Written by Andrea
March 2, 2009
GLDC so carefully culls the many events in this city for the most unique, inspiring, enriching and low-cost, that we often forget about those resources most accessible to us: our national treasures comprising the Smithsonian Institution. Lately, GLDC Culture Editor has returned to her Washingtonian roots and the splendid offerings of the Smithsonian sites. The Event: ARTrageous Thursday's gala honored several of the Smithsonian Institution American Art Museum's (SAAM) principal benefactors, Dorothy Lichtenstein, Jeffrey and Julie Loria, and Sam Rose and Julie Walters. Museum patrons' fondness for Elvis was memorialized and caricatured that evening with a visit from a "real," live Elvis impersonator. The museum's most recent acquisition made possible by their contributions, Roy Lichtenstein's "Modern Head," now installed at the corner of 9th and F, gave specific reason for getting "all shook up" that night. Even before "Elvis'" arrival, the house was already rockin' to the rhythms of live Blues Alley jazz under the enchanting lighting by Fandango Productions in the SAAM Kogod Courtyard. Finishing touches were equally inspired by the new acquisition, with a blue illuminated silhouette of the sculpture projected on the Portrait Gallery facade, Modern Head- decorated cookies and blue ARTrageous M&M swag. Guests sipped spirits chilled with equally luminous blue ice cubes and savored a succulent and seamlessly served Occasions buffet, including smoked salmon, tri-color beet (not, beef!) carpaccio, beef roast, shrimp and tomato bisque, string bean, squash, and mushroom salad and -- a very popular -- corn souffle. Occasions cheese and fruit pairings were a nice touch, as were gelato stands. The highlight of the dessert table was definitely the Lichtenstein cheesecake on a stick. Yum! The Exhibit Opening In addition to celebrating the generosity of several of its most significant patrons, the evening served as a sneak-preview to an exhibit opening the following day. The collection, "1934: A New Deal for Artists," has even more relevance than exhibit curators had hoped at its inception. The show brings together paintings commissioned by the Public Works of Art Program created by Roosevelt’s administration. The project, which lasted only six months from mid-December 1933 to June 1934, endeavored to mitigate the plight of unemployed American artists by paying them to produce work that could be used to beautify public buildings. The Luce Foundation Center Thursday's gala prompted a review of other Smithsonian Institution events endorsed by Greg's List -DC over the past few weeks. Only a few weeks ago, artist and baker Zilly Rosen created Presidential Cupcakes to celebrate President Barack Obama’s inauguration and the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Zilly’s temporary installation, comprised of more than 5,000 cupcakes, made for a striking likeness to the president and could be viewed on February 14th from noon until 5 p.m. in the Luce Foundation Center. Several GLDC Editors were strategically in place at 5:00 to assist with the delectable dismantling of the installation. One of the Smithsonian Institution's strengths is precisely this beauty and functionality of its spaces. The Luce Foundation Center is just one of the recently-renovated venues that provides an excellent forum for cultural events. Prior to the Presidential Cupcake event, periodic gallery tours ending with complimentary coffee in effort to promote the third-floor Luce Foundation Center for American Art have also made GLDC's weekend afternoon picks. In another light-hearted program, the Center hosts scavenger hunts for children and adults alike. We can look forward, in particular, to Saturday, March 7th's, "Ghosts of a Chance" multimedia scavenger hunt . Programming for children is, as with most of the Smithsonian Institution museums quite extensive, though unfortunately outside the scope of Greg's List-DC's work, at least for now. A National Gallery of Art Reel Portrait in McEvoy and Swinging to the Music in Kogod Courtyard The Smithsonian Institution's cultural programming in the area of film makes use of another specially-designed SAAM space, the Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium, a new 346-seat theater. The recent National Gallery of Art "Reel Portraits" series features films such as Feb 17th's, "Billie Holiday and Lady Sings the Blues", a 1972 film followed by a lively discussion with archivist and poet Reuben Jackson of the National Museum of American History. Looking for a new Sunday afternoon reading or wi-fi spot? Look no further than the Kogod Courtyard. The site of breathtaking black-tie balls at night, the courtyard's atrium ceiling, plentiful greenery, tranquil running "streams" and abundant seating makes this a perfect space to install oneself on a cold, late winter afternoon, for reading, a little work and, hopefully, a visit to at least one exhibit. Great people--and cute kid--watching are also on hand. Last, but certainly not least, the Courtyard hosts evening concerts, such as the "Take Five!" swing concert scheduled for March 19th. That particular concert will feature arrangements by Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday and Artie Shaw. D.C.’s dance collective, Jam Cellar, will be performing classic swing dances of the twenties, thirties and forties. On the same evening, visitors will be able to follow a tour of the new exhibit "1934: A New Deal for Artists" with curatorial associate and exhibition catalogue co-author Anne Prentice Wagner. Save the Date: the Annual Young Benefactors Ball GLDC Culture has enjoyed "re-discovering" the Smithsonian Institution's events, exhibits, concerts and galas at both the Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum, as well as its adjoining Kogod Courtyard. The space is so wonderful that the other Smithsonian programs,including the Young Benefactors, flock to use it! GLDC looks enthusiastically toward the March line-up of events and has placed a Save the Date on her calendar for the Saturday, May 16 Annual Smithsonian Young Benefactors Gala and Silent Auction to be held in the same venue. The spring Young Benefactors benefit and other American Art attractions organized at, although not always by, SAAM will be closely monitored and carefully culled for selective endorsement on GLDC . While choosing some events over others is always a challenge in this city, the Smithsonian Institution takes Culture Section editing to another level. SAAM, in particular, raises it to an art form. Clearly, Art is all the rage in DC!