January 4, 2010
The year 2010 marks the end of the aughts, a term that was thankfully rarely applied. But now as we stand at the cusp of a new decade, we have the same problem. What will we call this one?
Are we in our teens?
We’ll leave that decision to greater minds.
Meanwhile, the team at the Around the Mall blog, have a assembled our official list of the Top Ten Things that you simply must do at the Smithsonian this year.
1. Famous directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are both fans of the artist Norman Rockwell. Starting in July 2010, 50 paintings from the Lucas and Spielberg collections will be on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
2. A Smithsonian Magazine favorite, the Annual Smithsonian Kite Festival promises to be an engineering challenge. Learn from the Around the Mall team’s mistakes and design the winning kite.
3. Get in touch with your inner sleuth and try to follow Dan Brown’s latest character, Peter Solomon, the fictional Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, as he ventures through Washington, D.C. While you’re at it, try to debunk Brown’s myths about the Smithsonian Institution. We found some, but see if you can uncover any more.
4. Every year since 1967, more than one million people gather on the National Mall for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival for more than two weeks of cultural immersion and exploration. This year’s event, June 24–28 and July 1–5, will feature México, Asian Pacific American communities, and an inside look at what it would be like to work at the Smithsonian.
5. Follow in Capt. Rob Plagmann’s footsteps and design an elaborate proposal based on a Smithsonian exhibition. Read all the juicy details of Plagmann’s proposal here.
6. Try to make a scientific discovery and get it in the Smithsonian collection. A young girl found a vertebra at the recently opened Dinosaur Park in Laurel, Maryland. Per an agreement, all significant finds will make their way to the Smithsonian. The park is open to the public the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of each month from 12-4pm.
7. Should discovery in the ground fail, try the sky. The public observatory at the National Air and Space Museum, come summer, will be packed as the skies clear and objects are visible. The Around the Mall team visited the observatory in September to get a sneak peak, but unfortunately, it was cloudy.
8. Be one of the first to walk through the newest hall in the Natural History Museum. The Hall of Human Origins opens March 17 and will answer the question, What does it mean to be human? The hall’s festive opening coincides with the museum’s 100th anniversary on the Mall. Check back for upcoming events and programs planned for the celebration.
9. In 2009, the Hope Diamond was removed from its setting and displayed by itself for the first time ever. In early 2010, the stone will be set into a custom Harry Winston design to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the gem’s donation to the museum. Fight the crowds and get a look at the diamond in its new, limited-time setting. Read about its removal on the Around the Mall blog. Explore the three designs that were put to a popular vote and see the winner.
10. The heartbreaking news that Tai Shan will be heading back to China in early 2010 was confirmed in December. Since the announcement, fans of Butterstick have flocked to the National Zoo to bid a fond farewell to the Zoo’s most beloved bear. Zoo officials have said Tai Shan will make the journey in the first quarter of 2010, so there is still have time to say goodbye. See our announcement and a photo gallery of Butterstick’s four and a half years in Washington, D.C.
(Plan to make a visit this year to the Smithsonian? Please see our companion site, goSmithsonian.com for help with making reservations, finding exhibits, and making your own personal itinerary.)
December 30, 2009
With the new year almost here, we’re rounding up a list of exhibitions that close shortly after the calendar turns. So make a New Year’s resolution to see more art, learn more history and experience more culture, and get out to these shows before they close.
Staged Stories: Renwick Craft Invitational 2009
This installation of the biannual invitational includes artists who work with ceramics, glass and even yarn. Read more about the artists and their work here.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection
This first-ever retrospective of Anne Truitt’s 50-year career displays both her iconic sculptures and her lesser-known drawing. For some pre-visit background, check out this in-depth look at her career as well as an Around the Mall piece about the exhibition’s opening.
National Portrait Gallery
Presidents in Waiting
This exhibition takes a look at the lives of 14 of our nation’s vice presidents who eventually became president, from John Adams to George H.W. Bush.
Faces of the Frontier: Photographic Portraits from the American West, 1845-1924
Get a feel for the types of personalities included in this photographic exhibition by reading this Around the Mall round-up.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
1934: A New Deal for Artists
In this post, the Around the Mall team ponders whether this exhibition about depression-era artists is a look into the past or a look into our future.
Graphic Masters II: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The second in a series, this show displays works on paper from artists from the 1920s to the 1960s including Edward Hopper, Willem de Kooning and Andrew Wyeth.
The Honor of Your Company Is Requested: President Lincoln’s Inaugural Ball
This concentrated exhibit focuses on Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball held in 1865 just six weeks before his assassination.
What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect
An intriguing exhibition that keeps revealing layer after layer of information. Read about artist William Wiley’s inaugural pinball game in the new exhibition as well as a Q&A.
National Air and Space Museum
Alan Bean: Painting Apollo, First Artist on Another World
Alan Bean flew worked for NASA for 18 years and was the fourth man to walk on the moon. He creates art using moon dust, moon boots and other lunar artifacts. Read an interview with the first astronaut-turned-artist here.
National Museum of American History
Bittersweet Harvest: The Bracero Program, 1942-1964
Leonard Nadal was hired in 1956 to document the entire day-to-day experience of the Bracero workers. To get a taste of the powerful images by Nadal, browse through our photo gallery.
National Museum of Natural History
Dig It! The Secrets of Soil
This long-running exhibition gets down and dirty with soil—which scientists say is a much-misunderstood but essential resource. Read about the exhibition’s opening here.
National Museum of the American Indian, George Gustav Heye Center in New York City
This exhibition of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook features 39 drawings that depict social, economic and cultural realities of northern Canada.
This Minnesota-based artist’s work analyzes the meaning behind museums and their collections.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Falnama: The Book of Omens
The Falnama is a collection of illustrated manuscripts that sultans consulted for omens. Read a primer on the ancient book of secrets here.
S. Dillon Ripley Center, International Gallery
Accelerate: A National Juried Exhibition for Emerging Artists with Disabilities, Ages 16-25
This show displays works from 15 award-winning artists with disabilities—ranging in age from 16 to 25.
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Design for a Living World
For this show, leading designers were given a natural material from a Nature Conservancy site. Isaac Mizrahi fashioned a dress out of Alaskan salmon skin. Check out Joseph Caputo’s magazine interview with Mizrahi.
December 23, 2009
Charles Froke, the executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., spent more than 100 hours creating a replica of the Smithsonian Castle using only gingerbread and frosting—100 and 50 pounds respectively. What’s more is that he did the whole thing by himself. (His staff had to worry about all the holiday parties.)
He had wanted to do the Castle years ago, but a promotion and transfer to Miami got in the way. So, when he was transferred back, he knew this would be the first structure he attempted. “I really wanted to do the Smithsonian Castle,” he said. “And I never got a chance to do it. Now that I’m back in town, it’s my first sculpture.”
But the iconic building on the Mall posed some challenges for Froke. “The building is crazy,” he said. “It has so many different columns and so many different towers. That’s going to be the hardest part.” At one point, when he tried to attach an angled roof, the whole piece fell down. “There’s always things that go wrong,” he says. “But it’s just gingerbread, so we persevere.”
The impressive centerpiece was revealed last week and will be on display in the hotel’s restaurant through January, but we got a sneak peek at how Froke created the Castle.
December 14, 2009
On December 29, 1990, photographer James Cook caught sight in the distance of the more than 350 horseback riders who were recreating the ride to Wounded Knee, South Dakota, as part of a centennial memorial of the massacre that occurred there in 1890. The riders were near the end of their 7-day, 300-mile journey. Cook and his assistant traveling by car hurried to meet up with the group for a closer view.
Recently, the National Museum of the America Indian acquired a print of the image that Cook eventually captured that day. It is included in the exhibition, “A Song for the Horse Nation” that opened in November at the George Gustav Heye Center in New York City. The museum also has a print of the image in its permanent collection.
Since 1986, the descendants of those killed at Wounded Knee Creek have recreated the ride to the site. More than 350 men, women and children were to be escorted by US troops so they could be transported to Omaha, Nebraska, to be resettled on Indian reservations. When a medicine man and others failed to comply, a shoot-out ensued. In less than an hour, 150 Lakota and 25 soldiers were dead. A three-day blizzard followed the battle, freezing the dead bodies and killing the wounded.
The weather Cook experienced as he tried to document the ride mirrored the blizzard of 1890. Temperatures hovered around -54 degrees and harsh winds blew across the arid landscape. He learned early on to rewind the film slowly, or, stiffened by the cold, it would shatter. If he exhaled when his face was too close to the camera, his breath would freeze his face to the viewfinder.
But Cook and his assistant kept at it. “At one point, I hopped out and managed to get right in their path,” he says. “So as they came across the hill, there was a fence line to help steer them to me. I was able to get several frames as they approached. They came down and just engulfed me as they rode on through.”
After getting all the images he knew he would get, Cook, caught up in the intensity, joined the riders. “I couldn’t resist just turning and running with them, gear as well,” he says. “It was just part of the excitement.” When he looked through the several hundred frames he had taken that day, one stood out. “There are just so many little elements in it,” he says. “They’re close enough to be recognizable. There was one rider off to the side that stopped to watch everyone come down over the hill. He was framed just right between others. There were no other frames that even came close.”
Cook began photographing native peoples in the late 1980s because, as he says, the richness of the culture fascinated him. Cook is of European descent, but says he doesn’t know much about his own cultural heritage. “I started realizing that the Native Americans had a lot going with their cultural roots and preserving their heritage,” he says. “I admire that; I envy that.”
To Cook, photographing Native Americans is about documenting a specific point in history. “It’s all evolving, and I think it’s important to document things as they are in our day and age,” he says. The passage of time is evident in his “The Ride To Wounded Knee” image as well. “We got the headdresses and horses, but one of the riders is wearing a snowmobile outfit as well,” he says.
December 11, 2009
When daffodils begin to peer,
With heigh! the doxy, over the dale,
Why, then comes in the sweet o’ the year.
—The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
After a slow start, winter is finally here in Washington, D.C. And freezing conditions are chilling the rest of the U.S.
But the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens is trying to heat things back up. The archive recently created a Flickr page and loaded 25 rarely seen images of gardens from the “golden era” of American gardening, the 1920s and ’30s. They depict private estate gardens ranging from Virgina to California. Many of the gardens pictured, such as one created by Thomas Jefferson at the University of Virginia and the elegant Thornewood Castle in Tacoma, Washington, are now open to the public as historic homes, gardens, parks, arboreta and wilderness areas. Thornewood Castle, by the way, is now a bed and breakfast.
But these 25 are barely a drop in the bucket. The entire archives contains documents for another 6,300 gardens and includes 80,000 images and records, spanning the centuries between the colonial period and today. In 2009 alone, it received records from 48 gardens. The archives, whose mission is “to preserve and highlight significant aspects of gardening in the United States,” is a treasure trove of both the famous and the forgotten—men and women who have sought to make the landscape their canvas—Marian Coffin, Beatrix Farrand, Lawrence Halprin, Hare & Hare, Umberto Innocenti, Gertrude Jekyll, Jens Jensen, Warren Manning, the Olmsted Brothers, Charles Platt, Ellen Biddle Shipman, and Fletcher Steele.