“America Now”: America Participates at Three Smithsonian Museums

Museums To Present Programs That Capture American Participation in Democracy, Dance, Portraiture, Music and Art

“America Now,” a collaboration of programs jointly organized by three Smithsonian museums, will create spaces for civic engagement and cultural connections under the unifying theme of “participation” since 2016 is an election year. The National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of American History and Smithsonian American Art Museum will present five programs this summer, between May 27 and July 9, designed to engage a variety of audiences in the American experience. To encourage participation in the country’s democratic system, the museums are also partnering with Rock the Vote, a non-profit, non-partisan organization focused on building political power for young people. Rock the Vote will assist all three museums to register voters at the events and to encourage their participation in the election process through volunteering and being informed about the issues.

The National Portrait Gallery will kick off the series Memorial Day weekend, with an evening program Friday, May 27. Events at the National Museum of American History will take place, Tuesday, June 14, Flag Day, and Saturday, June 18. The series will conclude Saturday, July 9, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. All events with one exception are free and open to general audiences. This second annual “America Now” collaboration on programming is made possible by the generous support of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Family Foundation. The Washington Post is the media sponsor of "America Now." Details are outlined below and at #AmericaNow and s.si.edu/americanow.

National Portrait Gallery
“America Now” Cultured Snapshots and Cameos
Friday, May 27; 6:30–9:30 p.m.
Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard
Eighth and F streets N.W.

Jazz and folk musicians the Leyla McCalla Trio will perform songs from albums Vari-Colored Songs: a Tribute to Langston Hughes (2013) and A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey (2016). McCalla, a Haitian American who sings in French, Haitian Creole and English, also plays cello, tenor banjo and guitar. Her trio includes Daniel Tremblay and Free Feral, who sing and play banjo, guitar and the viola. The evening will be rounded out with DJ Adrian Loving as he spins songs inspired by the American songbook, old and new. Visitors can jump into a photo booth created by the artist collective Manual Cinema. The booth will capture silhouettes of visitors as a memento for the evening. 

National Museum of American History
“America Now” Naturalization Ceremony
Tuesday, June 14; 11 a.m.–12 noon
Flag Hall
Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

On Flag Day, June 14, the museum will host a naturalization ceremony in front of the Star-Spangled Banner gallery to mark how America’s democracy is strengthened by the diversity and community of its citizenry. During the ceremony, Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton will present the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal to an American who embodies values based on the diffusion of knowledge. 

National Museum of American History
“America Now” Go-Go and Hip-Hop: Community Innovations
Saturday, June 18; 1–4 p.m.
Coulter Performance Plaza, 1West
Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

Visitors can join the museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation for a discussion and performances celebrating go-go and hip-hop music, which developed in Washington, D.C., and New York City around the 1970s and out of similar socioeconomic circumstances.

National Museum of American History
“America Now: We the Party People”
This is a ticketed and a 21+ event.
Saturday, June 18; 7–11 p.m.
Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W.

Inspired by the passionate political participation of 19th-century American youth, the museum will convene “We the Party People,” an after-hours event presented with Brightest Young Things. This non-partisan celebration will explore how Americans have participated in their democracy with lightning talks, political history objects-out-of-storage and much more. For more information on this ticketed and 21+ event, visit s.si.edu/americanow.

Smithsonian American Art Museum
“Creativity in a Citizen Democracy”
Saturday, July 9; 4–7 p.m.
Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard
Eighth and F streets N.W.

The third and final program in this exciting series celebrates the ways Americans participate in democracy—through art, music, storytelling and service. The program features performances by D.C. hip-hop artist Tarica June and bluegrass bands Steep Canyon Rangers and Seldom Scene. Inspired by the music, visitors can pick up paint brushes to express what American means to them on a 20-foot community mural, post Instagram photos from around the museum that will stream in a live feed in the Kogod Courtyard, post with artworks from the collection in a photo booth, write letters to active military service members and share information about a favorite American artist by participating in a Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Additional activities are planned and will be added to the museum’s online calendar americanart.si.edu as details are confirmed.

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Media only:

Marielba Alvarez
(Portrait Gallery)   
(202) 633-2585 

Laura Duff 
(American History)
(202) 633-3129 

Courtney Rothbard
(American Art)
(202) 633-8496