National Portrait Gallery Celebrates Women’s History Month With a Festival, Programs and Exhibitions

February 28, 2024
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Painting of woman with short, white curly hair and glasses sitting in a dining room reading a book.

Opal Lee by Sedrick Huckaby, oil on canvas, 2023. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; acquired through the generosity of Sasha and Edward P. Bass. Copyright 2023 Sedrick Huckaby.

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will celebrate Women’s History Month with a free, all-ages festival and in-person and online programs and exhibitions. March kicks off with the annual Women’s History Month Festival in the museum’s Kogod Courtyard Saturday, March 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors of all ages can enjoy story times, performances, art activities, scavenger hunts and more. There will also be workshops with The Washington Ballet; a Ruth Bader Ginsburg portrait workshop with Debbie Levy, author of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark; and zine-making with artist and activist Jennifer White-Johnson.

In conjunction with the Women’s History Month Festival, the Portrait Gallery will host a conversation with Opal Lee, the “grandmother of Juneteenth,” and her portraitist Sedrick Huckaby. Lee is the retired teacher, counselor and activist who led the push to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. Huckaby, an Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition finalist, was featured in the museum’s recent “Kinship” exhibition. His life-sized oil painting of Lee is now on view in “Recent Acquisitions.” This free conversation will take place March 9 at 3:30 p.m. in the McEvoy Auditorium after the Women’s History Month Festival has concluded.

The Portrait Gallery will also host a Women’s History Month Trivia Night with New Columbia Pub Quiz March 26, from 5 to 6:45 p.m. in the Kogod Courtyard. At this happy hour event, participants can test their knowledge of the incredible women in the Portrait Gallery’s collection. The free collections-themed trivia can be played individually or in teams of up to six people, and prizes are awarded at the end of the evening. The Courtyard Café will be open during the event, with snacks and beverages available for purchase.  

In the galleries, this year’s “Recent Acquisitions” showcases women’s achievements and will remain on view through Oct. 27. Each of the 21 portraits either represents a remarkable woman or was created by a woman artist. Sitters include artist Ruth Asawa, singer Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, astronomer Vera Rubin, photographer Ming Smith and entrepreneur and philanthropist Madame C.J. Walker. The museum’s recently commissioned portraits of Earth and planetary science professor Walter Alvarez by Carmen Lomas Garza (2019) and Rabbi Sally Priesand by Joan Roth (2022) are also on view for the first time. The newly commissioned portrait of Oprah Winfrey by Shawn Michael Warren (2023) hangs alongside this exhibition.

For those who cannot make it to the museum, the Portrait Gallery’s Google Arts & Culture page, which has received more than 2.7 million views, includes 12 digital exhibitions on the history of women in the United States. New exhibitions including “Do a Good Turn Daily” and “Shaping History, Envisioning the Future: Public Art by Women” will debut this March.

National Portrait Gallery

The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors, and activists whose lives tell the nation’s story.              

The National Portrait Gallery is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at and on Facebook, Instagram, X and YouTube.

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Gabrielle Obusek


Concetta Duncan


@smithsoniannpg, #myNPG

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