National Museum of African American History and Culture Comes Alive Nov. 16–18

Projection Mapping Event Celebrates Countdown to Museum’s Grand Opening; Commemorates Anniversaries of 13th Amendment, Voting Rights Act and Civil War’s End
November 16, 2015
News Release

Kicking off the countdown to its grand opening next fall, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture will come alive for three nights this month as the façade of the building will be illuminated with moving images in a spectacular display. The event, “Commemorate and Celebrate Freedom,” takes place Nov. 16–18 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

On Monday evening, Nov. 16, the display will be preceded by a lively program of music, performance and poetry and brief remarks by District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser, Congressional Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton and Museum Director Lonnie Bunch III. The event pays tribute to three important milestones in African American history: ratification of the 13th Amendment, which officially ended the institution of slavery (1865), passage of the Voting Rights Act (Aug. 6, 1965) and the end of the Civil War (surrender at Appomattox, Va., April 8, 1865).

Featuring state-of-the-art digital projection imagery, the south (facing Madison Drive) and west (facing 15th Street and the Washington Monument) façades will be transformed into a five-story-tall, one-block-long 3-D canvas. The video display will be seven minutes long and run continuously all three nights from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The projection mapping is a collaboration between Quixotic Entertainment, a Kansas City, Mo.-based hi-tech and performance arts company, and noted documentary filmmaker Stanley J. Nelson (Freedom Riders, 2010; Freedom Summer, 2014; and current film, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution, 2015). The live program is produced and directed by Ricardo Khan, former artistic director of the Tony Award-winning Crossroads Theatre Co.

“This will be a dynamic event for the entire community,” said Bunch, founding director of the museum. “In addition to celebrating the completion of the external construction of the museum, the image mapping will also initiate the public countdown to the museum’s grand opening in fall 2016. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate historic moments where the African American experience has had an impact on expanding the rights and freedoms of all Americans.”

The live, outdoor program Monday evening will include performances by Grammy award-winning R&B and gospel vocalist BeBe Winans; pianist, composer and conductor Darin Atwater and his 55-member Soulful Symphony; and the Heritage Signature Chorale directed by Stanley J. Thurston. Actor Erik Todd Dellums (TV’s Homicide: Life in the Streets) will serve as master of ceremonies.

The program will also include readings of works by poets Robert Hayden and Margaret Walker and the writings of historical figures such as Ella Baker, Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison and others who figured prominently in the three historic milestones being celebrated. Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton; Museum Director Bunch; Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture Richard Kurin; Mayor Bowser; and Congresswoman Norton will make brief remarks.

The video mapping will be best viewed from the mound area of the Washington Monument and the knoll area adjacent to Madison Drive, at the corner of 14th Street, facing the south side of the museum. The north and east sides, while not being video mapped, will be adorned with a special lighting treatment and static images that will add to the dramatic display designed to bring the building to life.

A pop-up gift shop will be located near the event with souvenir items for sale. It will open at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 16.

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture broke ground in February 2012 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The 400,000-square-foot building is being built on a five-acre tract adjacent to the Washington Monument at a cost of $540 million. While construction is moving forward, the museum is hosting public programs, organizing traveling exhibitions and producing books and recordings. Its eighth exhibition, “Through the African American Lens: Selections from the Permanent Collection,” is on view in the museum’s temporary gallery at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. For more information, visit

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