Cathedral of St. John the Divine Blog

Staff Spotlight: Dana Settles REBECCA MERRILL AUGUST 28, 2017

Name: Dana Settles
Title: Manager, Group Tours and School Programs
Neighborhood/Town you live in: Washington Heights/Inwood
Length of time you’ve worked at the Cathedral: This is my fifth year.

What is your Cathedral origin story?
My background is in Art History and Museum Education. A friend of mine told me about a part-time Educator opportunity at the Cathedral teaching student and adult groups. Luckily I was hired, and eventually became the Manager of Group Tours and School Programs.

What is a typical work day?
It’s different everyday, which I love. Each group has unique needs whether they are elementary school students or senior center attendees. It’s my job to make sure they have the best experience we can offer which requires a lot of listening on my part. Groups visit more often in the morning so I’m often at the front doors answering questions about tour specifics or sometimes facilitating a program. In the afternoon I answer inquiries and work on booking staff to match the tours I register.

What is your favorite event or ongoing program at the Cathedral?
Enter the Conversation is a program I admire. Rabbis, Imams, and ministers from other Christian denominations, writers of note, etc. discuss difficult topics of our shared world. It’s really inspiring to see such friendly and sometimes challenging discourse take place within these walls. It’s what the Cathedral was built for.

What is your favorite item in the Cathedral or on its grounds?
This is a secretly complicated question – one item is really hard! I like the space joining the neo-Gothic side of the church and the Byzantine-Romanesque. You can see where the Cathedral is unfinished, right up to the ceiling. One doesn’t see that many unfinished buildings like this one anymore and it’s a testament to how difficult it is to build a structure like this – materials, artists to carve the stone, funding, and a focus on community programming instead of completing the building. It’s all being told right there.

Who is your favorite peacock and why?
I like Jim, one of the green ones. He had a foot injury two years ago and it was such a relief to see him upon his return from the veterinarian. Now I often look for him around the Close.

What is your experience with organized religion?
I grew up in a Southern Baptist and Catholic household which have completely contrasting view points on Christianity. It actually worked out really well. Throughout the years my family openly discussed the differences in the denominations. These talks taught me that religion is an expression of faith, not of faith itself. It’s an important distinction to make when working in a church and talking with visitors.

What are your favorite NYC cultural institutions?
I love the Mmuseumm. A friend and I just happened upon it one day in lower Manhattan. It has strange artifacts from recent history. This collection will be a treat for historians 100 years from now. The Hispanic Society of America is so beautiful and they also have great contemporary art exhibitions as well. They are closed now for renovations but I’ll be so happy when they reopen.


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