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A look at what’s closed for business and what’s business as usual on the Mall right now. By Sophie Gilbert
The National Gallery of Art: not as essential as cops, congresspeople, and $22 valets. Photographs by Sophie Gilbert.

Welcome to the first day of the Great Government Shutdown of 2013. Your nonessential federal employees are probably rewatching all of Breaking Bad from the comfort of their couches while wondering if they'll ever be paid again. Meanwhile, all free museums are closed, for the most part. Here, in photos, is a quick glimpse of what was essential and nonessential on the National Mall this morning.

Essential: Cops standing around chatting.

Not essential: The National Museum of the American Indian. 

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Posted at 12:04 PM/ET, 10/01/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The new selection process has elected to give this year’s award to the four musicians and the actress and former Washingtonian. By Sophie Gilbert
Carlos Santana and Shirley MacLaine are among this year’s Kennedy Center honorees. Image of Santana via s_bukley/Shutterstock; image of MacLaine via Featureflash/Shutterstock.

The Kennedy Center will celebrate two Latino artists at this year’s Kennedy Center Honors, following a controversial year in 2012 in which the chairman of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts had a tempestuous phone conversation with Kennedy Center Michael Kaiser about the annual ceremony’s neglect of Hispanic artists.

This year’s slate, which honors Martina Arroyo, Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, Shirley MacLaine, and Carlos Santana, doubles the number of Latino artists chosen for the prestigious award for artistic excellence, which up until now had only previously been awarded to opera star Placido Domingo and actress and singer Chita Rivera.

Following the controversy, after Sanchez said Kaiser told him to “Go f**k yourself,” the Kennedy Center changed its selection process, appointing a super-committee including Rivera and cellist Yo-Yo Ma to oversee the final decisions. Previous winners and artists such as Glenn Close, Christoph Eschenbach, Alec Baldwin, Renee Fleming, Arturo Sandoval, and Forest Whitaker also made recommendations.

A debate over inclusiveness is presumably not what the Kennedy Center had in mind when it launched the Honors in 1978 with a debut list that included Marian Anderson, Fred Astaire, George Balanchine, Richard Rodgers, and Arthur Rubenstein.

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Posted at 11:16 AM/ET, 09/12/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
A stellar lineup will celebrate Burnett at this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on October 20. By Sophie Gilbert

Photograph of Burnett by Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.

The guest list for this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor has just been announced, and it’s a veritable who’s who of funnywomen (oh, and Tony Bennett). Julie Andrews, Lucie Arnaz, Bennett, Tim Conway, Tina Fey, Rashida Jones, Vicki Lawrence, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short, Rosemary Watson, and more will be on hand to fete this year’s recipient: actress, singer, and comedian Carol Burnett.

This is the 16th annual Mark Twain Prize, and the first time ever the award has been given to two women in a row (last year’s ceremony honored Ellen DeGeneres—read more about it in our earlier post). Previous honorees include Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, Bill Cosby, Fey, and Will Ferrell. The event will be taped at the Kennedy Center October 20 and broadcast on PBS November 24.

Posted at 11:15 AM/ET, 09/04/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Malia, Sasha, and Bo have a new sister. By Sophie Gilbert
It's a dog's life. Image via the @FLOTUS Twitter account.

Remember last week when the White House indulged Bo by tweeting an adorable picture of him along with a Mean Girls reference? Well, they may have been cosseting the First Dog in preparation for a huge upheaval in his otherwise perfect life: a new puppy.

Michelle Obama was the first to break the news that the First Family has expanded yet again, tweeting, "So excited to introduce the newest member of the Obama family—our puppy, Sunny!" The tweet included a picture of Sunny sitting with her big brother, Bo, on the White House lawn, as well as a link to a press release announcing the arrival of the adorable puppy, who's also a Portuguese water dog. "Sunny is the perfect little sister for Bo—full of energy and very affectionate—and the First Family picked her name because it fit her cheerful personality," says the release. There's also a video of Sunny scampering around. Unlike Bo, she appears to have no white markings, although most will agree she's equally as photogenic.

Posted at 07:56 PM/ET, 08/19/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Kerry Washington also received a lead actress nomination for her role in ABC’s “Scandal.” By Sophie Gilbert
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright were both nominated for Emmys for their roles in Netflix’s House of Cards. Photograph by Melinda Sue Gordon for Netflix.

All eyes were on Netflix at this morning’s Emmy nominations, and while it was more than likely the provider’s hit political drama series House of Cards would score a nomination or two (that’s what tends to happen when you hire Kevin Spacey), the online-only show scooped a total of nine nods, including the trifecta: Best Drama, Best Actor, and Best Actress (for Robin Wright as Claire Underwood).

The nominations were announced by Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul and How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris, who stepped in for House of CardsKate Mara when her overnight flight was canceled due to mechanical problems. This saved on awkwardness when Mara wasn’t nominated in the Supporting Actress category for House of Cards. (Paul was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and Harris scooped a nod for presenting the Tony Awards).

In addition to House of Cards, several other Washington shows triumphed: Homeland, which also received Outstanding Drama/Actor/Actress nominations for Damian Lewis and Claire Danes, and Veep, which was nominated for Outstanding Comedy, Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Supporting Actor (Tony Hale), and Supporting Actress (Anna Chlumsky). Kerry Washington also received a Lead Actress in a Drama Series award for her role as fixer Olivia Pope in ABC’s Scandal.

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Posted at 10:50 AM/ET, 07/18/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
President Obama presented the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal to 20 leading figures Wednesday. By Sophie Gilbert
President Obama and George Lucas. Photograph by Sophie Gilbert.

The people honored at the White House Wednesday for their contributions to the arts and humanities ranged from a Tony-winning playwright to a National Book Award winner to the creator of Star Wars, but despite their diverse backgrounds, they all have one thing in common, according to the President. “They’re teachers, whether they know it or not,” President Obama said, praising the 20 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal recipients for their commitment to illuminating the “untold stories of history.”

Those given oversize medals included film producer George Lucas, playwright Tony Kushner, soprano Renée Fleming, musician Allen Toussaint, artist Ellsworth Kelly, and writer Joan Didion, a tiny figure in a beige dress and blue cape next to the President and the Marine who helped her to the stage. Didion, the President said, “rightfully has earned distinction as one of the most celebrated writers of her generation.”

Also honored was the Washington Performing Arts Society, cited for “bringing world-class performances to our nation’s capital” in its role as a producing institution, and sportswriter Frank Deford. “I grew up reading Sports Illustrated, and I think it was very good for me,” the President said, also joking that before Star Wars irrevocably changed the nature of special effects in film, movies mostly featured spaceships made out of models hanging from pieces of string.

The President has been criticized for failing to appoint a new chairman to the National Endowment for the Arts, the agency that bestows the awards alongside the National Endowment for the Humanities, but he affirmed his belief that arts and humanities stimulate the human imagination, which he said is “still the most powerful tool we have as a people.” Quoting Robert F. Kennedy, he likened them to “ripples of hope like stones in a lake.”

See the full list of honorees and their citations.

Posted at 04:50 PM/ET, 07/10/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The scaffolding covering the monument will be lit tonight and remain illuminated until 2014. By Sophie Gilbert
The scaffolding-covered Washington Monument will be illuminated at sundown on Monday. Photograph by Flickr user Ron Cogswell.

No, it’s not the Eiffel Tower, and no, you probably can’t get a decent slice of pizza to eat while you gaze at it. Nevertheless, starting tonight, DC gets its very own light show to brag about when the scaffolding currently covering the Washington Monument while the structure’s earthquake damage is repaired is illuminated this evening at 8:30—hopefully making the monument appear more aesthetically pleasing and less like it’s swaddled in a thousand giant Band-Aids.

The illumination isn’t a new idea—it was orchestrated by architect Michael Graves in 1998 when the monument was last renovated (which you can read about in this piece). While it was originally slated for June, presumably timed to coincide with the Fourth of July fireworks, the inaugural lighting will finally take place tonight, with help from philanthropist David Rubenstein, who donated half the money to fund the monument’s repairs. The monument will be lit at dusk by 488 lamps each night until the renovations are complete, hopefully in spring 2014, by which time there should be enough pictures of it on Instagram to bore even the most ardent Washingtonian to tears.

Posted at 11:42 AM/ET, 07/08/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
A back injury means the player will be replaced by Martina Hingis in Williams' July 8 and 9 games. By Sophie Gilbert

Five-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams was set to join the Washington Kastles this year for a fourth successive season, but the back injury that forced her to drop out of doubles matches in the French Open earlier this year means she'll be unable to play at Kastles Stadium this summer. She's replaced by Martina Hingis in two home games July 8 and 9, and one away match in Texas July 10.

"My lower back injury has not recovered to where it needs to be for me to play Mylan World TeamTennis this summer," said Williams in a statement. "I love playing team tennis so I am really disappointed that I will not be able to compete with my Washington Kastles teammates this month, or to play in front of the fans in Washington, DC and Irving, Texas."

Hingins, a former world number one with five Grand Slam titles to her name, will play for the Kastles July 15 through 24. This is her first year with the Washington Kastles after two seasons with the New York Sportimes. The Kastles will name an additional female player to the team for matches scheduled on July 10, 11, and 13.

Posted at 01:16 PM/ET, 07/05/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Soprano Renee Fleming, author Ernest Gaines, and the Washington Performing Arts Society were also honored. By Sophie Gilbert

George Lucas. Photograph by s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

The National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal recipients for 2012 have been announced, and among the recipients are playwright Tony Kushner, filmmaker George Lucas, writer Joan Didion, actor and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, former poet laureate Kay Ryan, and the Washington Performing Arts Society.

WPAS, which has been bringing artists and performers to Washington for over four decades, was cited by the White House for “bringing world-class performances to our Nation’s capital. From concert-hall premieres to in-school workshops, WPAS has drawn renowned artists to the Washington community and inspired generations of young performers to follow their passions.”

With previous honorees including Bob Dylan, Georgia O’Keefe, Stephen Sondheim, and Aretha Franklin, the National Medal of Arts is one of the most prestigious in the country, and has been awarded to twelve artists each year since 1984. The National Humanities Medal, which was originally established as the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities in 1988, recognizes achievement in deepening “our nation’s understanding of the humanities.”

A full list of this year’s recipients and their citations is below.

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 07/05/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Pulitzer-winning poet will stay on at the Library of Congress for a second year. By Sophie Gilbert

The appointment of Natasha Trethewey as the 19th US poet laureate last year was notable for a number of reasons, including her midcareer status, her personal history, and her Southern heritage, as well as the fact that Trethewey became the first person in that role to actually take up residence in Washington for the second half of her tenure.

Today, the Library of Congress announced that Trethewey will stay on as poet laureate for a second year, expanding the role she described as being a “cheerleader” for poetry by touring the country to meet people working with the medium across the US. Trethewey, who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for her book Native Guard, will also participate in the “PBS NewsHour Poetry Series,” presenting reports with “NewsHour’s” Jeffrey Brown.

Find out more about Trethewey in our earlier feature.

Posted at 10:55 AM/ET, 06/10/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()