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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Who doesn't love a great story? This week's edition highlights a novelist who traces the arc of a relationship shadowed by the pandemic; a new museum with behind-the-scenes Hollywood tales to tell; a scientist who uses quilts to illuminate environmental issues; and the team behind a documentary that captures the wartime flying adventures of the legendary Lafayette Escadrille. We hope you'll find it a (digital) page-turner.

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.

Jodi Picoult: A Timely Theme

Jodi Picoult (Photo: Tim Llewellyn)

Books by bestselling author Jodi Picoult draw their storytelling power and immediacy from deftly examined aspects of modern life. Her new novel Wish You Were Here is set in March 2020-just before the world changed-and recounts what happens when best laid plans go awry.

Join Picoult as she discusses the timely book and her research and writing processes in a just-announced Smithsonian Associates program on Wednesday, December 1. You can participate in the evening as part of an-in person audience or select a livestreaming option. Either way, a signed copy of the book is yours.

Register for the Program

Hooray for Hollywood

It's safe to say that the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have shaped the movies-and how audiences the world over think about them-since the organization's founding in 1927. The long-awaited Academy Museum of Motion Pictures designed by architect Renzo Piano recently opened its doors on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The artifact-filled galleries evoke the sweep and glamour of more than a century of film, but the museum is not focused on an exhaustive history of the medium. Rather, its goal is to reframe the way visitors consider movies as a whole.

Beyond iconic props and design elements, exhibitions move the legions of artisans and other behind-the-scenes creatives into the spotlight, take a deeper look at classic films in the social and cultural context of both their times and today, and confront some of the darker and difficult aspect of the film industry-such as racial representation and exploitation of performers-that had long been obscured by Hollywood's dazzle. Reporting on her visit the museum for Smithsonian magazine, Jackie Mansky writes, "I encountered a museum invested in film history, but not stuck in the past. Instead, its willingness to critically examine and expand industry canon offers the Academy a gift it could sorely use: a new voice and platform to look ahead."

If you'd like to dig deeper into the world of film, Smithsonian Associates Streaming has a multiplex-worth of programming ready to unreel over the next months. Take a look at these coming attractions: Media and communications expert Brian Rose surveys the 125-year history of movie comedy from slapstick silents to '30s screwballs to biting social satires (November 2); examines how George Lucas and Steven Spielberg ushered in the era of the modern blockbuster (December 1); and traces the path of It's a Wonderful Life from 1946 box-office flop to beloved holiday perennial (December 20).

Documentary filmmaker and writer Sara Lukinson revisits some of our favorite movies and characters in her aptly titled "I'm Ready for My Close-up" series. She looks at the career by Hollywood's brilliant rascal Billy Wilder (October 25) and two exemplars of the courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Murder and 12 Angry Men (November 8). Composers such as Bernard Herrmann, Max Steiner, Ennio Morricone, and John Williams have engraved indelible scenes into our collective memory with their extraordinary scores, even if the rest of the movie might have faded. In a sparkling series beginning October 17, popular speaker and concert pianist Rachel Franklin explores the stories behind some of the most magnificent movie music ever composed.

View the Smithsonian Magazine Report

Handmade Beauty

The Smithsonian Craft Show is one of most prestigious juried events that showcase the finest in American contemporary craft and design. This year's show is a virtual one, running October 23 to 31. More than 100 leading crafters have created individual digital artist's shops on a secured platform where visitors can browse or seek a specific treasure and purchases can be made. The categories include works of wearable art, basketry, ceramics, decorative fibers, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed-media, paper, and wood. You can follow your passion for collecting and know you're supporting a good cause: The show is a signature event of the Smithsonian Women's Committee, which provides grants to projects and programs across the Smithsonian through monies raised.

Learn More About the Craft Show

Science & Stitches

By Lauren Kingsland

The combination of science and quilting might seem the unlikeliest of matches. But for earth scientist and quilter Laura Guerin, the mix was an intuitive one. A conversation with a fellow air passenger about how discarded Christmas trees are being used to combat erosion in the Louisiana bayou sparked her to interpret the environmental theme in fabric. Drawing on quilting's storytelling traditions, her piece became the basis of a nine-quilt series, "Stitching Hope for the Louisiana Coast," which will be displayed at the American Geophysical Union's meeting in December, where other science quilters are being encouraged to show their work.

Guerin, who shares her science quilting activities on a blog, recently told Smithsonian magazine, "I want to make the quilts accessible to people in terms of bringing in new audiences to engage and talk about science that maybe we haven't been able to attract before. It's been pretty effective."

Expand your own quilting skills and creativity in upcoming Smithsonian Associates Studio Arts workshops and courses guided by fabric artist Lauren Kingsland. Learn how to master one of America's most enduring block patterns, the Log Cabin, on Wednesday, October 13. Beginning Saturday, October 30, examine and experiment with some basic styles of appliqué work used by American quiltmakers past and present in a four-session course. Inspired by the 6-Word Memoir Project, learn to capture quick images of personal stories in flash-quilted wall hangings on Saturday, December 4.

Read the Smithsonian Magazine Article

Strategies for Adventure

History comes alive in Smithsonian Virtual Adventures, where 6th-to-11th graders find a new dimension-a miniature one-to learning about significant battles recounted in history, film, and mythology. Six diverse Soldiers and Dioramas programs are offered during fall and winter sessions (beginning November 6 and January 22, respectively). The time-traveling adventures transport young people from the jungle battlefields of 1960s Vietnam to the world shaped by the code of 16th-century samurai to the treacherous seas braved by heroes of Greek legend.

Each week of these two-part Saturday offerings includes four hours of live online instruction with Al Gaspar and Taliesin Knol: two focused on history, and two of facilitated diorama construction in which participants make their own terrain boards and lead troops of 1/72-scale soldiers in war games that bring famed encounters and military strategies to vivid life. Make the adventure a family affair by joining in the virtual experience: Both children and adults can register and share in the fun. And a gift certificate for a Soldiers and Dioramas workshop is sure to hit the target for your favorite young military-history buff.

Browse Fall and Winter Adventures

High Flyers

Informal group photograph of early Lafayette Escadrille members posed in front of a Nieuport XI at Luxeuil, France, 1916.

Aviation aficionados have something special to look forward to: A new gallery in the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum devoted to the largest category of human activity in the air-general aviation. Scheduled to open in 2022, the Thomas W. Haas We All Fly gallery will help define the wide world of general aviation and, through interactive exhibits and audiovisual displays, explore its impact on everyday life and how it has influenced society. Five themes-private, sport, business, humanitarian, and utility flight-put the planes, pilots, and history-making events in the gallery's focus. Learn more about the plans in an Air & Space magazine report.

The wartime exploits of the most dashing group of military pilots are captured in a new documentary by filmmakers Paul Glenshaw (a regular Smithsonian Associates presenter) and Darroch Greer. Among the volunteers who rushed to France's defense at the start of the First World War were a handful of visionaries who created an all-American fighter squadron in the French Air Service-which became the legendary Lafayette Escadrille, the founding squadron of U.S. combat aviation.

In a Tuesday, December 14 Smithsonian Associates Streaming program, go behind the scenes with Glenshaw and Greer as they virtually take you on location across northern France to the sites where they filmed this epic adventure. Richly illustrated with rare archival images, gorgeous views of Paris and the French countryside, and intimate family stories, the film traces how the squadron came to be, the colorful characters in it, and their motivations-some noble, some opportunistic-to risk their lives for America's oldest ally.

Register for the Program