August 26, 2010
Among the more than 120 works of art made by Japanese-American internees during World War II featured in the Renwick Gallery’s “The Art of Gaman” exhibit is an eerie painting of Tule Lake. In the background stands Castle Rock, its beauty in bold contrast to the austerity of the Northern California internment camp’s seemingly endless row of barracks.
Looking at the painting, one can’t help but wonder about the artist, his experience at the camp and the emotions engrained in the landscape. Fortunately, The Cats of Mirikitani, a 2006 documentary about the artist, 90-year-old Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani, offers some insight. The Renwick Gallery is screening it Sunday, August 29, at 2 p.m.
Linda Hattendorf, a New York-based producer and director of documentaries, befriended Jimmy Mirikitani in 2001. Homeless, he worked on his art—drawings of cats, internment camps and atomic bombs— under the awning of a grocery store near Hattendorf’s SoHo apartment. After 9/11, the smoke and dust took a toll on the artist’s health and Hattendorf invited him into her home. She learned the man’s life story. He was born in Sacramento in 1920, raised in Hiroshima, Japan, and then returned to the United States at age 18 to pursue a career in art. Soon after, he was interned at Tule Lake. Eventually released, he ended up in New York City in the early 1950s, where he became a live-in cook for a resident of Park Avenue. When his employer passed away in the late 1980s, Mirikitani was left jobless and homeless. He sold his artwork to survive.
The Cats of Mirikitani tells the story of Jimmy Mirikitani and how, with the help of Hattendorf, he comes to terms with his past and lands on his feet, living in an assisted-living retirement center. The New York Times described the 2006 Audience Award Winner at the Tribeca Film Festival as “a brief but satisfying look at a defiantly self-sufficient life,” and New York Magazine declared it “a profoundly gripping film, with a cumulative impact that may well wipe you out.”
Hattendorf and co-producer Masa Yoshikawa will be in attendance at the Renwick Gallery on Sunday and partake in a question-and-answer session following the screening. Be sure to check out Mirikitani’s painting of Tule Lake and the rest of the “Art of Gaman” exhibit, open through January 30.
June 24, 2010
Attention all gamers. Today marks the launch of the goSmithsonian Trek, a new mobile adventure that takes visitors on a tour of nine Smithsonian museums in a quest to decode clues and answer questions delivered via a free Apple iPhone or Android app. The game will be available through July 24.
And here’s the best news, the top two players who garner the highest points and complete all of the challenges—haikus, photo assignments and a final tie-breaker—will receive Apple iPads.
But if you’re in a hurry to play through and, incidentally, have a chance a winning an iPad, too, check out the upcoming one-day only contest at the Castle Commons this Saturday, July 26. Registered visitors will square off in a four-hour timed competition that is open to all comers, though an RSVP is recommended. Arrive at the Castle Commons at 9:30 to register for the 10 AM start of the game. At 2, players will return to the Castle Commons for the announcement of the first-place winner. The lucky champion will receive an Apple iPad—you must be present to win. (Psst. As of this afternoon, not too many people know about this special event, so cancel your Saturday plans and sign up now.)
The game is powered by the Boston-based SCVNGR, a company which creates game experiences designed around specific locations. The goSmithsonian Trek is “all about going places, doing challenges and earning points,” says SCVNGR’s Kellian Adams, a former school teacher, who says she loves the educational opportunities the game provides. The Trek includes more than 70 questions that take visitors on a tour of the Smithsonian Castle, the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Freer Gallery of Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the African Art Museum and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The goSmithsonian Trek is played on an iPhone or Android after downloading the free App at the Apple App store or the Android Market. For each correct answer, players will earn a range of points, depending on the difficulty of the question. If a clue is answered incorrectly, points are lost.
Visit goSmithsonian.com for more information. SCVNGR has created games in more than 550 institutions across 40 American states and 20 other countries around the world. The goSmithsonian Visitors Guide is published twice yearly and is available for $2 at the museums’ visitor desks, stores and IMAX Theaters.
October 8, 2009
Fergus Bordewich is a regular Smithsonian magazine contributor who recently wrote about John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry and penned an in-depth account of the Underground Railroad in Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America. On Saturday, October 10, Bordewich will be speaking about Brown—the 19th-century abolitionist who incited the ill-fated slave rebellion—at Arlington House this weekend. He will be giving lectures at 8:00 and 9:00 PM. Furthermore, this one night only event at Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s historic home will also offer visitors a rare opportunity to tour the estate at night and enjoy a perfect vantage point to observe the electrified DC skyline. Admission is free, but reservations are required. To make reservations, please call 703-235-1530.
If you’re unable to make Bordewich’s lecture at Arlington House, you can mark the 150th anniversary of the raid on Harper’s Ferry at the Smithsonian. On view at the Portrait Gallery is a rare daguerrotype of John Brown that exudes the intensity of a character who has inspired both admiration and vitriol in the hearts and minds of generations of Americans.
April 17, 2009
The votes have been counted and the winner is:
“He couldn’t hide all the skeletons in his closet.”
Thank you T. Faundo for submitting the top entry.
Besides our admiration, the winner receives a free subscription to Smithsonian.com. Log on anytime, along with all the rest of you.
Think the closets in the photo makes the winning caption just so-so? Vote for your favorite entry below:
In case you were curious, the man in the photo is T. Dale Stewart. He was captured on October 3, 1950, attending to his day to day duties as a physical anthropology curator at the National Museum of Natural History.
Stewart was a familiar face at the Smithsonian Institution from 1924 until his death at 96-years-old in 1997. According to his obituary in the New York Times, in 1960, Stewart “reported that evidence had been found that early modern man had lived side by side with Neanderthals in the Middle East.” A point that has not been solidly proven, but is generally accepted in the scientific community.
The cabinets in the photograph still remain in the Smithsonian, containing thousands of skeletons collected by Stewart and his successors.
April 13, 2009
Can you think of a witty caption for the above photograph? As the contest comes to a close, we’ve already received some entertaining submissions, like….
“Nope, this one’s not Walt Disney, either,” by Jim.
“In his excitement at finding Curley’s shrunken head, he did not notice he had become surrounded by Larry and Moe,” by RPi.
You have until Wednesday evening, April 15, to submit your entries. The winner will be announced (along with the true story behind the photograph) on Friday morning. There is no prize, but how many times can you say you’ve won a caption contest.