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Photograph by Andrew Beaujon.

On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the National Museum of African American History and Culture will show a short film on its five-story-high copper exterior walls facing 15th Street and Madison Drive, Northwest. The film, by Stanley J. Nelson and Marcia Smith, is called Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom and showcases three important facets of African American history: The end of the Civil War, the 13th Amendment, which ended legal slavery, and the Voting Rights Act.

The museum is due to open in late 2016.

I rode by the projection last night and got a couple of snaps and a short video.

Posted at 10:19 AM/ET, 11/17/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph by Angela Pham/BFA.com.

The National Portrait Gallery threw a black-tie fundraiser Sunday night to hand out its first five Portrait of a Nation Prizes, a new award it will give perodically to some of the people whose images appear in its collection.

The inaugural round of awards went to baseball legend Hank Aaron, Aretha Franklin, designer Carolina Herrera, sculptor Maya Lin, and Marine Corporal Kyle Carpenter, the youngest Marine to receive the Medal of Honor since 9/11. It was difficult to determine who the biggest draw was—Franklin closed out the night with a seven-song set of classics including "Respect" and "Chain of Fools" and new stuff like a cover of the Barbra Streisand staple "People" (sorry, Babs, it's Aretha's song now), but the cheers might have been loudest for Aaron, whom many still consider to be the leading home-run hitter in baseball history.

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Posted at 04:07 PM/ET, 11/16/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
"Words and Music'' runs through January 18 at the Jewish Museum. By Dean Essner
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit makes its first stop at the Jewish Museum of Maryland as part of a nationwide tour. Photo by Will Kirk, courtesy of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

It's about time someone curated a museum exhibition for Paul Simon. The New Jersey artist has given folk more than five decades worth of pioneering music, ranging from his early work as half of the singer-songwriter duo Simon & Garfunkel to his afrobeat-tinged solo material showcased on records like 1986's Graceland. Now there's finally a place to celebrate his legacy.

"Paul Simon: Words and Music"—a traveling Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit that runs through January 18 at the Jewish Museum of Maryland—is centered around the artist's creative process with more than 80 memorabilia items, including Simon's first guitar, original lyric notes for Simon & Garfunkel classic "The Boxer," and special performance clips.

Another added treat: The exhibition is anchored by video narration from Simon himself, filmed specifically for the occasion. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame staff interviewed Simon for hours, discussing how he got his start in music and his process for writing songs.

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Posted at 10:36 AM/ET, 11/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Walter White's crystal meth now shares a home with the Star-Spangled Banner. By Ryan Weisser
"I wanted to see if it still fits," Bryan Cranston said, as he tried on the iconic "Heisenberg" hat he wore as character Walter White. Photograph by Ryan Weisser.

"Blue Sky" crystal meth, hazmat suits, and a paper cup from a fictional, fried chicken fast-food joint now belong in the same museum as the Star-Spangled Banner. The National Museum of American History added Breaking Bad to its list of iconic TV shows on Tuesday, when series producers and cast members Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Jonathan Banks, and RJ Mitte donated a series of props and memorabilia to the museum.

"If you had told me there'd be crystal meth in the same museum as the Star-Spangled Banner, Thomas Edison's light bulb, Abraham Lincoln's pocket watch, and Dorothy's ruby slippers, I'd have told you you were using too much of Walter White's product," Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad's creator, said during the donation ceremony.

The show joins other popular series, such as All in the Family, Mad Men, Seinfeld, and the Wonder Years, that have also been immortalized in the museum. The newly donated costumes and props won't be on display until 2018 for an exhibit on American art, culture, and entertainment, but here's a sneak peek.

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Posted at 09:22 AM/ET, 11/11/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photographer Joel Sartore spent ten years taking portraits of these animals. By Dean Essner
Photo Ark, a new exhibition at the National Geographic Museum, opens on November 5. Photo by Rebecca Hale.

Getting more than 5,000 animals to cooperate for portraits is no easy task, but for National Geographic photographer and wildlife conservationist Joel Sartore, it was a worthy cause.

His hard work will be featured in Photo Ark, a new exhibition opening Thursday at the National Geographic Museum. Centered around Sartore's efforts to photograph captive and endangered species before they disappear, the exhibition symbolizes the photographer's desire to preserve biodiversity. "We're on track to lose half of all species [at] the turn of the next century if we don't start being more responsible and better stewards of our planet," he says.

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Posted at 11:56 AM/ET, 11/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Here's a sneak peek of what you can expect on November 13. By Emily Codik
Angus's installation is filled with brightly colored bugs. Photo by Ron Blunt.

Jennifer Angus’s immersive installation, “In the Midnight Garden,” looks like a kaleidoscope of dead bugs, with more than 5,000 ex-critters clinging to the room’s fuchsia walls. She scoured the world for these sci-fi-looking insects, painted the space with a natural dye produced by cochineals, and arranged them into the shapes of circles, octagons, and skulls.

Angus's "In the Midnight Garden" uses bugs sourced primarily from Malaysia, Thailand, and Papua New Guinea in a bright, immersive installation. Photo by Ron Blunt.
Though these bugs look like supernatural creatures, the artist didn't change their color or shape in any way. Photo by Ron Blunt.

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Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 11/04/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Spoiled Washingtonians think you should never have to pay to get in. By Emily Codik
Photograph by Flickr user Robert Lyle Bolton.

It’s never been easy to run a museum in DC if it doesn’t say Smithsonian over the door. And it’s even harder for institutions that charge admission. But the past year has been especially rough on private museums: There have been closures, major reconsiderations of business strategies, and in one case a mayoral decision to stop work on an as-yet-unopened institution.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to compete with America’s Attic, and some do. Those who can’t keep up, says museum consultant Adrienne Horn, need to think less like curators and more like businesspeople. “They’re not doing their homework,” she says. Here’s how some of Washington’s private museums are faring today.

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Posted at 08:40 AM/ET, 10/30/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Alexander Gardner was Abraham Lincoln's go-to photographer. By Meg Maher
Indian Peace Commissioners in council with the Northern Cheyenne and Northern Arapaho, Fort Laramie, Wyoming by Alexander Gardner, 1868. William T. Sherman Collection of Alexander Gardner Photographs, National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution.

When you think of Civil War photography, you might think of the man known as the father of the genre, Mathew Brady, and not his one-time assistant, Alexander Gardner. Many of Gardner’s photographs are iconic, especially his portraits of Abraham Lincoln and his battlefield images of Antietam and Gettysburg. But his earlier works were actually attributed to Brady, who often took credit for the work produced by photographers in his studio.

With an aesthetic that’s uncannily modern, “Dark Fields of the Republic,” an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, looks at the rich body of Gardner’s work and gives him credit for creating an important visual vocabulary of the years surrounding the Civil War. With studio portraits, battlefield scenes, and western expanses spanning from 1859 to 1872, the exhibition masterfully transports its viewers back to a turbulent and critical period in American history.

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Posted at 11:02 AM/ET, 10/27/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
For hundreds of years, Tawaraya Sōtatsu had been lost to obscurity. By Emily Codik
Tawaraya Sōtatsu's gold-tinted work, "Who’s Sleeves? (tagasode) Painting with Waves of Matsushima Screen." Photo courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Know this: Every time you sigh at the sight of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave,” an artist named Tawaraya Sōtatsu stirs in his grave. For hundreds of years, while scholars wrote volume after volume about Hokusai, Sōtatsu was almost completely ignored. But it was actually his decorative style, created in 17th-century Kyoto, that set the course for the next 400 years of Japanese art.

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Posted at 07:00 AM/ET, 10/27/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
UMD was in talks with the Corcoran about a partnership last year. By Elizabeth Elving
Photo courtesy Phillips Collection.

The Phillips Collection and the University of Maryland have announced a new partnership to promote innovation and scholarship in the arts. The two institutions have worked together on exhibits and events before, but today marks the beginning of a major six-year collaboration.

It isn't the university's first attempt to collaborate with a private museum. Last February, after months of negotiations, the Corcoran Gallery of Art ditched plans to merge with UMD, opting to form a deal with George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art instead.

Through its partnership with the Phillips, the University of Maryland aims to establish more of a presence in DC and bolster its reputation as a destination school for the arts. The Phillips plans to introduce new education programs and transform its Center for the Study of Modern Art into the University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at the Phillips Collection. Projects under the enhanced center include an expanded arts curriculum, at least two postdoctoral fellowships, a co-published biennial book prize, and a new music series.

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Posted at 03:04 PM/ET, 10/05/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()