The Smithsonian will celebrate the first Saturday of summer— “Solstice Saturday”—with free parties, programs and performances June 23. In addition to programs for adults and children, most Smithsonian museums will be open until midnight. Visitors who stay late can hear live music, drink champagne and explore museum exhibitions.
“Solstice Saturday” is held in association with By the People, an international arts and dialogue festival taking place across Washington from Thursday, June 21, to Sunday, June 24, presented by Halcyon. The four-day festival will include interactive visual-art installations, performances, high-profile speakers and an augmented-reality art hunt.
The Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building will be the central hub for By the People, and it will host activities and art installations throughout the festival. On Saturday, the building will offer various programs, including an interactive conversational activity called “Common Ground” and a “Light of Summer” ceremony and celebration, an evening of music, movement and guided mediation with Washington, D.C.-based storyteller and artist Sheldon Scott.
The following is a sampling of the programs in Smithsonian museums Saturday, June 23:
America Now: Solstice Edition
The National Museum of American History, Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery are collaborating to present this special evening of festivities. Events begin at the National Museum of American History with solstice-themed activities, including a scavenger hunt. For adult audiences, there will be a “speakeasy happy hour” with food and drink for purchase. Curators will share curious stories of what Americans have done at night throughout history in “lightning” talks.
Programs at the American History Museum end at 8:30 p.m., when visitors are encouraged to hop on the free pedi-cab procession to the Donald W. Reynolds Center for the Smithsonian American Art Museum Block Party and Beer Garden and close out the night at the National Portrait Gallery with live music by Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics, and Washington’s own rapper and producer Oddisee.
Bring the Kids
The National Air and Space Museum will honor the summer solstice with a day and night of activities at the museum on the National Mall and at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Visitors of all ages can explore the science of the solstice through telescopes, planetarium shows and with hands-on activities about the seasons. At night, visitors can participate in a number of solstice and solar system-themed games or stargaze at the Phoebe Waterman Haas Public Observatory.
From 3 to 9 p.m., the National Museum of the American Indian celebrates Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun, with Andean music and dance. Visitors can make their own llama pendant or watercolor luminary, or learn how to dress a llama.
The National Museum of Natural History hosts “Family Night: Solstice Edition” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Programming includes interactive activities, crafts, demonstrations and conversations with scientists. Visitors of all ages can tour the Pollinator Garden outside of the museum with expert Cynthia Brown from Smithsonian Gardens, catch a viewing of Pollinators Under Pressure and touch live insects in the Insect Zoo and Butterfly Pavilion.
The Enid A. Haupt Garden will come alive Saturday night with music on both sides of the parterre from 5:30–10:30 p.m. Visitors can enjoy meditative sounds from Washington, D.C.-based Transp0.se and Kerim the DJ in the Moongate Garden near the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. Near the National Museum of African Art, a mix of Afro beats from DJ KWeRK can be heard in the museum’s Fountain Garden. On the Freer Gallery steps, violinist Simon Shaheen and the ensemble Qantara will perform a blend of jazz, Latin and Arab musical traditions.
From 9 p.m. until midnight, the National Museum of the American Indian will host an evening dance party on the Welcome Plaza. Visitors can grab a glow stick and dance to music from a DJ or browse through the museum’s galleries. Refreshments and food will be available for purchase from the Abunai food truck and in the Mitsitam Espresso Bar.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden will host an open house until midnight. Visitors can explore the galleries and enjoy music, lounging and cocktails on its outdoor plaza. Visitors will also get a first look at new exhibitions “Baselitz: Six Decades,” the first major U.S. retrospective of legendary German artist Georg Baselitz in more than 20 years, and “Does the Mind Rule the Body or Does the Body Rule the Mind?” presenting an exciting new generation of performance artists.
The Smithsonian thanks the following for their promotional support of Solstice Saturday: DC Circulator, New Tradition Media, Southwest Business Improvement District and the Washington Nationals. A complete list of Solstice Saturday events and programming can be found at si.edu/solsticesaturday.
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Linda St. Thomas