jersey at night to act in theater productions.

The next stop for the young couple was back to Virginia, where Patrick worked in radio and served as managing director of the Albemarle Playhouse in Charlottesville. Joyce was a conservator at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and taught at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In 1976, they both accepted faculty positions at the University of Delaware. Patrick taught theater courses for the next 30 years, and Joyce continued her academic career in art conservation, completing her doctorate in art history in 1995. During those early days, the couple learned to juggle family life with their demanding schedules. “We took out ads in the university newspaper seeking babysitters,” says Joyce, laughing as she recalls that many of the young women who applied had red hair, just like her and her two girls.

In the summer of 1985, Joyce was a visiting scholar at the J. Paul Getty Museum in California. So Patrick visited movie studio lots and, by chance, was able to snag an interview with Chevy Chase, who was promoting Warner Bros.’ newly released National Lampoon’s European Vacation. Back East, WHYY aired the interview. Stoner scored a second taped interview, then a third. “After the third interview, the dam broke, and I was put on every studio’s approved interviewer list,” Patrick says.

Despite introductions to A-listers like Leonardo DiCaprio and “rock stars” of the art world like Andrew Wyeth, the Stoner daughters are proud of their parents, but not overly impressed. Patrick remembers walking into the house one day to see Eliza flipping through the channels. “She saw me on the screen and just kept clicking, without a nanosecond of hesitation,” he says.

Now living just outside Wilmington, both Stoners travel frequently for work, but they’re rarely able to accompany each other. Joyce plans her trips to museums and conferences around the world months in advance. Patrick, on the other hand, usually has short notice before having to hop on a plane and head to whatever location the studio has chosen for interviews.

Though both are in their 60s, retirement isn’t even on the horizon. When it comes to working with her students, Joyce calls herself “a major vampire,” feeding off their energy. Patrick, meanwhile, has returned to the classroom to teach the immensely popular course “Interviewing Movie Stars” at UD’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

“People retire because they want to,” says Patrick. “Why would we stop doing what we love?”

 

Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Material Culture
and Adjunct Paintings Conservator, Winterthur Museum

  • Joyce Hill Stoner lecturing on MatisseJoyce Hill Stoner received her B.A. from William and Mary in 1968 (Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, with a major in Fine Arts and honors project in painting conservation). She received her M.A. from the NYU Institute of Fine Arts in 1970 and her Diploma in Conservation from the NYU Conservation Center in 1973. She was a Kress Visiting Scholar with John Brealey at the Metropolitan Museum (1980), and a Getty Visiting Scholar with Andrea Rothe at the Getty Museum (1985). In 1995 she completed a Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware, focusing on the techniques of paintings, lithographs and decorated interiors by James McNeill Whistler. She began a pre-conservation program at V.C.U. in 1975. Stoner became the head paintings conservator at Winterthur in 1976, head of the conservation section in 1980, and served as Director of WUDPAC from 1982 to 1997. She became Chair in 1990 when WUDPAC became part of a Department, along with the new Ph.D. program in Art Conservation Research, which she squired through University and Winterthur Academic Committee approval. She was promoted to a full professorship in 1996 and resigned as Chair in 1997. She is now the Director of the UD Preservation Studies Doctoral Program.

Stoner has written over 80 articles or book chapters. She co-edited a multi-author 890-page Butterworth-Routledge book on The Conservation of Easel Paintings, in which was published in November 2012. She was senior conservator for the team treating Whistler’s Peacock Room at the Freer from 1987 to 1992 and supervised the treatment of a 19’ x 60’ N. C. Wyeth mural in 1998. She has carried out treatments for the Freer Gallery of Art, Colonial Williamsburg, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Brandywine River Museum, the Wyeth family, and various private collectors; she continues an active program of treating paintings in the presence of the undergraduate and graduate students she is supervising. Her portrait was painted by Andrew Wyeth. She guest curated the show FACTORY WORK: WARHOL, WYETH, AND BASQUIAT and wrote for and coordinated authors for the catalogue. The show appeared in three venues in 2006-07. She co-curated another exhibition, WYETH VERTIGO, for the Shelburne Museum, summer 2013.

For the field, Stoner has served as Executive Director for the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC) from 1975-1979, coordinator of the FAIC oral history project (1975-present), Managing Editor of Art and Archaeology Technical Abstracts (1969-1985), and as a grant reviewer for the NMA, IMS, FAIC, Kress, and Getty Grant Program. She served as Vice President of the College Art Association until 2005 and on the IIC Council (as Vice President) and the Delaware State Arts Council until 2010, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the AATA Board of Editors for the Getty Conservation Institute, and the U.S. Senate Art Advisory Committee. Stoner was awarded the AIC University Products Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003, the AIC Paintings Specialty Group Award “for outstanding contributions to the field of paintings conservation” and the College Art Association and Heritage Preservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation, both in 2011.

  • Joyce Hill Stoner with the Claymont mural