November’s Best at NMAI & SAAM


Some great stuff’s going on this month at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum (SAAM) and the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI). While there’s a ton of events and exhibits happening at both locations, I’ve highlighted some of the more interesting things you may want to check out. Got a free afternoon or in need of some distractions for visiting relatives? Well, there’s something here for everyone.

The following activities and events are at the National Museum of the American Indian, located at the eastern tip of the National Mall at 4th and Independence Avenue SW. (All activities are free.)

Native Dance: “Native Pride Dancers”
Nov. 5, 10:30 a.m. and noon (Discovery Theater); Nov. 6, 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. (Rasmuson Theater)
Authentic regalia.… rhythmic drumming… skilled footwork… experience the excitement of a Native American powwow! World Champion Fancy Dancer Larry Yazzie of the Meskwaki Nation, and the Native Pride Dancers perform music and movement celebrated by their American Indian cultures. Reservations are required for Friday’s performances. Call Discovery Theater to reserve seating for groups and individuals: 202-633-8700 or visit Saturday’s performances are open to the public, first come, first seated.

Family Celebration Harvest Festival
Nov. 6-7, 10:30 am – 4:30 pm
The whole family is invited to kick off the Smithsonian’s celebration of American Indian Heritage Month with a weekend-long festival exploring how Native communities throughout the Americas celebrate the harvest. It includes harvest-related dance and theater performances, cooking demonstrations, and hands-on activities.

Larry Yazzie; courtesy NMAI

American Indians and American Presidents
Nov. 10, noon
Join NMAI Director Kevin Gover (Pawnee) and museum historian, Mark Hirsch, as they discuss the Smithsonian publication American Indians, American Presidents: A History. Focused on the major turning points in Native American history, these stories show how American Indians interpreted the power and prestige of the presidency and advanced their own agenda for tribal sovereignty, from the age of George Washington to the present day. A Q&A session will follow.

Arvel Bird
Nov. 21, 1 pm and 3 pm
Award-winning violinist, flutist and storyteller, Arvel Bird weaves stories of Native American spirituality with haunting melodies to give vision to his music. He speaks of Native American wisdom, the sacredness of Mother Earth, the environment and the sacred totems of the animals with whom we share this planet.

courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum

The following activities and events are the Smithsonian American Art Museum, located at 8th and F Streets NW in Penn Quarter. (All activities are free.)

Nov. 6, 1 – 4 pm
Bunkasai, meaning “cultural festival” in Japanese, will offer a chance to learn about the time-honored art of origami, to listen to traditional Japanese music, to take part in sushi-making demonstrations, to taste sake, and to go on a docent-led tour of the exhibition. Nominal charge to sample sushi and sake (pay at event) Note: Must be 21 to participate in the sake tasting. This program takes place at the museum’s Renwick Gallery, located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street, NW.

Artist Talk with David Ellsworth
Nov. 10, noon
Called the grandfather of the contemporary wood-art movement, master turner David Ellsworth reveals the lessons he learned turning wood for fifty years. One of the artists featured in “A Revolution in Wood,” Ellsworth discusses his publication Ellsworth on Woodturning. Book signing follows. This program takes place at the museum’s Renwick Gallery, located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street, NW.

Steinway Series – American Century Music
Nov. 14, 3 pm
American Century Music presents a concert capturing the essence of Norman Rockwell, whose art exemplified the optimism, idealism, and tensions of the American century. Conductor and artistic director Scott Parkman leads works by Charles Griffes and Walter Piston, as well as Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”

Take 5! with Blue Sky 5
Nov. 18, 5 – 7 pm
Swing is the theme with vintage jazz band Blue Sky 5. Try a lindy hop lesson or jive to the beats of Count Basie, Nat “King” Cole, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Fats Waller, and more. Event free and open to public; food and beverage available for purchase in the Courtyard Café.

Family Day: Food in Art
Nov. 20, 11:30 am – 3 pm
Discover how food has been a source of inspiration for artists in the museum collection. Try a scavenger hunt through the galleries or sketch out the decoration for your own delicious cake. Decorate your own apron and pick up a recipe for frosting inspired by Wayne Thiebaud’s pastel cakes and pies. Don’t forget to stop by the photo still-life station and get those fruits and veggies ready for their close up!

Having lived in the DC area for ten years, Ben still loves to wander the city with his wife, shooting lots of photos and exploring all the latest exhibits and galleries. A certified hockey fanatic, he spends some time debating the Washington Capitals club with friends – but everyone knows of his three decade love affair with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

A professional writer, gamer, photographer, and Lego enthusiast, Ben remains captivated by DC and doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon.

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