Seeing Things (13): Snowflake
March 4, 2014
This is the thirteenth in a series of personal observations about how people experience and explore museums. Take a look at Howard's other blog posts about seeing things.
This little guy, this little fellow here, and about a gazillion of his friends wreaked havoc on our fair city yesterday; Washington, D.C., was up to its monuments in snow.
Each snowflake is beautiful, no doubt. And no two are alike, or so we're taught in school. That's an amazing feat. Robert Budd's seriograph—a print made by the silkscreen process—could be the new emblem of the city, at least in this season of the polar vortex, and our regularly scheduled snow storms. The print gives the humble snowflake both dignity and mystery. It helps us to see the patterns of the snowflake yet it also feels symbolic, somehow connecting us to something deeper.
Plus, seeing one is a good thing. Having a whole mess of them is just...well, a mess. The museum is back open today. Today's score is artworks "one," snowflakes "zero." Enjoy!
Picture This: A Nostalgic Handi-Hour
February 27, 2014
Katie Crooks coordinates the quarterly craft program Handi-hour at the American Art Museum. Coming up: our next Handi-hour on March 6 will be a nostalgic look back at crafts from our youth. Katie demonstrates what's in store.
Handi-hour, DC's premier DIY hour, draws the city's craftiest folks for an evening of craft activities, world-class art paired with craft beer, and live music. In the past, we've held the event at the Renwick Gallery (which is undergoing a major two-year renovation), so we have packed-up and relocated. We're excited to be in the Luce Foundation Center. We'll still have awesome themed projects, great local tunes, and delicious brews, but we are going to be in a space that occupies 20,400 square feet of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's historic building, not to mention surrounded by more than 3,000 pieces from the collection!
The crafts du jour for this Handi-hour had to be carefully selected. We looked into the past, for fun and creative projects that brought back memories simpler times. So on March 6, 2014, join us as we make friendship bracelets and plastic shrink art (remember the stuff that shrunk when you baked it?) while sipping on beers selected by Churchkey's Greg Engert. As always, we've posted videos demonstrations of the crafts will be doing (as a bonus sneak peek, they were filmed in the Luce Center). Here are the details.
Four Questions with the Filmmakers of Rubén Salazar: Man in the Middle
February 25, 2014
Programs Coordinator Alli Jessing spoke with the filmmakers of the upcoming documentary film Rubén Salazar: Man in the Middle, which tells the story of the life and death of prominent Civil Rights-era journalist Rubén Salazar, who was killed by an L.A. County sheriff's deputy in 1970. The film will premiere at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. Producer/Director Phillip Rodriguez will introduce the film and participate in a discussion with the audience following the screening.
Eye Level: Much of Rubén Salazar's story involves a tension between cultural assimilation and ethnic identity. What are the unique resources that this documentary uses to explore that tension?
Phillip Rodriguez: Salazar was the archetypal "man in the middle" —a pivotal figure who embodied many of the shifts that occurred during the 20th century. As a journalist, he respected the old objectivity and then, with equal dedication, embraced the new subjectivity. As an American of a historical moment, he cautiously exchanged Greatest Generation-era stoicism and conservatism for Boomer entitlement and idealism, though he never bought into any of these values wholesale. As a Mexican-American, he played by the Anglos' rules and then proceeded to help loosen their grip on the culture.
Salazar's newspaper and television reporting, the testimony of close friends and associates, and his personal diary and home movie footage, to which the filmmakers were granted exclusive access, tells the story of Salazar's evolution and its emotional toll.
EL: You spent two years in court fighting for access to documents and files related to the case, which authorities initially refused to release. Can you tell us about one or two particularly powerful items you found in the released documents?
PR: These files gave us access to new information that in turn helped us identify and locate witnesses that the press had not reached in over 40 years.
Tapes from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department files allowed us to hear and share the moment-by-moment drama of August 29, 1970 from the department's dispatchers and field officers point of view.
The files also provided a wealth of images, many of which we used in the film. Among other things, these images were used to visually recreate the trajectory of the tear gas projectile and other events that occurred at the Silver Dollar bar.
EL: What impact has Salazar's death had on Latino-American journalism over the last 40 years?
PR: Salazar was an unprecedented figure in Latino-American journalism because he was a reporter and op-ed writer at one of the country's most powerful newspapers and also the director of a Spanish-language news station. His accomplishments have yet to be matched.
His death marked a turning point in the history of Spanish-language television and influenced the ideological trajectory of one of America's most powerful newspapers. And these articles offer a more thorough analysis of Salazar's impact on Latino-American Journalism: "Perspective on Latinos : Salazar: a Pioneer, Not a Martyr", "The Trailblazer: Rubén Salazar was a man of many firsts who paved the way for other Latino journalists," and "Frank Sotomayor Speech About Rubén Salazar."
EL: When viewers tell their friends about this documentary, what do you hope they say they learned from this film?
PR: It's a story with many elements that are very much a part of our national conversation today: freedom of press, state surveillance, and what it means to be an American. This is a story about a regular guy who, motivated by principle, challenges an abusive authority at great risk to himself. It's a classic American story.
The premiere screening of Rubén Salazar: Man in the Middle will be at the American Art Museum Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. The film's broadcast premiere on PBS is Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 9:00 PM ET.
Film Screening: Inocente
February 18, 2014
On February 19, American Art will host a special screening of the acclaimed documentary short film Inocente. This program is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, which is on view through March 2, 2014. This exhibition showcases the amazing contributions of Latino artists in the United States, and explores works related through the lenses of politics, society, family and cultural identity. As part of the public programming series for this exhibition, the museum will present this compelling documentary which focus on the dreams of a young immigrant artist who faces a daunting reality. Alli Jessing, Auditorium Program Coordinator fills us in on the details.
Told in her own words, Inocente is a coming-of-age story about the determination of a teenage artist who struggles as a homeless and undocumented immigrant, facing poverty and a chaotic family life. Under overwhelming circumstances, she finds the power in her art to take control of her life and future. Though her circumstance paints a picture that appears bleak and gray, Inocente creates a world of color.
Inocente was directed by Academy-Award nominated directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine of Fine Films. The film won the 2013 Academy Award™ for Best Documentary (Short Subject). Executive Producer Susan MacLaury will introduce the film and host a Q&A with the audience following the screening. Susan is the Executive Director of the non-profit film production company Shine Global, and she also directs the outreach and advocacy for all of Shine’s projects.
The screening of Inocente will take place in the museum's McEvoy Auditorium, Wednesday, February 19, starting at 7 p.m.
Picture This: Make Your Own Valentine Selfie Today!
February 14, 2014
Happy Valentine's Day! And to celebrate we've set up a special photobooth in our Kogod Courtyard for that perfect Valentine's Day selfie. Get out of the cold and come on down. Not only do we have our photobooth set up, we've got everything you need to make that one-of-kind Valentine's Day card. We'll be here until the museum closes at 7 tonight. So, for your procrastinators, there's time to bring something home to your sweetheart!