May 17, 2012
Friday, May 18 Portraits after 5: Identities in Motion
Celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month this Friday at the National Portrait Gallery after hours. See how music, dance, new media and visuals work together to explore Asian American identity and cultural influence. This event features a collaboration between Korean American artist CYJO, French composer Benoit Granier, American composer Anthony Paul De Ritis and Korean American dancer Dana Tai Soon Burgess. CYJO’s portrait of Burgess is on view in the related exhibition, Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter. Free. 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Kogod Courtyard, National Portrait Gallery.
Saturday, May 19 Metro Mambo
This Saturday get your Mambo on—Salsa-style at the National Museum of African Art. Join Jim Byers, radio personality from WPFW 89.3 FM’s Latin Flavor, and Leopoldo Tablante (PhD, Loyola University, Louisiana) in a discussion about the impact of popular mid-20th-century Latin dance music on urban fashion trends. Dance party follows with music by Bio Ritmo Band. For reservations call 202-633-4866. Free. 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. National Museum of African Art.
Sunday, May 20 Surfboard carving and Hawaiian sled
Surf’s up this Sunday for the whole family at the National Museum of the American Indian. Join Tom “Pohaku” Stone, a Native Hawaiian carver from O’ahu, Hawaii, as he shares his skills and talents in carving a traditional Hawaiian surfboard (Papahe’enalu) and lashing together a traditional Hawaiian sled (Papahōlua) in the museum’s Potomac Atrium. Tom is a legendary native Hawaiian surfer and waterman who has spent his life learning his culture and becoming a specialist in ancient Hawaiian sports. Daily through Friday, May 25. Free. 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. National Museum of the American Indian.
May 11, 2012
Young veterans returning from the prolonged and grueling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are finding new ways to cope with post-military life and they’re doing it through art. As a part of the Arts, Military + Healing: A Collaborative Initiative (AMH), veterans and civilians at the forefront of this movement are joining with national cultural institutions, art schools and the military community to create something new out of the destruction of war—catharsis through art therapy.
Starting Sunday, this week-long event offers five free workshops that will give military members of the AMH and their families a chance to work with art therapists, veteran and established artists. The program stretches across seven locations including the Library of Congress, National Air and Space Museum, and George Mason University. Events include exhibitions, a film screening of Heather Courtney’s acclaimed documentary Where Soldiers Come From and a performance by modern dance company, DancEthos, that demonstrates the healing benefits of the arts.
Shannon Maxwell, co-founder of the SEMPERMAX Support Fund, will make opening remarks to highlight the importance of arts as therapy. Her husband, Lt. Col. Tim Maxwell, USMC (retired), received a traumatic brain injury from a mortar attack in Iraq. The ceremony will be held at the Fly Marines! The Centennial of Marine Corps Aviation: 1912-2012 exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum, and will also include a presentation on the history of arts in the military.
A collection of veteran-made artwork will be on display at the Corcoran Gallery featuring works from the Combat Paper Project, a cathartic program that allows veterans to make paper-bound books of poetry and paintings from their shredded uniforms. Their motto “Make Paper not War,” rings true in the veteran-made artwork created from the destruction of their military garb. Award-winning New York Times photographer, Joao Silva, will also share his experiences working in combat zones. He has experienced the danger first-hand having survived a land mine explosion covering the war in Afghanistan.
Arts, Military + Healing will take place May 13-18. Free. For more information on the events, the mission, the participants and for a complete schedule visit www.artsandmilitary.org for specific times.
May 10, 2012
Friday, May 11 Gardening for Healthy Living
April showers bring May flowers, as the saying goes. But what about vegetables and herbs? This Friday, join in the annual Garden Fest, inspired by the First Lady’s national initiative for healthy living “Let’s Move,” which seeks to educate children and parents about how gardens can play a role in healthy living. Activities include music, dancing, yoga, tai chi, mural painting, demonstrations and tons of information on vegetable gardening, healthy trees and lawns—even orchid growing. Visitors can also participate in Let’s Move! with Smithsonian Gardens, a scavenger hunt in the gardens. Free. 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday and 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Saturday. Enid A. Haupt Garden south of the Castle, Smithsonian Gardens.
Saturday, May 12 Bolivian Festival: Living Well
Bolivia is proud to celebrate its cultures, history and heritage with a weekend of exciting presentations and programs at the Bolivian Festival: Suma Qamaña, Living Well. The festivities include a Baroque music concert, contemporary and traditional dance groups, storytelling, folk music, demonstrating artists, food and fun for the whole family. Come and meet many proud Bolivians sharing their wisdom, knowledge and culture in living well. Free. 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. NMAI Potomac Atrium and other museum locations. National Museum of the American Indian.
Sunday, May 13 Steinway series with Mendelssohn Piano Trio
For Mother’s Day this Sunday, take the woman you love most to see a spectacular performance by the Mendelssohn Piano Trio. For the past fifteen years the group—violinist Peter Sirotin , pianist Ya-Ting Chang and cellist Fiona Thompson—has thrilled audiences in the U.S. and abroad, performing with a rare combination of powerful individual talent and tight-knit collaboration. Returning for their fourth annual Mother’s Day concert, they will perform piano trios by Haydn, Brahms, and Ravel. Free, tickets distributed beginning at 2:30 p.m. Concert at 3:00 p.m. McEvoy Auditorium, American Art Museum.
May 3, 2012
Events May 4-6: Cool off with IMAX, Fly a kite at the Sackler and celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with Smithsonian
Friday, May 4 Cool off with IMAX
When you find yourself complaining about D.C.’s humidity, imagine trekking across the Arctic wilderness with a set of seven-month-old twins. Picture the melting ice, immense glaciers, gushing waterfalls and larger-than-life snow peaks. It might sound like a cooler alternative to the city heat, but it certainly wouldn’t be an easier experience.
This Friday, take a remarkable journey to the top of the world with a group of unlikely adventurers: a mother polar bear and her twin cubs. In the exciting documentary To the Arctic 3D narrated by Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, become a part of the action as this family struggles to survive in the frigid wilderness they call home. Advance tickets available online. Shown daily at 3:35 p.m. Samuel C. Johnson IMAX theater, National Museum of Natural History.
Saturday, May 5 Kite making
Perhaps Dick Van Dyke said it best in the classic film Mary Poppins: “Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height.” For a pleasantly blustery day, what better activity than kite-flying? This Saturday, grab the kids and explore the Freer and Sackler Galleries as a part of the ImaginAsia series and make your own Korean kites to fly around on the Mall. Free. 2:00 p.m. level 2, Sackler Gallery.
Sunday, May 6 Celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month
May is Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and this Sunday Smithsonian will kick off the celebration with a day of fun for the whole family. Enjoy music, dance and spoken word performances, arts-and-crafts activities, video interviews by the Hirshhorn’s Artlab+ teen videographers and much more. (If you enjoy the activities at the National Portrait Gallery this weekend, be sure to check out the exhibit, Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter which displays the diversity of contemporary Asian American identity through the works of seven visual artists through October 14, 2012.) The kickoff event is free. 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Kogod Courtyard, National Portrait Gallery.
For a complete listing of Smithsonian events and exhibitions visit the goSmithsonian Visitors Guide. Additional reporting by Michelle Strange.
April 18, 2012
Among the 121 artists on display this weekend at the 30th annual Smithsonian Craft Show, Colin Selig’s metal benches struck us as something to write home about. Not because of their functionality, but because of the material with which they’re made: Recycled Propane tanks.
An award-winning metal sculpture artist from Walnut Creek, California, Selig re-purposes discarded propane tanks and converts them into seating suitable for a wide range of indoor and outdoor spaces, in both public and private venues. Their vibrant colors and unique shape make them works of art, yet “people love sitting on them,” Selig says.
Each year at the show, a new jury of three experts brings a fresh perspective to selecting exhibitors for that year’s event. Though Selig’s work has been showcased widely in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is his first showing at the Smithsonian Craft Show. We spoke with Selig over the phone about how his idea to use these propane tanks has exploded in the crafting world.
There are a few other artists featured at the show that specialize in using recycled materials like glass—your sculptures use discarded propane tanks. What inspired you to use this material in the first place and where do you get it?
I’ve been a metal worker my whole life, and I had a large junk propane tank sitting on our property for a couple of decades. My wife finally said to me, ‘Hey, can you do something useful with that instead of just sending it to the recyclers as scrap?’ The curved forms of the tank stimulated my imagination and I began to consider possible ways to dissect and reassemble it into a bench. I’ve always been interested in combining aesthetics with functionality and with recycling and re-purposing.
Can you describe your technique in the design of these benches and chairs? What are you trying to communicate?
First of all, I want to make it clear to the viewer and the user, that these are, in fact, re-purposed materials. That’s why I have not deconstructed the tank beyond recognition. I haven’t cut it up into tiny little pieces and made something new out of it because then you wouldn’t realize what it was originally. For example, with the ones that I’ve painted parchment white, I put the propane warning decal back on. It’s just to reference the original source material. Part of the message of what I’m doing is that I am transforming a no-longer-wanted junk item and giving it new life. Reuse, recycle—that whole cliché—but it’s true.
How much of the propane tank do you actually use in the creation of these sculptures, and how many chairs can you make out of one propane tank?
The initial tank that I cut up, I made into four different pieces of seating and by the time I was done, I had used 99 percent of the material. I just kept using smaller and smaller pieces. One of the great things is that these tanks have a limited service life—you’re not allowed to repair them, because they are meant to hold gas under pressure. They have a built-in obsolescence when they start to corrode or they’re damaged, so there’s a limitless supply of these tanks—in fact, they’re ubiquitous around the world. The potential exists to produce these seats in volume almost anywhere in the world. They can be made locally with my design and they’d be very green that way.
Do you consider your work to be consistently abstract or do you have some variation?
I consider myself, open minded and I try to draw on a variety of influences. Some of the pieces are purely abstract and play off of the forms within the original tank. Some of the pieces are designed to be purely whimsical and others reference classic furniture. The lips bench references Dali’s May West Sofa, for example.
If they were to be produced in this way, even with your design, where’s the line between that balance of artwork and practicality?
My whole goal is to blur that line completely and say that you don’t have to choose one or the other. My vision would be to have benches like this in mass transit stations and in public parks and commercial settings. I’d like to find somebody to take prototype designs and produce them on a larger scale. I’m a craftsperson so I don’t have any really fancy equipment. I have a way of cutting them up and a way of welding them together. They would be relatively easy to manufacture.
Can you tell me a little about your background? You have a degree in Philosophy at Tufts, but at the same time you were studying metal sculpting at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
In one sense, my life has been a quest to find a balance between using my head and my hands. If I spend too much time using one and not the other, it’s not as gratifying for me. So, I think I found a perfect medium here for myself.
What is a response people have when you tell them that the benches are made of tanks?
Well, people are surprised, of course, and then they say ‘Oh yeah, I see that!’ Pretty much everyone has seen a propane tank before. It’s not like it’s made of something exotic. I want people to recognize that these are re-purposed materials. A lot depends on how spatially-oriented some people are, but also if someone can’t recognize that this is a propane tank, that’s a good thing too, because it means I’ve done an interesting job with an abstract form.