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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Creativity can be triggered by almost anything: a glorious location, the romance of a classic novel, the challenges of a dispiriting moment in time. This week, take a look at how artists, novelists, and a group of young singers found the spark for their own creative responses. There's an invitation to flex your own creative muscles, too.

They're among the offerings 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.

Mini Exhibit, Big Stories

Take a look around your home and you'll discover that everyone-even you-is a curator. That's the message behind a new Mini Exhibit Learning Lab put together by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Smithsonian Learning Lab. The first in a fun series of monthly challenges, the lab guides participants of all ages in discovering how museum curators tell stories through exhibits and how to look with fresh eyes at what surrounds you to find your own unique story in those objects. Then, assemble some of them into a mini exhibit and share a photo of it with the Smithsonian. Those vacation souvenirs, beloved toys, gallery of refrigerator-door art, or even your passion for stuffed cats or floral scarves may just provide the perfect theme. (Exhibit catalogs and gift shops are definitely optional.)

Create Your Mini Exhibit

On the Riviera

Few regions of Europe can rival the French Riviera's combination of magical light, mild climate, colorful landscapes, and living history. Long a magnet for artists-including Monet, Renoir, Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso, and Chagall-the Côte d'Azur and its scenery, people, and traditions have inspired some of modern art's most iconic paintings and sculptures. Enjoy an artful staycation by viewing or listening to a program led by David Gariff, senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, in which he discusses the historical significance and impact of the French Riviera on 20th-century art, examining the inspiration artists found in locations such as Nice, Saint-Tropez, and Collioure. If the talk whets your appetite for more things French, a Smithsonian Associates Streaming program on Friday, October 9 explores the career of Paul Cezanne, whose work (much of it created in Aix en Provence, close to the Riviera) blazed the way to modern art.

Watch NGA's Lecture

Learn More About Our Cezanne Program

Behind the Books

Kevin Kwan, whose Crazy Rich Asians trilogy provided the basis for a 2018 runaway romantic comedy hit, found the idea for his newest novel in another kind of literary romance: A Room with a View. In Sex and Vanity, he transforms E.M. Forster's Lucy Honeychurch into Lucie Tang Churchill, a young mixed-race Asian American woman, who like her counterpart, is torn by making a choice between two very different men. Kwan gives the story his own stylish spin, setting it against the backdrops of New York City and Capri, deliciously describing the luxurious world and lifestyles of his crazy rich characters. Join him for a September 23 Smithsonian Associates Streaming program in which he talks about his books and how writing has inspired him to advocate for wider Asian representation in the media.

Choices, both made and unmade, also are a key element in Jodi Picoult's newest novel, The Book of Two Ways, in which a near-fatal airplane crash prompts a woman to revisit the decisions that shaped her current life-and envision the one that might have been had she chosen differently. Picoult is known for her meticulously researched storylines, and she spent several weeks in Egypt with one of the foremost American Egyptologists, exploring ancient sites that she reflected in the fictional archeological dig that figures in the novel. She delves into that experience as she discusses the book and her writing process in a Smithsonian Associates program on Tuesday, October 6.

Kevin Kwan: "Crazy Rich Asians" and Beyond

Jodi Picoult: The Book of Two Ways

Raising Their Voices

If you've been part of the Smithsonian Chorus programs or any kind of vocal ensemble, you know the joy that singing together brings. Unfortunately, that's become one of riskiest of activities during the coronavirus pandemic. Learn how the members of Young People's Chorus of New York City found a way to come together again-and why their rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" is exactly what you need to hear right now.

Read the Article

Volunteering: From a Distance

Volunteers play an essential and valued role in the work of Smithsonian Associates. Recently, that's taken on a new aspect: Volunteering is now being carried out remotely and offers expanded opportunities to support Smithsonian Associates Streaming programming. Scott Loomer, one of the newest members of the roster, is looking forward to bringing his experience as a longtime volunteer at the Air and Space Museum into a digital setting. (He already had a strong Smithsonian Associates connection: Loomer met his wife at a program 40 years ago.) Suzanne Tofalo, a Studio Arts volunteer for a little over a year, is excited about being part of the transition to streaming. "There's no substitute for a live event, but there's a heck of a lot that can happen online that's terrific," she says. "Now we can reach the world, and who wouldn't want to engage with the Smithsonian?"

That new reach is reflected in the volunteers themselves, according to Jenna Jones, Smithsonian Associates' volunteer coordinator. "Now that the program is a remote one, we have Smithsonian volunteers working from Boston, Los Angeles, Memphis, and Austin." And she welcomes more. "Supporting our streaming programs requires only a few basics: An up-to-date computer, a strong wi-fi connection, and a willingness to share your time. Though familiarity with Zoom is a real plus, all volunteers receive specialized training by our staff." Jones sees an extra benefit for all volunteers now: The online platform allows them to deepen their insights into the behind-the-scenes workings of Smithsonian Associates programs. "For example, volunteers who might be managing the Q&A box get an immediate sense of how an entire audience is experiencing and responding to a streaming program through their individual questions. That's something that isn't possible at in-person event." Interested in joining the ranks of Smithsonian Associates' awesome volunteers? Contact Jenna Jones at

Learn More About Volunteering