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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Smithsonian Associate rolls out the red carpet for a fall that's filled with A-list names. With a guest list that runs from Ken Burns to Kal Penn, Anthony Fauci to Stanley Tucci, Senator Elizabeth Warren to Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, we've got plenty of sure-to-be-memorable evenings in store for you. And the Hirshhorn has just opened a fascinating exhibition that celebrates the creative career of another star, Laurie Anderson.

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.

Documenting a Legend

Muhammad Ali's boxing gloves and robe (Gift from Muhammad Ali to the National Museum of American History)

The new film Muhammad Ali brings to life one of the most indelible figures of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated millions of fans across the world with his mesmerizing combination of speed, grace, and power in the ring and charm and playful boasting outside of it. The documentary, which premiered September 19 on PBS, offers an inside look at the many layers of Ali's life, tracing his rise from his Louisville roots to his career as a celebrated athlete who captivated America with his boxing braggadocio to his lasting image as symbol of Black pride.

Written, directed, and produced by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, the film reveals the compelling and complicated character of this American legend and why his story still resonates today. On Monday, October 4, Smithsonian Associates members can join Fath Davis Ruffins, a curator at the National Museum of American History, for a free History Film Forum streaming conversation with the filmmakers about the making of the documentary.

Photographers interested in self-portraiture can get a practical grounding in a two-part Smithsonian Associates Streaming studio arts workshop on Saturday, November 13 and 20. Art historian and photographer Patricia Howard examines self-portraits by artists including Man Ray, Vivian Maier, Andy Warhol, and Cindy Sherman to reveal how they reflect the artists' personalities, lives, and photographic styles. Participants then experiment with approach and techniques as they create their own expressive self-portraits.

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Global Treasures

Clockwise: The Forbidden City, Beijing, China; Redwood National Park, northern California; Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

What connects a Chinese port city that thrived from the 10th to the 14th centuries, a 13th-century Hindu temple in India, and a collection of spa towns in several European countries? Until this July, nothing. Now these locations across the globe are among the list of the newest Unesco World Heritage sites.

Volcanic activity is a fascinating geologic link among several of the previously designated World Heritage sites, and historian Justin M. Jacobs surveys several of them in a series of Smithsonian Associates Streaming programs. Iceland's Thingvellir National Park is on the itinerary for Thursday, September 30, with Mount Fuji (October 7) and Virunga National Park in Africa (October 14) as subsequent destinations.

In another series that kicks off on Monday, November 29, Jacobs presents in-depth overviews of three particularly intriguing World Heritage sites: the Forbidden City in Beijing, seven parks in Canada's Rocky Mountains (December 6), and Redwood National and State Parks in California (December 13). His in-depth virtual visits are the perfect way to experience the rich cultural and natural histories of all of these treasured places around the globe.

Encountering Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, June 2021. Photo by Allysa Lisbon. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

As a Grammy Award–winning musician, performer, writer, and artist, Laurie Anderson has an international reputation as an artist who combines the traditions of the avant-garde with popular culture. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden recently opened the largest-ever U.S. exhibition of artwork by this groundbreaking multimedia artist, performer, musician, and writer. Running through July of 2022, Laurie Anderson: The Weather debuts more than 10 new works that highlight Anderson's unique blend of the personal, the poetic, and the political, interspersed with select key works from throughout her career.

Conceived as an immersive audiovisual experience in the museum's second-floor galleries, The Weather showcases the artist's boundless creative process, featuring her work in video, performance, installation, painting, and other media. Guiding visitors on an intimate and personal journey through her work, Anderson interjects herself at points throughout the space, with portions of the gallery walls covered with writing and images that the artist has directly hand painted. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of live performances by Anderson from January to July 2022.

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Marquee Names

Smithsonian Associates has assembled a stellar fall lineup of guests who'll be in the spotlight for some fascinating conversations and solo programs. Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Joan Biskupic, CNN's legal analyst, examine why public trust in the Supreme Court is an essential yet potentially fragile component in the workings of America's rule of law. (The Monday, October 4 program is Smithsonian Associates' first to have both an in-person audience and viewers on a streaming simulcast.) On Thursday, October 7, Stanley Tucci and Ina Garten dish about his lifelong love affair with food as chronicled in his new book Taste.

Anthony Fauci takes America's collective temperature at this point in the ever-evolving pandemic on Wednesday, October 13. In a Wednesday, November 3 appearance actor and writer Kal Penn recounts the story of his plunge into the political world when he took a sabbatical from his entertainment career to serve in the Obama White House. Senator Elizabeth Warren shares a very different take on personal history on Monday, November 8. She looks at how her political outlook was grounded in her Oklahoma upbringing, an experience at the heart of her new book designed to inspire the next generation of leaders-especially girls-to dream big.

Humanity, Simplicity, Beauty

Cabinet, 1904, designed by the Stickley Brothers (The Met)

The Arts and Crafts movement was a dominant influence in visual and decorative arts and architecture in the decades leading up to and after the turn of the last century. Growing out of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and aesthetic movements in England, it offered an artistic and philosophical reaction to the florid, overdecorated, and industrialized designs of the high-Victorian era. William Morris's pronouncements on beauty, utility, nature, and the joy of hand craftsmanship guided British artists to create stunning designs in forms as varied as furniture, textiles, bookmaking, and pottery.

Across the Atlantic, the Arts and Crafts philosophy challenged the opulence and crassness of the Gilded Age. The first museum in the world dedicated exclusively to that American expression opened in early September in St. Petersburg, Florida. Founded by collector Rudy Ciccarello, the five-story, 137,000 square-foot Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement is a work of art itself, with architectural elements such as a grand atrium, skylights, and a dramatic spiral staircase-all adorned with period art, light fixtures, windows, fireplaces, and more. Smithsonian magazine reports on the new museum and its collection.

Interested in going deeper into the world of the creators who shaped the Arts and Crafts period? Join art historian Bonita Billman on Saturday, December 4 in a day-long Smithsonian Associates Streaming seminar that explores the rich flowering and legacy of a movement whose influence is still felt.

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The Music Goes On

Conductor Ernest Johnson (Photo: Safiya Gallaghan)

In March 2020, the music faded out for the Smithsonian Boomers' Chorus-as it did for vocal and instrumental ensembles all over the world. Just days after the group of singers 55 and older had performed in a concert for an enthusiastic audience of family and friends, the pandemic brought everything to a halt. But over the next months the chorus-a Smithsonian Associates program supported by a grant from Aroha Philanthropies-found their voices again, this time in a series of music theory courses on Zoom led by the group's conductor Ernest Johnson.

How that happened-and what the singers discovered along the way-is the subject of a new article on the American Alliance of Museums' website by Liz Paige, Smithsonian Associates' logistics coordinator for the performing arts and family programming.

It's a great story about how a devoted group of singers used digital learning tools to find a deeper understanding of the music they sing, as well as a renewed sense of community. You can share that in Johnson's next 9-week series of music theory classes beginning Tuesday, October 5.

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