The President’s House was a major feature of Pierre Charles L'Enfant's 1791 plan for the city of Washington. He envisioned a vast palace for the nation’s leader, a building five times the size of the residence that would eventually be planned and constructed under the watchful eye of President George Washington. Since then, the White House has been burned, reconstructed, renovated, designed, and redesigned, and it remains the home of the presidents of the United States.
In this series, four noted specialists explore aspects of every corner of the famous building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where every decision, no matter how seemingly insignificant, has political ramifications. Participants at each program receive a copy of the speaker’s corresponding large-format, illustrated book published by the White House Historical Association.
NOTE: Individual sessions of this course are also available for separate purchase.
FEB 15 Architecture
Architectural styles reflect a specific time period and its ideologies. Perhaps aware of this, numerous presidents have altered—either extensively or minutely—the architecture of the White House in order to contribute their own personal touches. How have these revisions shaped public perceptions of the presidential house? More broadly, what kind of themes and messages does the timeless architecture of the White House convey to Americans? William Seale, author of A White House of Stone: Building America’s First Ideal in Architecture, explores the answers.
MAR 15 Art
Art collections typically have an underlying common theme that unifies the works. What might be the central message behind the collection of 500 paintings, sculptures, and drawings that are part of the household collections of the White House? Bill Kloss, author of Art in the White House: A Nation’s Pride, discusses in detail a number of works of art and their historical and artistic significance.
APR 19 Gardens
Situated between the first family’s home and the iron fence that protects it, the White House grounds encompass a carefully maintained 18-acre landscaped garden for the enjoyment of both the president and public. Jonathan Pliska, author of A Garden for the President: A History of the White House Grounds, analyzes the relationship between the White House and its landscape. He discusses topics including how the evolution of its landscaping conveys changing times, and the historical significance (or reasoning) behind cultivating the lavish and native horticultural specimens on the grounds.
MAY 17 Music
Music has the strong and visceral ability to impact both individuals and societies in emotionally moving ways. Over the years, music has been a powerful tool to shape the image of an administration through performances and ceremonies that reflect both the interests of specific presidents and the periods in which they lived. Join Elise Kirk, author of Music in the White House: From the 18th to the 21st Centuries, as she discusses music’s unique role within the White House as a form of entertainment, and how presidents supported artistic freedom and expression in return.
Note: Ticket pricing includes all featured books (4 total)