March 17, 2011
Here at the ATM blog, our St. Patrick’s Day celebration this year is all about snakes and serpents. For it was these slithery reptiles that St Patrick was supposed to have driven into the sea, banishing all of that nation’s snakes from the land. Turns out, though, there are lots of snakes at the Smithsonian Institution.
1. Get up close and personal with St. Patrick, or at least with a wooden figure of Ireland’s best-known patron saint, in the collections of the American Art Museum. The statue of St. Patrick holding a snake was carved by artist Frank Brito sometime in the 1960s.
2. As difficult as it would be to chase snakes out, what kind of person would it take to charm them into behaving? Dennis Burlingame’s 1935 painting entitled “Snake Charmer,” also from the American Art Museum, appears to have the answer.
3. Over at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi illustrates another way to rid oneself of a menacing reptile in the woodblock print, “Eight Hundred Heroes of a Japanese Water Margin, All Told: Ogata Shuma Hiroyuki.”
4. While not everyone is fond of snakes, most people can at least appreciate the use of their likeness in design, especially when it comes to adornments. The Cooper-Hewitt Museum showcases a bronze door knocker, while the American Indian Museum has a gold labret in the shape of a snake head.
7. There may not be any snakes in Ireland (outside of zoo animals and family pets) but we’ve got plenty here. If snakes are what you want to see, slide on over to the National Zoo’s Reptile Discovery Center and see if they really are as menacing in person.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Additional reporting by Jesse Rhodes.
March 16, 2011
If you grew up with video games, and have piles of cartridges, diskettes and CD-ROMs lying around your home, you’ve more or less been curating your own personal exhibition of video game art in the comfort of your own home. But in your esteemed opinion, what games stand out as testaments to technological innovation or spectacular design? Coming to the American Art Museum next year, The Art of Video Games will be an exploration of how gaming has evolved as an art and entertainment medium over the course of 40 years.
But is it art? Can games seriously make the leap from toy store shelves to a museum? The answer is a qualified “yes” as far as exhibition curator and video game collector Chris Melissinos is concerned. “Video games allow for self expression, social reflection, intent and observer insight,” he says. “Due to its interactive nature, video games are an amalgam of art styles and mediums that allow for exploration, by the player or observer, of the artist’s intent or message. This exploration allows the player to internalize the message in a very personal and unique way. There is no other form of media, books, music, movies, or painting, that affords this opportunity. None. I have spent time in front of the paintings of Jackson Pollock and, while interesting, I found no self reflection or intent in them. I understand his technique, understand his intent, but it fails to move me at all. However, in the game Flower, there was a moment in the game where the music, visuals and actions transported me back to when I was a child growing up in New York that was so profound, it caused me to well up. It so happens that my personal reaction was in line with what the designer intended to convey. Between the two, Flower stands, for me, as a work of art.”
And for those of you who were similarly impacted by gaming, now is your chance to help decide which games will be included in the show. The games selected by the curators were milestones of a particular era or genre, received worldwide recognition and were innovative on a technical and visual level.
“I wanted the people who would come to see the exhibition to experience the reflection of their desires in the materials,” Melissinos says. “Not just the voice of the designers, artists and myself. Having the public vote on materials that we selected allows their participation and sense of community.”
And what’s Melissinos’ favorite game? “If I had to pick one, it would probably be Robotron 2084. In the Robotron world, robots and computers have become self aware and realize that humankind is the most destructive force against human existence. In an attempt to save the human race, the robots take over and control the population. You are there to save the last human family from this prison.”
While Robotron 2084 isn’t among the 240 game titles you can pick from, you have until April 7, 2011 to cast your votes and winnow down the list to 80 games. The Art of Video Games will open at the American Art Museum one year from today on March 16, 2012.
February 18, 2011
Friday, February 18: Historic Theater: Join the Student Sit-Ins at the Greensboro Lunch Counter
In this piece of interactive theater, learn what it was like to take part in a sit-in—a form of peaceful protest that was a hallmark of the Civil Rights movement. Meet a civil rights activist and take part in a training session to prepare for your first sit-in and decide if you would have the courage to fight for justice. These 15- to 20-minute performances reveal the people behind the objects on view and the emotions in their stories. Free. American History Museum, 11:30 AM. This event repeats today at 1:30 PM, 3:00 PM and 4:30 PM.
Saturday, February 19: Annual Day of Remembrance at the Smithsonian
Today marks the 69th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing order 9066, which effectively forced almost 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry to relocate to federal detention camps. In the throes of World War II, these Americans were assumed guilty of disloyalty solely because of their racial background and had to live behind barbed wire for the duration of the war. See the film, 442: Live with Honor, Die with Dignity, the story and legacy of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an Asian-American unit that became the most decorated U.S. regiment in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces. The film features archival footage and interviews with several surviving veterans, including United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye and George Sakato. Both veterans were recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest military decoration awarded by the U.S. government. A forum with director Junichi Suzuki follows. Free. American History Museum, 2:00 PM.
Sunday, February 20: Portrait Story Days: George Washington
In anticipation of Presidents’ Day, drop in to see a portrait and hear a story about founding father George Washington. Afterward, you will get to create your own special piece of art. Ideal for young visitors with adults. National Portrait Gallery, 1:00-4:00 PM.
For updates on all exhibitions and events, visit our companion site goSmithsonian.com
January 21, 2011
Friday, January 21: Painting Techniques of Henry Ossawa Tanner
Museum conservators Amber Kerr-Allison and Brian Baade present findings of their recent study and analysis of six of Tanner’s works in the permanent collection, including the newly conserved Flight into Egypt. Learn how Tanner’s documented painting recipe, preserved in the Archives of American Art, contributed to their understanding and analysis of this artist’s technique that produced some of the most vibrant paintings at the turn of the 20th century. Free. American Art Museum, 4:00 PM.
Saturday, January 22: Washington’s Dance Party
Narrated by Martha Reeves—known for hits like “Dancing in the Street” and “Heatwave“—this documentary takes a look at Washington DC’s 1960s television show “The Teenarama Dance Party.” The program allowed black teens to dance and socialize together and provided a place to relax while the fight for civil rights raged around them. After the screening, stick around for a discussion with the film’s producer, as well as people who were involved with the original Teenarama show. Free. For reservations and information, call 202-633-4844. Anacostia Museum, 1:00-3:00 PM.
Sunday, January 23: Artist Talk with Mark Sfirri
Wood artist Mark Sfirri, the 2009 James Renwick Alliance distinguished educator, whose work is on view in A Revolution in Wood, explains his passion for wood turning and the artistic process. Join Sfirri as he discusses his body of work and current projects. Free. Renwick Gallery, 2:00 PM
For updates on all exhibitions and events, visit our companion site goSmithsonian.com
January 14, 2011
Friday, January 14: Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Program
Come enjoy the Anacostia Community Museum’s annual Martin Luther King celebration. This year’s program, held at the National Museum of Natural History, features keynote speaker Fox News analyst Juan Williams in an insightful discussion with Essence magazine’s White House correspondent Cynthia Gordy. Then pan-African performing company Taratibu performs step dances. Free. Baird Auditorium, Natural History Museum, 7:00-9:30 PM.
Saturday, January 15: 3-Day Family Festival: Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
The American History Museum honors the memory of Dr. King with a host of events that will take place on Saturday, January 15, Sunday January 16 and Monday, January 17.
Activities include the American History Museum’s award-winning interactive play Join the Student Sit-Ins, which invites visitors to take the role of protesters during the sit-in movement that began at the Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth’s Lunch Counter in February of 1960. The powerful words of Dr. King are brought to life in the dramatic reading of his last speech, To the Mountaintop in the museum’s Flag Hall. Furthermore, you are invited to share your thoughts on what America has achieved in providing civil rights to all and on the challenges our nation still faces during the “Lift Your Voice” program. Free. American History Museum, 10:00 – 5:30.
Sunday, January 16: 2-Day Family Program: Sharing the Dream: A Multicultural Celebration of Love & Justice
This two day festival at the American Indian Museum takes place on Saturday, January 15 and Sunday, January 16.
Explore themes of love and justice through art, music, film, readings and live discussions. Artists such as Martha Redbone, Three Generationz, Michelle “Love the Poet” Nelson, Sandra Maria Esteves, Phoebe Farris,Cheick Hamala and Dovie Thomason will be available to discuss their work. There will also be hands-on activities for persons of all ages. Free. American Indian Museum, 11:00 -2:00.
Sunday’s schedule of events at American Indian is as follows:
TOURS – POTOMAC ATRIUM
In “Highlights Tours,” Cultural interpreters provide a 45-minute overview of the museum’s history, landscape, building, exhibitions, and other points of interest. 11 AM – 11:45, 1:30 – 2:15, 3- 3:45
MUSIC – POTOMAC ATRIUM
1:30 – 2:10 Martha Redbone Trio
3:00 – 3:40 Cheik Hamala
3:45 – 4:25 Three Generationz
4:30 – 5:10 Martha Redbone Trio
SPOKEN WORD, FILM – RASMUSON THEATER
Dovie Thomason, Storyteller, 12:00 – 12:25
Michelle “LOVE the Poet” Nelson, Poet - LIVE WEBCAST, 2:00 – 2:25
Sandra Maria Esteves, Poet - LIVE WEBCAST, 2:30 – 2:55
Dovie Thomason, Storyteller, 3:00 – 3:25
3:30 – 4:55 Reel Injun, film by Neil Diamond (Cree). Entertaining and insightful, this documentary explores the Hollywood Indian through a century of cinema to uncover how the myths of “the Injun” has influenced the world’s (mis)understanding of Native peoples. Clips from classic and recent films with candid interviews (Clint Eastwood, Chris Eyre, Robbie Robertson, Sacheen Littlefeather, John Trudell, and Russell Means, among others) trace the evolution of cinema’s depictions of Native people from the silent film era to today.
2:30 – 3:00 “Hok-noth-dah?” (Did you hear?) – Listen! I have a story to tell. (for ages 5-9) A Native staff member reads books by or about Native Americans. “Hok-noth-da?” means “Did you hear?” in the Shawnee language.
Hands-On Activities, Cultural Interpreters help kids and families learn about Native culture through selected hands-on activities involving ledger art. 10:00 – 12:00, 1:00 – 3:00.
Dr. Phoebe Farris presents “Red, Black, and Brown: Artists and the Aesthetics of Race.” In this illustrated talk, Dr. Farris (Powhatan/Renape) discusses artists of mixed American Indian, African American, and Latin American heritage who reflect their identities in their art and who deal with themes of social justice. Primarily women, these artists reference race or identity in many ways, often juxtaposed with issues of gender, 1:00 – 1:55.
Monday, January 17: To the Mountaintop — The Words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Experience a stirring and inspirational tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as actor Xavier Carnegie presents selections from some of Dr. King’s most powerful and compelling speeches and sermons. Free. American History Museum, 12:30-12:50 PM.
For updates on all exhibitions and events, visit our companion website goSmithsonian.com