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Smithsonian Associates Digital Digest

We're springing into mid-April with a collection of programs that celebrate our Earth, the delights of international cuisine, the vibrant world of the Impressionists, and a 1960s literary adventure that inspired a contemporary sequel.

And, as always, this lively monthly collection is designed to make sure you continue to enjoy what you've come to value from Smithsonian Associates: programs and experiences that are entertaining, informative, eclectic, and insightful.

A Planet in Our Hands

The Smithsonian marks Earth Month throughout April with free festivals, programs, and performances in Washington, D.C., New York City, and other locations. The festivities include a full day of programming across several Smithsonian museums on Saturday, April 20. The month's calendar of wide-ranging events encompasses everything from a family program at the National Zoo on saving endangered species to a science careers workshop to a ballet that focuses on climate change.

Smithsonian Associates is a part of the celebration, with April programs and performances and other science- and environmental-themed offerings extending into the spring. They include Discovery Theater's Mother Earth and Me, an original show designed for kindergartners through 5th-graders; a geology-focused overview of the Pacific Ring of Fire; close-up looks at the fascinating worlds of butterflies and moths and bees; a naturalist's story of his experiences on Maine's Hog Island, home of a National Audubon Society nature-study camp that's been in operation since 1936; and a geologist's interpretation of Earth's natural patterns—from branches and braids to waves and wiggles—and the science behind each.

In addition, full-day study tours offer the chance to survey the spring landscape of Montgomery County's Sugarloaf Mountain as you hike to its peak and to discover the innovative approaches to the environment and sustainability that have taken root—sometimes literally—as D.C. goes greener.

The Art of the Environment

In an Earth Month collaboration between Smithsonian Associates and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, multidisciplinary artist Spencer Finch will be interviewed by Sarah Newman, the museum's James Dicke curator for contemporary art, on Monday, April 15. Take part in the free program at SAAM's McEvoy Auditorium or join the online simulcast audience (registration is required).

Finch is best known for his large-scale, site-specific works that explore changing landscapes such as the Hudson River and Great Salt Lake. Through his work he touches on the ideas of memory, environmentalism, the passage of time, and perception of experience. Finch discusses his work and process, as well as the ways in which environmentalism connects to what he does.

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A Tempting Spring Menu

From Jewish home cooking to a Japanese "secret ingredient," we're serving up a delicious array of in-person programs on culinary topics and special restaurant events created for Smithsonian Associates.

Joan Nathan, the noted authority on global Jewish cuisine, joins Sally Swift, co-creator of NPR's The Splendid Table, for a conversation covering the treasury of recipes and personal stories in her newest book, My Life in Recipes (April 16). Meet the chefs of several notable local restaurants and sample their signature dishes when you sit down for a wine dinner at Shilling Canning Company (May 13); a Lebanese lunch at ilili DC (June 5); and a Singapore-style dinner at Cranes (June 13).

Making an Impression

The first exhibition of Impressionist paintings was held on April 15, 1874, not at a museum but in a photography studio. Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Berthe Morisot were among the 31 artists who exhibited together. Now the Musée d'Orsay in Paris is celebrating the event's 150th anniversary with an exhibition of some 130 Impressionist paintings, including ones from the original showing—plus a virtual reality tour that recreates the evening.

"The narrative of the exhibition is invented, but we spent two years studying documents and letters to reconstruct it so everything is as near as possible to the reality," Agnès Abastado, the museum's digital development director, told The Guardian. The exhibition runs through July 14. If you're not fortunate enough to visit Paris, however, you can still celebrate the anniversary by delving into Impressionists and Post-Impressionists in several upcoming Smithsonian Associates programs.

Painting with Monet on June 24 reveals how Monet explored challenging questions in concrete, practical ways while painting alongside his teachers, friends, and hero, Èdouard Manet. During Monet: Impressions of an Artist, July 10-31, an art historian provides an in-depth look at this influential and well-loved painter.

Two other programs focus on Vincent van Gogh: Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin on May 14 highlights the two artists' brief professional partnership, and Van Gogh and the Painters of the Petit Boulevard on June 15 describes the lives and careers of a rising group of Impressionists.

Impressionism's Roots in Normandy and Beyond on May 29 and June 5 lets you visit—via videos, maps, and photos—the sites where Impressionism was born and evolved. A guided tour of an exhibition of works by Mary Cassatt is the first leg of the study tour An Artful Weekend in Philadelphia on August 10 and 11, which also includes the opportunity to see paintings by Renoir, Paul Cezanne, Georges Seurat, Monet, Manet, and Degas.

And if you want something a little more hands-on, the studio arts course The Mark of van Gogh, May 14–28, lets you investigate how the artist's imaginative mark making forms his images.

Steinbeck's Quests

In the late 1950s, having already won lasting fame as a novelist, John Steinbeck followed a powerful urge to return to a longtime dream: contemporizing Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d' Arthur. On April 30, historian Clay Jenkinson, a Steinbeck scholar, offers a compelling look at the book that became the critically dismissed The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights and Steinbeck's quest to give new life to Malory and use the tales of King Arthur as a medium for his own expression.

The Arthurian quest was replaced by a modern one in Steinbeck's Travels With Charley: In Search of America, the 1962 work that chronicled the author's cross-country journey of two years earlier. Jenkinson plans to retrace that tour to explore the mood and face of the country on the eve of its 250th birthday. In an upcoming Smithsonian Associates program, he examines Steinbeck's extraordinary account of his road trip and his own attempt to make sense of what the author called "this monster country" by viewing it with fresh eyes during a spring-though-fall driving odyssey. (Registration for this July 16 program opens for members on April 29 and May 7 for nonmembers).

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