Lisa Vossler Smith Spotlight: An Interview with Lisa Vossler Smith, Executive Director of Modernism Week

Lisa Vossler Smith is the Executive Director of Modernism Week and is passionate about promoting cultural tourism and the rich heritage of the Palm Springs desert region.  Lisa attended Indio High School and grew up in La Quinta where she began her early career training at La Quinta Hotel. After graduating from the University of California, Irvine, Lisa pursued a career path in special event management, which eventually led to her employment at the Palm Springs Art Museum where she was most recently the Senior Director of Administration & Operations. Lisa and her husband, the artist Phillip K. Smith III, are both from the Coachella Valley and are proud to have established their business and family life in the desert. Lisa will receive the “WLF Desert Visionary Award” along with her mother, Judy Vossler at the WLF Women Who Rule luncheon on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016. 

Kate Buckley: Lisa, it was fun to learn more about your talented mother, Judy Vossler, in my last Spotlight! She shared that she moved with you from Oklahoma City to La Quinta in 1980 when you were ten years old. What was that transition like? What were your first memories of the Palm Springs area? 

Lisa Vossler Smith:  My first memories of Palm Springs, like many kids, are of spending long afternoons in the swimming pool with my grandparents.  I remember the beautiful mountains and how much the terrain looked like Mars to me. Coming from Oklahoma City, I actually thought I was a “city girl” and the desert seemed very rural at the time—and I couldn’t believe there wasn’t a big college football team here. I remain to this day a big OU football fan!

KB: Congratulations on your career and civic achievements and on receiving the prestigious WLF Desert Visionary Award, along with your mother! In addition to your mother, can you tell me about any mentors or role models who were instrumental on your journey?

LVS: Thank you. It is a very special honor to receive with Mom [Lisa with Judy pictured at left], who I admire more than anyone, and I credit my mother and father with guiding me along the path that led to a career that I love dearly. I have been fortunate to have amazing mentors throughout my life and I am so grateful to those who were open to sharing their experience with me. From my teachers at Indio High School, to the incredible event planners who influenced my early career years in New Orleans, to the dedicated group of museum staff and volunteers who’ve helped me along the way, I have been so lucky to have role models and mentors to help train and encourage me.

KB: Lisa, what do you see as your legacy for future women leaders as a whole? 

LVS: I hope that my legacy continues with those friends and associates that I have helped to train and mentor. We have faced many diverse work challenges together and through it all, I hope I’ve been a good example of kindness, caring, fairness and solid common sense. I aim to inspire my associates to push harder and reach greater goals, and then to reflect on the outcome – hopefully with a positive result. We learn from our experiences and let our successes form future growth.

KB: What do you believe is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?

LVS:  My greatest strength is love. I’m a lover of life and the people who make it a profound and wonderful journey. My greatest weakness is certainly my devotion to chocolate!

KB: What does a typical day look like for you?

LVS: I’m an early riser to get a jump on the communications of the day. I like to catch up on the news and social media over coffee with my husband Phillip and then hit the day running. I spend most workdays collaborating with other Modernism Week partners and team members while planning the annual February and October events. Evenings are often spent with friends and family (when I’m not busy catching up on my to-do list). Weekends at home with Phillip and Teddy, our French bulldog, are my favorites.

KB: You do quite a bit of work for some very important causes and organizations. Which is closest to your heart and why?

LVS: Women Leaders Forum and the Ophelia Project are two of my favorites—primarily because of their missions to mentor and inspire young women in the Coachella Valley. This is the area I feel that I have the most to contribute because of how the loving guidance and leadership of others has positively influenced my life.

KB: You and your husband, the artist Phillip K. Smith III, both deal in aesthetics (art, architecture, fashion). Did this make decorating a home together in the desert a collaborative delight or a clash of the titans?

LVS: That’s a fun question, because our styles were originally very different, though we both have a passion for midcentury modern design. Phillip has taught me a lot about home design and embracing a more “minimalist” approach. I hope that I have also inspired him with my love of color and patterns.

KB: When you’re not hard at work, what activities do you and Phillip enjoy in and around Greater Palm Springs?

LVS: We love to go to the movies and art exhibitions at the Palm Springs Art Museum and local galleries. Our favorite time of year is during the Coachella Art & Music Festival. We are avid music fans and LOVE attending Coachella and Stagecoach.

KB: Are there any upcoming Palm Springs events you’re particularly excited about or would like for our readers to know about? 

LVS: We really try to do and see everything that the Valley has to offer—which is nearly impossible. We love the polo season in Indio and recommend this great, free activity to everyone. We are also excited for the PS Modernism Show and Sale at the Convention Center that coincides with the first weekend of Modernism Week (Feb 12-15). We always find rare and unique home furnishings, vintage eyewear and great art at the show. After that, we will be all about Coachella in the spring where Phillip is creating a spectacular and mind-blowing art installation—his second at Coachella in three years!

KB: Lisa Vossler Smith, what is it you love most about the community of Palm Springs?

LVS: I love the natural beauty, the easy lifestyle, and the fact that both Phillip and I are lucky enough to have our families nearby, sharing in our activities and events.

If you or your organization would like to be interviewed for a Palm Springs Spotlight, please contact

About David J Castello

David J Castello is the Editor-in-Chief and Chief Operating Officer for the Castello Cities Internet Network (,,, etc). His debut novel, The Diary of an Immortal (1945-1959) was published in 2016.

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